In 2010, Aubrey Halliburton and her family took off from Seattle, WA, and relocated to Polish Hill. They were staying with a friend who lived in the neighborhood, and it didn’t take long for her to fall in love. The vibe of the community just felt right to her, and in time they bought their own home and deepened their roots. She quickly went from a Polish Hill Arts Festival vendor, displaying her own wares, to an organizer and now member of the Polish Hill Civic Association.
Polish Hill has, obviously, so many amazing components. One thing missing is easy access to creature comforts. If you could pluck one resource out of the sky and set it down in Polish Hill, what would it be?
A grocery store has always been our number one community need. There are a few light-commercial zoned spaces on Brereton St. I think another great idea is a laundromat, which poses some infrastructure issues.
Other than that, I feel like we enjoy the residential feel of the neighborhood, and there really isn’t much space for a business district as far as commercial buildings or parking goes. We also have the advantage of being so close to all the great places Pittsburgh has to offer. We are walking distance to the Strip District, Bloomfield, Lawrenceville and Oakland.
Polish Hill also has many small business owners, who don’t necessarily have store fronts, such as accountants, contractors, writers, caterers, artists, landscapers. And this ties back into the affordability of housing being so important. For working-class people to be able to afford to own their own home and business, which I think we did a great job of attracting, due to affordability and community connections. Now, the current housing sale prices are simply out of reach for those same residents.
What are the benefits you’ve seen from being civically engaged?
When people come together, they learn about things they didn’t know about before. When people find out, “oh, there’s a way to be involved, there is a way for my voice to be heard,” they get excited and get involved.
When you have people on the ground communicating with each other and they learn how much power that they have, and they learn who their neighbors are, they also learn how to work with each other on a real level. Even in a problematic way. If I know who my neighbor is, I can go know on his door and say, “here’s the thing…”
There is action you can take this is legit. I have friends in this neighborhood who are straight anarchists, and here’s the thing, you may not be a registered voter in our political system. Vote for your local PHCA. If you vote for anything, here is a way you can directly affect what happens in this neighborhood.
What makes a great Arts Festival organizer?
Organizing the Art’s Fest is perfect for me. I’m a creative person. I work in food and beverage, so much of that aligns itself with artists and creatives and musicians. My husband is a musician, too. My dad has a recording studio next to me in his house in Polish Hill. So it’s like I have all the creative angles in my life already, and the Art’s Festival is something no one wanted to lose, but no one wants to take over. It’s unpaid work, and it’s a lot of work. And there are so many other wonderful community volunteers that make it happen. At the end of the night, we have neighbors who attended pitch in to help break down tents. How cool is that?
What’s up next for the Arts Festival?
As far as Arts Fest goes, we start planning next year’s fest in January, so not many updates for ya there, BUT, we do hope to have more art performances, like Rachel, Pittsburgh’s poetess, as well as all the great bands who perform every year.