Duolingo strives to be a good neighbor in the East Free Zone, recognized by Bloomberg

by AryanArtnews
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Tech companies aren’t exactly known for being good neighbors. In city after city, they take root and multiply, pushing rents and home prices to unsustainable levels, and making little effort to connect with surrounding communities.

But Duolingo of Pittsburgh is trying to be different, Bloomberg reported this week.

After moving from Shadyside to the fast-changing East Liberty tech hub, language-learning app Duolingo (now worth billions after its IPO last year) made some early mistakes.

“Duolingo became a tenant in a building that just had a mural called ‘Lend Me Your Ears’ depicting black and brown children at play,” Pittsburgh-based journalist Brentin Mock wrote on Bloomberg . “This is a well-known work of public art that caused an uproar in the community when it was covered in a stately layer of gray paint. Residents of the East Liberty Area, once one of Pittsburgh’s premier black neighborhoods, have been blamed for the recent demolition of low-income housing. And it’s appalling that with new luxury apartments moving into the area, many people see painting as they too are facing obliteration.”

This is not an auspicious start.

Duolingo is reportedly aware of this and trying to make amends. It hired Pittsburgh native Kendra Ross in the newly created role of head of social impact to foster relationships with the community. She is a musician and has served as co-chair of the Mountain Arts Council.

The company met with local artists and activists and began supporting community organizations such as the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and Hello Neighbor, which help resettle refugee families. In 2021, Duolingo donated 4,000 cafeteria meals to 412 Food Rescue. In 2020, it announced a $150,000 community art grant to support public artists in the East Free Zone. The fund’s first project was a community mural for Cecilia Price-Knight, whose popular Jamaican restaurant Impressionz closed in 2016.

LR: Cecilia Price-Knight and mural artists Natiq Jalil and Alison Zapata. Photos courtesy of Alison Zapata and Bloomberg.

Later this year, Duolingo will add office space in an East Liberty office building anchored by Whole Foods, which is being constructed on the site of the Penn Plaza affordable apartment complex being demolished.

You can read Bloomberg’s full coverage here.

Inside the fifth season of the biological museum. Photos courtesy of Season Five.

In other tech news in Pittsburgh, another local company took the national spotlight. Robot-assisted vertical farming company Fifth Season was featured on Rebecca Fannin’s CNBC report as an “agritech” innovator.

Fannin discussed Braddock’s successful $75 million venture round, plans to build a new farm in Columbus, and distribution of its products across the Giant Eagle, Kroger and ShopRite chains, with a goal of reaching more than 3,000 stores by 2023.

Bloomberg Duolingo East Liberty Season 5

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