Artists and Entrepreneurs Share Strategies for Innovation

May 4, 2015

Alexa Clay
Credit courtesy BLK SHP

A traveling team of thinkers, artists and executives arrives in Pittsburgh this week in search of ideas for remaking the U.S. economy.

Members of the Austin-based BLK SHP group — pronounced “black sheep” — are traveling the nation by bus, meeting with entrepreneurs and community leaders, also known as "shepherds," in 20 towns and cities.

In planning the “Rediscovering America’s True North” tour, project director Alexa Clay sought out Rust Belt communities and other formerly industrial areas that are bouncing back from the recession through creativity and grass-roots innovation.

"So many of our old institutions are failing us," said Clay. "So what we're really aiming to do in Pittsburgh is provide this cross-cutting conversation between local leaders, mavericks and disrupters that are challenging some of these different sectors and then putting them in conversation with people who are doing this in other parts of the country."

Three panel discussions are planned for the Pittsburgh stop on Monday, May 4:

The “Misfits in Education” session features Pete Maher of the LUMA Institute; Pittsburgh Promise executive director Saleem Ghubril; Nikole Sheaffer, Director of Innovation at the Frick Environmental Charter school; and Lance Weiler, Director of Experiential Learning & Applied Creativity at Columbia University.

A second session, “Misfits in New Economy,” includes Matthew Bishop, U.S. Business Editor for The Economist magazine; UpPrize co-founders Kenya Boswell and Matt Zieger; and Urban Innovation 21 President & CEO William Gennerett Jr.

The event concludes with a discussion on “Misfits in Culture.” Clay, who’s also the author of "The Misfit Economy," will share the stage with panelists Nathan Martin of Deeplocal; jazz musician and activist Harold O’Neal; and Ronnie Cho, VP of Public Affairs for MTV.

BLK SHP is described on its website as a “loose guild” of innovators working in various fields. The name is a nod to one of the group’s core ideas: that economic and cultural progress are often driven by those at the margins of society. Clay said those ideas need to be shared.

"If there's an amazing solution around a community garden project or around a cooperative enterprise that's being built in Detroit, how can that be shared or localized in Mobile, Alabama or in Hale Country, or in Greenville."

BLK SHP is working with the San Francisco-based nonprofit Fuse Corps, which pairs volunteer fellows with local governments and community groups to work on projects related to education, economic development, and health care.

Monday’s sessions are open to the public, but pre-registration is required.

The event runs from 8-11 a.m. at the Energy Innovation Center at 1435 Bedford Ave.