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Sep 2001 / elsewhere :: email this story to a friend

Confidence is so Attractive
By Meg Studer

"If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem, but I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."

e.b. white

Although there are so many things to be said about Pittsburgh and St. Louis and their complex relationship in my head, I'm going to forego abstracting or theorizing, and instead focus on how they appeal to my eyes.

Confidence is so attractive...

My Friends. My City. My Theatre. I went back to Pittsburgh to visit my family and spent those two days wandering familiar coffee shops, hardware stores, music venues, etc. While many things about Pittsburgh have endeared themselves to me since I left three years ago, the latest is the amazing self-promotion. Having worked in community design there, I was aware of a lot of the amazing graphics, campaigns, funding, etc. that were directed towards hyping neighborhood events and city-wide activities. Usually, I am snide about "marketing" and self-promotion, how we stake a claim and validate things in the market, but this time I was "sold" on the city. Granted the brochures I found were basically preaching to the choir, but the fact of their production, as part of both a private initiative and public funding for city and cultural promotion, gives me hope that others will see how visual, artsy, progressive, hip, and generally good a place Pittsburgh is.

I know for certain that these appeal to me because I'm being trained in design — not because it's the same field, but because there is a certain level of visual, aural, tactile, etc. awareness. There is a pull from the pictures of crowds and quintessential urban energy, but also from the abstract and purely visual. Between the two, there is great info, self-promotion, and a sense of public thriving city and simultaneously private moments of epiphany to be had on the concrete terrain. Pittsburgh is not a 24-hour city like New York, London and Paris, but these give the hope, the idea that perhaps in a smaller scale there is that rush, energy, that history and future.

I realize that promotional and design funding are low priorities compared to bigger issues, like de facto segregation, economic decline, etc. It becomes a question of whether promotion should be pushed off until bigger issues are tackled, or if it can really sway public opinion and help to resolve bigger issues. It is my age group that is highly susceptible to these pamphlets. The early 20s are notorious for hedonism, assumed immortality, all the things that make you want to have a 24-hour life, fast times under the lights, friends, clubs, bars, and a general sense of energy and density. We were also raised with MTV, commercials, slick sci-fi movies. Everything else is making an appeal to us visually. Sometimes, it's just those little reminders of why you love a place that cement its wonderful features in your head. After all it couldn't hurt to attract the ambitious, fresh-from-college crowd. After all I need to be assured that I can savor as well as help save and improve where I choose to call home. I love the city and I think it's only fair that it get a visual voice, a pamphlet, a promotional campaign...

Confidence is so attractive...

Romantically captivated by the culture, people, place, and bustle of the city, Meg Studer is an architecture and anthropology student who intends to work/research in community design, cultural landscape, housing, and the arts.

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