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FutureFest celebrates and promotes the Pittsburgh's vision of a sustainable, achievable future

| Thursday, April 27, 2017, 8:55 p.m.
A hand-cranked generator will show FutureFest visitors how much energy it takes to make a light bulb work.
There will be demonstrations of a working solar panel on site.
FutureFest visitors can view an electric vehicle showcase, and test-drive an electric bike.
The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will give kids and their families an opportunity to design the built spaces of tomorrow.

Joylette Portlock, president of Communitopia, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit dedicated to slowing climate change and creating healthier communities, wants people to embrace the future — and not be afraid of it.

“The problems out there are big and pretty dire,” she says, “but that's not the whole picture. We can be happier, healthier, more productive and fairer if we're thoughtful about solutions.”

Some of those solutions will be the focus of FutureFest, a free, public festival organized by Communitopia that celebrates and promotes the city's vision of a sustainable, achievable future through performances, art, demonstrations, science and hands-on activities for all ages.

The festival, to be held rain or shine April 29 on the front lawn of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens — one of Communitopia's partners in its efforts — is designed to connect people in ways other than fear and guilt, according to Portlock.

“We are working hard to show people that change can be a fun thing rather than a ‘this is what you have to do' thing,” she says. “A big part of what we're trying to do is to engage the community, not just give them a sack of literature that makes them sad.”

FutureFest will give participants opportunities to test-drive an electric bike and check out transportation of tomorrow with an electric vehicle showcase, visit the future through visual art from Creatives 4 Climate, design built spaces with the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and Phipps and explore options for renewable energy at home.

Families can meet some of Pittsburgh's change-makers and learn about cool science, paint the future with muralist Bernie Wilke and shop for eco-friendly, locally produced artisan goods.

Attack Theatre will offer an interactive, future-themed performance and Bad Custer, Spacefish, Blak Rapp Madusa and other local artists will provide music.

Food will be provided by Phipps Cafe, and Cool Beans and Randita's Cafe food trucks.

Maria Wheeler-Dubas, science education and research outreach coordinator at Phipps, says the Conservatory will have two booths at FutureFest, featuring an activity related to growing food and healthy eating, and providing information on Phipps' SEED (Sustainable Education Every Day) classroom by the Science Education department.

“Phipps hopes families will feel the exciting possibilities to ‘reduce, reuse and recycle' — the three Rs of conservation,” Wheeler-Dubas says, “and to think of sustainability as not a scary concept, but an exciting future.”

Phipps is offering half-price admission to the conservatory and botanical gardens during the hours of the festival, which is free to the public.

The first FutureFest took place in 2015 at Phipps and attracted an estimated 1,500 people, according to Portlock.

“We were pleased with the turnout, considering when we woke up that morning, it was snowing,” she says. “We are working hard to make this appealing to everybody. We all have a stake in our future — our cities, our foods — and we're trying to reflect that in this event.”

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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