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THE ARTS: When A House Is Not (Just) A Home

Posted by Elwin Green on September 13, 2013 at 8:10 PM

Kevin Amos wants to rehab a house in Homewood to make it a hub of musical activity.

Picture, if you will, a house in Homewood. Like many others, it was built in the early 20th Century in the American Foursquare style - 2 1/2 stories, brick construction, with a living room, dining room and kitchen on the first floor and five bedrooms on the upper floors.


Imagine that this house is more than a personal residence for its owner.


Imagine that on at least a semi-regular basis, musicians from around the world use it as a bed and breakfast when they visit Pittsburgh.


Imagine that on weekends, the first floor, or even the yard, is home to intimate concerts and poetry readings.


Imagine that tucked away in one of the rooms is the studio for a small community radio station.


Now remember that the house is in Homewood, and try to imagine the impact that such a house could have on the neighborhood.


You have just imagined Kevin Amos' dream - and more than that, his plan.


Kevin Amos is the author of an Indiegogo campaign now in progress, titled "A home for community collaboration."

On the project's Indiegogo page, Amos says his desired outcome is "A catalyst to attract and retain artist, musicians and cultural tastemakers in Homewood." And for those to whom that may sound like fantasy, he offers the reminder that Homewood has been home to Ahmad Jamal, Billy Strayhorn and Madame Mary Caldwell Dawson, the founder of the National Negro Opera Company.


Such references flow easily from a man who has hosted a four-hour radio program deveoted to Black music every week for 20 years. "One to One with Kevin Amos" airs on WRCT, the student-run station at Carnegie Mellon University, which broadcasts on 88.3 FM as well as online. In 1995, he created the Black Music Education Project, which now produces the program and an annual music seminar titled "Each One, Teach One."

"One of the things you want to do to help build a community is to maintain culture and the cultural identity of the neighborhood," he said. "Homewood has some very very strong cultural identity going back hundreds of years...Why can't we just embrace that, celebrate that and help build upon that image?"


A native of Homewood who has returned to the neighborhood, Amos is well aware of the crime and the vacancy that generate negative perceptions of Homewood.


But he also believes that the "Home for Community Collaboration," along with Vanessa German's Art House and other creative uses of vacant houses, could help to re-brand Homewood as a cultural destination.


So he's on Indiegogo, looking for $80,000 to buy and rehab a house to be more than his home. With six days left for the campaign, the Indiegogo meter shows a slim $475 having been raised. Amos said the funds he's raised so far are "a good start." If he doesn't get the funds the project needs through Indiegogo, he said he'll simply proceed to "Plan B," a continued fundraising effort.

Kevin and I have known each other for perhaps seven years, so when I sat with him on his porch yesterday in the coolness following a heavy rain, what we did was perhaps less of an interview than a conversation. So I'll just call it that.

A Conversation WIth Kevin Amos, Part 1 (10:19)

A Conversation With Kevin Amos, Part 2 (12:04)

Categories: Real Estate