Arts & Culture

Arts and culture reporting from 90.5 WESA.                    Sign up for our weekly eNews

As the cold wind sweeps down the streets of Downtown the finishing touches are being made to a Pittsburgh tradition, kicking off the holiday season—the 54th annual Light Up Night November 21, 2014.

With large crowds expected , the event will feature family fun with carriage rides, musical and dance performances, ice sculptures, and Santa Clause himself.

Courtesy image

With help from artists, geologists, lawyers and others, the Living Waters of Larimer initiative encourages people and government agencies to think of rainwater not as something to be disposed of but as a community asset with aesthetic and economic benefits.

It began in 2013 when environmental artist Betsy Damon had an exhibit at The Mattress Factory Art Museum on Pittsburgh’s North Side. While here she became aware of the work of community activists in the city’s Larimer neighborhood.

New Musical 'Smart Blonde' Follows the Life of Judy Holliday

Nov 19, 2014
John Irving / Flickr

Actress Judy Holliday played the dumb blonde in many films but in real life she had a genius IQ and outsmarted Senators engaged in a communist witch hunt. We'll talk with playwright Willy Holtzman and artistic director Tracy Brigden about creating the musical "Smart Blonde" based on the life of Judy Holliday and the world premiere production at the City Theatre.

Most Wanted Fine Art

Mozelle Thompson just might be the greatest Pittsburgh artist you’ve never heard of. 

The Garfield raised native designed album covers, clothing, window displays and more. A retrospective of his album covers is currently on display, through the end of the month, at Most Wanted Art.

Joining us to discuss the life and work of Mozelle Thompson is Most Wanted Art Resident Artist J. Malls, who curated the exhibit.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

The last time author Jonathan Auxier stopped by the program, he had summer reading recommendations for children. He recently stopped by our studio and spoke with WESA’s man of letters, Morning Edition host, Josh Raulerson to offer up some book suggestions for young readers.

Jonathan Auxier Suggests 

David Gilkey / NPR

Public radio listeners are familiar with David Greene as the host of Morning Edition. Prior to his role on the popular morning program, Greene covered politics and events for NPR. He spent two years as a foreign correspondent based in Moscow. The Pittsburgh native joins us for a conversation about his new book "Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia."

Fair warning: our normal ratio of dumb-jokes-to-thoughtful-content is slightly off this week.

As our friends at Wigle Whiskey get ready to celebrate Beer Week, we present an uncharacteristically informative discussion on everything from Pittsburgh history to the business of craft distilling to tasty seasonal cocktails.

"Ghosts of Amistad: In the Footsteps of the Rebels" is a documentary by Tony Buba, based on Marcus Rediker's book "The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom." It chronicles a trip to Sierra Leone in 2013 to visit the home villages of the people who seized the slave schooner Amistad in 1839. The film premieres Saturday at The Three Rivers Film Festival. We'll talk with both Tony Buba and Marcus Rediker.

Take a Hike

Nov 13, 2014
Nicholas A. Tonelli / Flickr

If you’ve ever been told to “take a hike,” that might not be a bad idea. This week travel contributor Elaine Labalme, who tweets about food and travel under the twitter handle New Girl in Town, suggests some great places for hiking -- some close, some farther away.

Ryan Loew / WESA

George Takei, who originated the character of Hikaru Sulu on “Star Trek,” joins us in studio. This weekend, Takei will host the PNC Pops "Sci-Fi Spectacular” at Heinz Hall. Takei talks about that event, his acting career, his history of activism and the upcoming Broadway musical "Allegiance," in which he has a starring role.

Heinz History Center / Heinz History Center

Lost treasures, war artifacts, and pickles…yes pickles are just a few of the attractions the Heinz History Center and Fort Pitt Museum are offering during their free admissions weekend, celebrating National Pickle Day from Nov. 15-16.  

Both the Heinz Center and the Fort Pitt Museum will open their doors to all visitors including adults, children, and seniors, courtesy of a grant from the Jack Buncher Foundation.

David Conrad Returns to Pittsburgh to Direct "Goldstar, OH"

Nov 11, 2014

Actor David Conrad has appeared in theater, film and television. You may know him from his roles in the films, “Ghost Whisperer” or “ Men of Honor.” But this time he is behind the scenes, in a different medium. The Pittsburgh native’s latest project has returned him to his alma mater, the Kiski School as a director for the school’s production of the play "Goldstar, OH."

The play involves themes of loss, war, and military tragedy. In this segment, David Conrad joins us in Studio A with a preview of the play, his experience directing , and his thoughts on the high schoolers he works with and how it relates to his high school experience.

Mobile BBC Experiment Stops by the Steel City

Nov 7, 2014
Marcus Charleston / WESA

The BBC's first mobile bureau is currently in the middle of its six-month experimental project and they’re stopping here in Pittsburgh.

Joining us in Studio A to tell us more about this latest British invasion are BBC journalists Benjamin Zand and Matthew Danzico.

For those of you who haven’t fully recovered from the post-Halloween sugar crash, 90.5 WESA’s Josh and Yelp’s Rachel have a great set of events to get you back on your feet. Listen in for why, “I honestly thought for a minute there that there might be one weekend in Pittsburgh where there wasn’t a beer event. But … no.” 

Light Up Night To Go Big With Multiple Fireworks Shows

Nov 5, 2014
Flickr user Brock Fleeger

Continuing a more than five-decade tradition, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) will fill the streets of the Golden Triangle with carriage rides, musical and dance performances, and Santa Clause himself for Light Up Night on Nov. 21.

“We are excited to present these incredible talents and launch new family friendly activities planned for the season, as we launch an entire month of programming ushered in by Light Up Night,” said Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the PDP.  

Life in a Walk / Facebook

Yogi Roth has turned a trip with his ailing father into a documentary called "Life in a Walk." Roth, who played football at the University of Pittsburgh from 2001-2003, is now an analyst with the Pac-12 Network.

When his Dad developed prostate cancer, the two of them decided to take a three-week walk through Portugal and Spain. Yogi joins us to discuss the trip and his documentary.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

The bank holding the delinquent mortgage on the debt-ridden August Wilson Center for African American Culture is now in control of the property following a sheriff's sale.

Dollar Bank, which has a $7.96 million mortgage judgment on the center, paid a little over $1,900 in taxes and costs associated with Monday's sale in Pittsburgh.

A consortium of charities was unable to complete an $8.85 million acquisition of the center by a Friday deadline due to an appeal filed by a security firm owed money by the center.

The city of Pittsburgh is hoping to team up with some local artists to land a share of $1 million being offered by Bloomberg Philanthropies to enhance the public art offerings in larger cities.

Morton Brown, the public art manager for Pittsburgh says the city has long been searching for a way to join the community and local artists in one collective project, and the Bloomberg grant presents the perfect opportunity.

Jennifer Schatten

Before Elizabeth Gilbert wrote her bestselling memoir "Eat Pray Love," she was known for critically acclaimed novels about travel, adventure and characters who defy convention. 

Gilbert comes to town for the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures’ Monday Night Speakers Series at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland. But first she joins us in studio to talk about her latest book, “The Signature of All Things” and her return to novels.

Where Does Halloween Come From?

Oct 31, 2014
Matt Niemi / flickr

Halloween is the second biggest consumer holiday after Christmas. But what are its origins? Pop culture contributor Joe Wos joins us to provide a history of All Hallow’s Eve and how it’s been celebrated in the Steel City.

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

For over twenty years, Bill Cardille hosted Chiller Theater, a television institution for Pittsburghers. Running from 1963-1984 on Channel 11, Chiller Theater was a late-night movie program highlighting spooky films from throughout cinema history. 

Cardille also acted in the original 1968 “Night of the Living Dead,” as well as the 1990 remake of the film. He and his daughter Lori Cardille join us to discuss the show, their current projects and Bill's illustrious career on stage and screen. 

Bricolage Debuts the Musical Stage Adaptation "Scarrie"

Oct 31, 2014
Heather McClain / 90.5WESA

Bricolage Theatre's "Midnight Radio" has created its own stage adaptation of the horror film "Carrie," with a musical called SCarrie which casts Carrie as a senior at Alderdice High School. We'll talk with Tami Dixon, creator of this musical version, and SCarrie actor Connor McCanlus.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Photographer Duane Michals grew up in McKeesport, but it was a trip to Russia that prompted his foray into photography.

"So going to Russia, I figured I should take pictures, so I borrowed a camera," said Michals. "Though I did take a course in photography, I didn't even own a camera. And I didn't take a light meter because I thought if I owned a light meter that meant I was officially a photographer, and that would have been intimidating ... if I had never gone to Russia, I never would have been a photographer, it literally changed my life."

Happy Halloween, Pittsburgh! Halloween is on a Friday this year, so this week 90.5 WESA’s Josh and Yelp’s Rachel have a fear-filled weekend planned for you. Listen in for why, “I can confirm this: atheists are not Satanists.” 

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors / Facebook

The second annual ReelAbilities Film Festival is taking place in Pittsburgh, focusing on movies telling the stories of people with disabilities.

We'll talk with director Sam Fleischner and Jesus Sanchez-Velez who stars in the film "Stand Clear of the Closing Doors." The movie won a Special Jury Prize at the Tribeca Film Festival and has played at film festivals around the world.

Traveling to Haunted Attractions

Oct 30, 2014
MacKensie Cornelius / Flickr

From Salem to Savannah, there are a number of sites across America that are home to things that go bump in the night. If you're in the mood for a little ghost hunting, travel contributor Elaine Labalme recommends some of her favorite haunts.

Bob Studebaker / 90.5 WESA

Iron City Aerials has performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Zoo, the National Aviary, the Science Center and the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. It all began when Kelsey Keller was earning her Ph.D. in biophysics.

Kelsey Keller is the artistic director for Iron City Aerials. They hang and perform from what are essentially silk scarves and amaze people at public and private events. You can even arrange for an aerial bartender. Kelsey describes what they do as a "combination of dance and acrobatics.”

Cathleen Bailey

Sam Robinson doesn’t consider himself to be an artist, but he sure can tell a story.

“I kind of got used to asking questions and learning about things from my father,” he said. “So certainly that heritage has made it easier for me…”

The 64-year-old tour guide is one of 12 regional artists and storytellers being honored by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area Wednesday for their work in preserving history and culture.

Why Do We Love to be Scared?

Oct 29, 2014
Scarehouse / Facebook

Halloween is a great time of year to be a thrill-seeker. Many people search for an adrenaline kick of fear in haunted attractions, horror movies and pranks. But why? What makes a good scare so thrilling? And do other cultures enjoy recreational fear in the same ways?

If you’ve visited Scarehouse recently you may have been part of research which explores these questions. Greg Siegle, Director of the Program in Cognitive Affective Neuroscience (PICAN) at the University of Pittsburgh and Pitt Sociologist Margee Kerr talk about their Ecological Emotional Experience Protocol (EEEP!) experiments and Kerr’s forthcoming book, “Scream: Adventures in the Upside of Fear.”

Western Pennsylvania's Supernatural History

Oct 29, 2014
The Pittsburgh Collection / The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

How haunted is Western PA? From the ghost of Slag Pile Annie to fog that engulfs Blue Mist Road, we’ll explore the region’s haunted history with Thomas White, author of the book "Supernatural Lore of Pennsylvania."

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