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Mr. Roboto Project changes its venue

| Sunday, Sept. 9, 2001

After almost two years in their Wood Street home, the folks who run Wilkinsburg's punk rock co-operative have one problem - they've outgrown their store-front space.

So this week Mr. Roboto Project will move its shows to a second, larger venue around the corner on Penn Avenue.

Since November 1999, the Mr. Roboto Project has been hosting bands from across the country and around the world, as well as serving as an alternative-culture community center.

Members who buy a $15 share in the co-op and pay a $10 annual fee have a say in running the organization and get $1 off the door price - usually about $5 per show.

Members also can run for co-op board positions, vote at monthly meetings, use the fanzine library and receive the bi-monthly news letter.

Board member Ian Ryan said the move will make life easier for the Roboto Project.

'Some shows became over-crowded and some sold out, and we had the opportunity to move to a bigger space, so we thought it would be a good idea,' he said.

'There will definitely be a lot more room and it should be a lot more comfortable.'

Ryan said the new space, located at 726 Penn Ave. with the entrance at the rear on Stoner Way, will probably host its first show - headlined by the Washington, D.C., band Dismemberment Plan - on Monday.

Though the new venue is bigger, it should be no less intimate than the Wood Street space.

The stage was built deliberately low - less than a foot - 'to eliminate the barrier between crowd and band,' Ryan said.

The new location also will have enough room to add some services to the co-op. Ryan said a do-it-yourself bicycle repair shop and a community darkroom are some of the projects being considered.

The Roboto Project is not abandoning its first home at 722 Wood St.

Ryan said it will continue as a practice space for bands, will host the occasional art show and could be used when the co-op puts on two shows the same night.

Ryan said the group has had a good relationship with neighbors since opening.

Shows conclude before the borough's 11 p.m. noise curfew, and the co-op enforces a no-smoking, no-drinking, no drugs policy.

The Roboto Project has found local supporters outside the world of underground music enthusiasts.

James Shipman, president of the Wilkinsburg Arts Alliance, said the co-op is a good neighbor and a positive contributor to the borough.

'They're an asset because they're bringing people into the community from all over the world,' he said. 'And the crowd that come's into Wilkinsburg is from all over Pittsburgh.'

Mark Smith of the Wilkinsburg Chamber of Commerce, who helped the co-op find their first space, said the Roboto Project is just the kind of group that Wilkinsburg needs.

'We were looking to bring arts related groups into the Wood Street area,' Smith said.

'I've always been of the opinion that the arts are good for a community that's on the rebound the way Wilkinsburg has been. I think you need look no further than the South Side to see what follows on the heels of a resurgence of the arts community, and I think that can happen here,' he said.

For more information about Mr. Roboto Project and to find out about shoes, call (412) 247-9639 or go to www.therobotoproject.org.

Brandon Keat can be reached at bkeat@tribweb.com or (412) 380-8546.

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