The Union Project

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

In the early 2000s, a pair of new college graduates lived in Highland Park, just across the street from a crumbling old church. It hadn't been used recently, and the arts grads dreamed of buying the property and turning it into a community asset where artists and the arts could flourish.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Members of Pittsburgh’s art world want to connect with community and encourage them participate in causes they care about.

That idea of community engagement was a main focus for local artists, advocates, attorneys and funders taking part in the Future Tense conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center Tuesday. The conference was organized by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

Rebekah Zook / 90.5 WESA

Michael David Battle spends his time doing many things: he’s the author of two biographies (and is in the process of writing another), he delivers sermons at community events, he orchestrates town hall meetings, digital story-telling projects and yearly retreats for Pittsburgh-area leaders to share their ideas. He even travels to the White House on occasion.

But his true brainchild is the Garden of Peace Project, an initiative that is rapidly bringing together, and aiming to improve the lives of, members of Pittsburgh’s LGBT community.