Pittsburgh Festival of Books gains traction with prominent sponsors
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BooksFirst festival slated to open in the fall of 2021

Pittsburgh Festival of Books gains traction with prominent sponsors

Sponsors include Google Pittsburgh, Duolingo, Bakery Square and the University of Pittsburgh Library

Marshall Cohen
(Photo provided by Marshall Cohen)
Marshall Cohen (Photo provided by Marshall Cohen)

The Greater Pittsburgh Festival of Books is marching steadily toward its slated fall 2021 debut in East Liberty.

Event organizers told the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle they have secured several big-name sponsors — Google Pittsburgh, Duolingo, Bakery Square and the University of Pittsburgh Library, as well as author Richard Snodgrass.

“We were able to reach out to some folks for help and I think what you’re seeing is the vision of what this is, what this could be,” said event chairman Marshall Cohen, the Shadyside book collector and consummate book festival-goer who founded the event. “I think it’s appealing to a lot of people.”

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC has provided the organizers with legal support, and New Sun Rising, a community-building nonprofit, is working as a fiscal program sponsor. The group has also hired a part-time event coordinator, Bethany Ruhe, the Pittsburgh Current co-founder who has worked in public relations for Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Direct Energy in Houston, and others.

In January, both Cohen and Ruhe said the major push would be to secure a venue for the event; programming would follow based on what the space allows.

Cohen is steadfast that the event will be free to attend — and that it should be attended in person.

“I don’t want this to be a virtual festival — it loses some of the magic that way,” Cohen said. “I don’t want to plan this to be virtual. I want to plan this to be real. It’s not whether; it’s when.”

It’s too early to say which authors from Pittsburgh’s rich heritage and lexicon might be invited to take part, though Cohen’s dream list includes heavy hitters like David McCullough and Michael Chabon.

“It’d be nice to have a few Pittsburgh authors talk about ‘writing Pittsburgh,’” Cohen said. “There will be Pittsburgh authors and there will be Pittsburgh connections — that’s what will unfold over the next six or seven months.”

The festival has already pegged one homegrown author as a sponsor. Snodgrass was born and raised in Beaver Falls and later moved to San Francisco, returning to Pittsburgh in the early 1980s to write about mill town communities.

“Pittsburgh is a storied city that has inspired my writing throughout my life,” Snodgrass said. “With our active literary, artistic and educational community, Pittsburgh is the perfect city for a book festival, and I am honored to sponsor and participate in this important event.”

Ruhe also expressed enthusiasm over being involved in an event that could change Pittsburgh’s literary and artistic landscape.

“This is Marshall’s baby and I’m happy to help with it,” she told the Chronicle. “I’m just really excited. I think this is going to be a great opportunity for the city of Pittsburgh.” PJC

Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.

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