Pittsburgh Playhouse hosts second annual TEDx event

TEDx talks discuss ‘aging gracefully’

Written By Hayley Keys, Co-News Editor

Photo by Emma Federkeil
C. Raymond Werner presents at the second annual Point Park TedX talk.

“Aging Gracefully” was the topic of this year’s Point Park University TEDx Talks. The event was held in the Pittsburgh Playhouse and featured six speakers from around the city. The speakers focused on different perspectives of aging based on their expertise and past experiences. 

The first speaker of the day was Megan Fahey, Assistant Director of Strategic Programs at Carnegie Mellon University. 

Fahey works with the K-12 outreach program at the University’s College of Engineering. During her talk, she emphasized the importance of expanding traditional teaching methods to help students grow and learn how to work together.  

“Outreach programs, enrichment opportunities and out-of-school times are outstanding moments of transition,” Fahey said. “They improve student perception and mobility to equip them with the skills they need to age gracefully through their professional and academic careers and teach them that learning happens everywhere.” 

Fahey’s presentation was followed by Ron Baraff, Director of Historic Resources and Facilities at the Rivers of Steel. 

Baraff was unable to attend the event, so he pre-recorded his talk and included a slideshow for the audience to enjoy. He talked about the fall of the steel industry and how new growth arose from the ashes of the old Carrie Furnaces. 

Baraff showed the audience pictures of the furnaces from back in the day, followed by pictures of art installations on display there today. 

“There are many different doors that can be opened to bring people into the story, what matters is the rich history of the site,” Baraff said. “It’s dominance in the industrial age and its rediscovery in the post-industrial age helps make Pittsburgh a model of success for the rest of the world.” 

After Baraff, Martha Rial took the stage. Rial is a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who talked about her project, Beyond the Ceiling. This temporary art project features photographs of women who are role models in their communities. 

“I was crazy excited about my mural idea, but I had no idea how the community would react,” Rial said. “Turns out, they love it! These murals have generated a lot of pride for the community and my subjects.” 

After a short break, the audience gathered back in the theater to hear Richard Piacentini, president and CEO of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, talk about the gardens’ growth. 

Piacentini has spearheaded the transformation of Phipps into one of the world’s greenest buildings. According to Piacentini, Phipps is now one of the first public gardens that is looking at both human and environmental health.  

“We recognize and we respect the past, but we don’t look back, we look forward,” Piacentini said. “We continue to reinvent ourselves in response to the changing times. We are part of nature and humans and the environment are connected. We must constantly evolve with the rest of the world.”   

The next speaker was Laura Poskin, Director of Age-Friendly Greater Pittsburgh. Poskin works to make the world more accessible for the older generations and focuses on building more positive spaces for communities of all ages. 

“Aging isn’t something that older people do, it’s something we all do. It’s a universal experience that starts the moment we are born,” Poskin said. “And yes, our population is getting older. That’s a fact and an asset, so long as we design our communities to match that reality.” 

After Poskin spoke, the final talk was given by C. Raymond Werner. Werner took the opportunity to address the audience and remind them to recall moments in their lives that can help them age gracefully. He spent his talk remembering his favorite moments that helped shape his own life.

“Here’s what I’m asking you: find somebody you know who could use a mission, someone you admire, and find a moment. Then gather up all the compassion, all the care, all the love that you have. Look them in the eye and tell them, ‘there is something great inside of you, and you never forget it,’” Werner said. 

The talks were organized by Heather Starr Fiedler, chair of the Department of Community Engagement at Point Park. 

“We started last year because we often show TED Talks in our classes, and we thought it would be a great idea to bring TED to Point Park,” Fiedler said. “It was such a success last year that we knew we had to do it again this year.” 

According to Fiedler, the particular theme for this event was inspired by a billboard she saw that advertised the Carrie Furnaces as a place to hold Shakespeare plays. 

“There are so many places in Pittsburgh that are being reinvented,” Fiedler said. “I thought it would just be a really interesting way to look at the idea of aging and growing.”