Longtime SEEN columnist Natalie Bencivenga left her position at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette without a chance to say goodbye to her many loyal readers. Since we were among them, we’re giving her the opportunity here to reflect on her time at the paper — and much more. 

How long were you at the Post-Gazette and why did you leave? 

I began at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in January of 2014, so I was there for more than six years. I decided to quit after an issue with management during a meeting in March of 2020. I believe that without basic respect, there’s no way to grow or build together. I wish the PG the best, I love all of the amazing people there that pour their hearts into their work every day, but after what happened, I just couldn’t continue there.

When you look back on your reign over the SEEN column, what stands out the most for you? 

I’m most proud of the community building that was able to happen through the work of SEEN. I learned so much about so many incredible people from all walks of life doing great work to build a more equitable Pittsburgh for us all. I have made some of my very best friends because of the work, and I have learned so much about myself and what kind of person I want to be. The SEEN made me a better, more empathic human.

What were some of your favorite events? 

I love Quantum Theatre’s Q Ball. It’s always a great theme, always in a weird and wonderful location. I love the Mattress Factory’s Urban Garden Party, especially last year’s Summer Solstice. Honestly, there are truly so many memorable events, it is hard to pick just a few. The fashion parade of Riverlife’s Party at the Pier always made my heart skip a beat. And all the small community events, like those hosted by Repair the World PGH, were always worth attending. I could go on and on!

What will you miss the most?

I will miss the intensity of the work. I was out almost every night of the week. My calendar exploded with things to do. I felt very much a part of Pittsburgh. I loved emceeing events, interviewing people about their work and sharing in all of the excitement. I will miss filming our mid-Atlantic, Emmy-nominated web series, “Setting the SEEN,” with my co-host and co-producer, Sara Bauknecht. I will miss sharing with the community new or small nonprofit organizations doing great work.

You weren’t given the chance to say goodbye to your many loyal readers. What would you say to them here? 

I posted a note on my Facebook page to say goodbye. I appreciate the opportunity to repost it here:

A Love Letter to Pittsburgh

It has been a true honor and privilege to be the SEEN editor for more than six years. The ability to share with all of our readers the beautiful, inspiring and uplifting work of our city has given me a new perspective and understanding of the world.

SEEN is more than parties and galas. It is about communities of this city doing the work to create a more just and equitable world for each one of us. It is about the gathering of people in good times, to share love and laughter, to come together to ease the suffering of others, and to share their talents and gifts with Pittsburgh and beyond. I tried to reimagine SEEN as a space to showcase all the people of Pittsburgh, all of the good work being done, and highlight those who needed a spotlight the most.

It is with a heavy heart that I am leaving the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and my role as SEEN editor. I have met some of my very best friends through this work. I have been inspired and activated to do more in my own community by looking at the world through the lenses of service and gratitude. I carry all of the memories with me as I move forward on my own journey. I just want to thank everyone for coming along for this experience, for being a part of this community, for enjoying the work as much as I did.

My hope for Pittsburgh is that when we are able to gather together once more, that we step out of our comfort zones, interact with one another with empathy and optimism, and support causes that maybe feel unfamiliar or new to us.

Let us stand together in this brave new world bound by our humanity and recognize that we all deserve our moment to be SEEN.

You know Pittsburgh. So what’s your favorite spot — to eat? To hang out? For coffee? Recreation? Make us nostalgic while we read this from home. 

You know, it’s hard to pick just one spot because each neighborhood has its own flair, it’s own charm. I love Reed & Co. in Lawrenceville, I love sitting at the beautiful bar at Fl. 2, Downtown, I love Adda Coffee & Tea House in Shadyside. Soba is still one of my favorite places to hang out, and Lawrenceville’s B52 is always is my go-to for lunch dates as is the Whitfield inside the Ace Hotel in East Liberty. We have such gorgeous parks, too, with Highland Park as my personal favorite. There are so many great places!

What’s your one wish for Pittsburgh? 

My wish for Pittsburgh is that I see more integration of communities into event spaces. With this column, I often knew who I might see at events, depending on the cause. There’s the “Art” crowd, the “Healthcare” crowd, the “Cultural” crowd, etc. I would love to see these crowds branch out and try attending smaller events outside of their usual neighborhoods to help support more communities that often go under the radar. This is such a giving city. I think we just need to continue to be shown all of the good work so we know that it is there and needs our help. That’s what I loved about SEEN.

What do you miss most during this social distancing time? 

I am missing hugging people, laughing in real life, sharing stories and food together. I am missing connection on a very visceral level. I miss reasons to dress up.

What’s next for you?

My digitally syndicated advice column, Ask Natalie, can still be read at uexpress.com each week. You can email me questions at asknatalieadvice@gmail.com.I am working on a pilot for a talk show called The Movement, I am doing some exciting work with Table Magazine that I can’t wait to share, I am working with the web show, Alone Together Pittsburgh, doing a segment called Five Minutes With … where I interview interesting Pittsburghers doing inspiring work, I am working on a few book concepts, and I currently do digital media consulting work … I have a lot of things cooking! I am staying positive and moving forward with gratitude. I appreciate this opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers at NEXTpittsburgh and I appreciate everyone who has continued to support my work. I cannot express the love I feel for everyone.