Monday, May 4, 2009

Coal’s Powerful, Tragic History:New Documentary Film “Out of the Ground”

Hello World Family,
Falcon here wishing you a happy week. We hope you had a wonderful weekend. It was wonderful here: Kennywood Park opened, the Pittsburgh Marathon was a HUGE success, the Pittsburgh Symphony had another stellar performance, and the Concert for the Homeless, as well as John Fetterman’s (Mayor of Braddock) event were well received.

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to travel to Johnstown for a wonderful documentary film premiere at the Johnstown Heritage Center (which is about to open its new Children’s Museum!).

Out of the Ground is a stunning documentary film journey by first-time film maker/biologist Andrew McAllister. Once again proving that science and art should never be compartmentalized, McAllister delivers a historical perspective that is wise, reflective, sometimes raw, and painfully honest about the tremendous sacrifices made by Americans in Southwestern PA of all ethnic groups as they struggled to build a better life on the surface of the earth by harvesting coal in an unimaginable Hades, bringing prosperity to the Industrial Age and a modest way of life to families in the region.

Andy is Watershed Coordinator for The Western PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, but did this film truly as a labor of love. His research and interviews with experts and treatment of archived material brings to life the sacrifice and trials of the industry from the late 18th Century through the 1950’s. It is unflinching in its examination of the greed in the U.S., ignorance or inattention to safety and xenophobia in the treatment of some workers. It honors the sacrifice of our ancestors, and shows their courage, willingness to work hard, and their sorrow in incomprehensive loss.

The film was encouraged with support from Andy’s boss, Bruce Golden, Regional Coordinator for WPCAMR. The intoxicating music was performed by the extraordinary guitarist Ken Bonfield, a self-taught artist who uses themes found in Celtic, American Folk, Blues, Jazz, Classical, even Rock and Roll. His pieces flow effortlessly around the archived footage and images of ancestors that are now personal and emotional again. This is not nostalgia, but a humble honoring of our troubled origins, sometimes the first jobs held by our predecessors, and in some dangerous instances, their last.

Every part of the film moves graciously, yet deliberately through the aristocracy and the abject poverty. The history is framed well, and covers the largest bituminous coal region of southwestern PA very well. McAllister presents the work and play of families of the period. It all at once leaves you feeling proud, awed, and sad at our enjoined history.

The film is the perfect length for most competitive film festivals, and should be seen by many people as soon as possible. Falcon and Dove will keep you updated on when and where this extraordinary project can be viewed. Stay tuned…
Falcon and Dove

No Money for the Arts?! Senate Bill 850 in PA; Act NOW!

Hi World Family,
Falcon reporting; I just got this email this afternoon from Brother Charlie Humphrey of Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Please give this your fullest attention if you are living within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Falcon and Dove

Constituents of Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts,

Senators Corman, Pileggi and Scarnati have now introduced Senate Bill 850, and it appears that it eliminates all state funding for the arts for the upcoming year.

There is no mention of grants to the arts or the PA Council on the Arts in the bill. The only funding listed is funding from the NEA.

To read the current bill, visit:

We can expect a vote on the bill in the next few days and your action on this issue is needed TODAY!

To find your legislators easily, please click the link below.

For a sample letter, please read on, below.Thank you for your ACTION today! Yours,

Pittsburgh Filmmakers and
Pittsburgh Center for the Arts

Executive Director, Charlie Humphrey


Dear Senator/Representative __________ ,

I am writing to you on behalf of Pittsburgh Filmmakers / Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and the community we serve to urge you to support the proposed $14 million budget for Grants to the Arts for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) and to oppose any bill that eliminates this funding.

In an economy where corporate and individual support is declining quickly, Pennsylvania's arts organization cannot afford to lose any other support. Before the economic downturn, there were 6,837 full-time equivalent jobs in the arts in Allegheny County alone. A significant number of those jobs have already been cut. Without PCA funding many, many more will be lost.

Through its innovative re-granting program, Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts, the PCA works with 17 organizations to provide grants of state funds to a wide variety of local and community arts activities. Funding through the PCA enables arts and culture organizations to bring the arts to citizens throughout Pennsylvania, improving their quality of life. Many of these projects reach under-served communities and engage people who would otherwise not have access to artistic opportunities and experiences.

For years, Pennsylvania has lagged far behind neighbor states in per capita support for the arts, including Maryland, New York, and New Jersey, but also West Virginia. By supporting the proposed $14 million budget for Grants to the Arts you’ll be making a powerful statement about the value of the arts in our commonwealth. Please help us continue to provide services to our fellow Pennsylvanians and bring the jobs, local spending, pride, and vitality to our communities that comes from an investment in the arts.

In closing, I would like to again urge you to support the proposed $14 million budget for Grants to the Arts for the PCA so that the organizations and jobs that this funding supports can continue to offer valuable artistic experiences to Pennsylvania citizens. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Pfinfo mailing list