What do you get when a Jewish comedian buys a church? We're about to find out
Steel City Arts Foundation (better known as Steel City AF) will be a live/work/play environment for comedians in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Steel City AF will consist of many parts. There is a detached 3-bedroom home will house comedians for 6 months at a time, on a rotating basis, free of charge. There are bays of computers where comedians can write, design, and edit. There is a home gym and a comedy library for the comedians. The main house will be used to house occasional guest comedians and artists passing through town. The lower level will be split into two: a podcast/recording studio and a digital showroom with broadcasting capabilities that can be used for open-mics and Zoom shows. And, if zoning allows, the chapel will be a state-of-the-art 300-seat showroom and events center that can host performances, lectures, food halls, art shows, or even be used to film movies and TV.
When Martin Hofstetter died in 2014, his son Steve created the Martin Foundation in his name. The goal was to help up-and-coming comedians come up a bit quicker. The foundation provided grants to comedians to help with rent, car payments, and other bills so they could quit their day jobs and concentrate on their art full time. When COVID destroyed every comedian's ability to tour, the foundation changed the grant system - and was able to provide $1,000 grants to 30 comedians to help cover some of their expenses. In addition, the Social Distancing Social Club provided over $50,000 more in work for otherwise unemployed comedians. And now, Steel City AF takes that to a whole new level.
Why Pittsburgh? With a burgeoning arts scene and low-cost of living, Pittsburgh has one of the highest happiness indexes in the midwest or northeast. Pittsburgh is within a six-hour drive of 18 other comedy markets, and a short flight from more than half the population of the US and Canada. Pittsburgh is a lot like the average stand-up comedian: Gritty, full of heart, and constantly underestimated.
It is our goal to foster growth in the local comedy and arts scenes, bring national and international talent to Pittsburgh, create local jobs, and honor the history of these fantastic buildings.
What are we doing to be a good neighbor?
Steel City AF recognizes that we are in a residential neighborhood. As such, we are doing everything we can to be a good neighbor.
The president of the Stanton Heights neighborhood association is a member of our Board of Directors.
We plan to remove a large section of our yard and replacing it with parking as to not congest the local streets (as well as work with a nearby parking lot if we do hold events).
We plan to plant trees in order to deaden sound from the property.
We hope to hold events that will specifically be for the community. There is no community center in Stanton Heights, and we hope to help fill that void.
We hope to hold events, classes, and series that will enrich the neighborhood. It is our intention to have summer comedy classes for kids, participate in charity dinners and toy drives for the holidays, and other such programs.
We foster open communication through our Facebook community group to let neighbors know about our ideas, and to allow for instant feedback.
We will hold regular town halls (digitally at first) to allow input from our neighbors.