Arts & Culture

Arts and culture reporting from 90.5 WESA.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra says it has postponed plans to perform in Iran this August, but still hopes to reschedule for next season.

The Pittsburgh Symphony was the last American orchestra to perform in Iran, in 1964. Officials had hoped to return for a 50th anniversary tour. James Wilkinson, president of the symphony, says in a statement that they need to devote more time to planning.

Kyle Huff / flickr

From film festivals, to movies and TV shows, Pittsburgh has become one of Hollywood's leading locations for motion picture and television production.

This week contributor Rebecca Harris looked at the business of filmmaking in the Steel City.

Pittsburgh has a variety of organizations that help bring Hollywood the the city, which are listed below. These organizations work with different groups and people in the community to make it possible for films and television shows to come to life in Pittsburgh.

Art is more than decoration; it is an industry that supports the economy and education system in the United States.

That is the message arts leaders from Pittsburgh and across the nation are delivering to Capitol Hill today for the 27th National Arts Advocacy Day.

Duquesne University will open an art exhibit by Andrew Hairstans called A Model for Asylum Tuesday at the Les Idees Gallery on Duquesne’s campus.

Hairstans said the exhibit focuses on a housing project in Glasgow, Scotland. He said the project has to do with modernist British housing and how it is used by asylum seekers.

“I became interested in the area because originally they were at one point the tallest housing complexes in Europe and they were also used to house at one point they were used to house asylum seekers from all over the world really."

Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution has been referred to as "America's attic." It is home to many iconic objects that have shaped the history of our nation, from industry to culture. In his book, History of America in 101 Objects, author and Smithsonian curator Dr. Richard Kurin chronicles and pinpoints these national treasures by focusing on key objects in the vast collection. 

Here are some of Kurin’s favorite objects related to the Pittsburgh region:

Pittsburgh Indy Comics Expo: Where Artists have Full Control

Mar 21, 2014
The Copacetic Comics Company / Facebook

PIX, the Pittsburgh Indy Comics Expo, takes place this weekend. The event is a way to nurture and encourage the city’s independent comic scene.

Jim Rugg, a local indy cartoonist, and Bill Boichel, owner of The Copacetic Comics Company in Polish Hill, expect this weekend will be a bigger success than ever.

Boichel says Pix is different Comicon for one simple reason.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

If asked to identify a giant in American architecture, the name Frank Lloyd Wright may be the first person who comes to mind. This region has the good fortune to be within driving distance to one of his most famous buildings, the iconic Falling Water.

This week, travel contributor Elaine Labalme offered suggestions for Wright designed buildings, not far from Pittsburgh. Wright has more than 500 completed structures across the United States, and these are just a few of his designs.

US Air Force / Wikipedia

Legendary broadcast journalist Dan Rather worked for CBS News for 44 years and anchored the CBS Evening News for 24 of those years.

He is now the managing editor and anchor of the cable television news magazine Dan Rather Reports. In 2012, he released a best-selling book on his life and the state of journalism today, Rather Outspoken.

Rather was particularly outspoken about the 3 ways he's seen standards drop in the craft of journalism:

The Andy Warhol Museum will be honoring its 20th anniversary in May with renovations, parties and a few surprises.

Among the changes to come will be a shuffling of the collection so that for the first time the museum will be presented in chronological order to take visitors through the life of Andy Warhol.  

Preserving Pennsylvania’s 333-Year-Old Birth Certificate

Mar 14, 2014
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

Over ten thousand people visited historic sites in the Commonwealth this week to celebrate Pennsylvania’s history. This year marks the 333 birthday of the Pennsylvania Charter given by King Charles of Great Britain to William Penn on March 4, 1681.

Howard Pollman, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, says the Charter is meticulously preserved at the State Museum in Harrisburg and reveals much about the zeitgeist of the era. 

Artotem / flickr

Last week we ventured to Florida to get an early look at Major League Baseball spring training in the Grapefruit League. This week, we venture west to see the players in action in the Cactus League.

Travel contributor Elaine Labalme  says spring training is the time to see a lot of teams in the cactus league that you wouldn’t ordinarily see. Check out a list of her recommendations:

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

The Cultural Trust’s Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival is making a “leap” from Oakland to Downtown May 14-18.

The 28th annual frog-themed festival is moving to help fulfill the Trust’s mission to make Downtown a “vibrant and inviting place.”

Pittsburgh’s colors may be black and gold, but they’ll soon be replaced by green and gold, as one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country prepares to take the streets.

Starting Saturday at 10 a.m., more than 23,000 participants, including some Olympic athletes, will march downtown along Grant Street and The Boulevard of the Allies.

Joining in the festivities this year are four-time Olympian and three-time medalist Lauryn Williams and gold medal-winning Irish Olympian Michael Carruth.

Nick Frost / 90.5 WESA

As a young writer, Moniru Ravanipur, hoped that her writing would keep her alive. But more often than not it caused conflict with the Islamic government of Iran, where she grew up.

After waiting nearly seven years to get permission to publish her work, then ten years for her first novel, Ravanipur’s work was quickly banned.

“I didn’t write before the revolution. I wrote a short collection story that immediately they burnt and banned...That was not the only story that they banned.”

A performance at Bricolage in downtown Pittsburgh this Saturday will shed light on sexual assault in the military.

Fifth Wall: Sexual Assault in the Military, presented by the Bricolage Production Company and advocacy group Stop Sexual Assault in the Military, explores the problem through different artistic genres.

The program will include clips from the documentary The Invisible War, scenes from Pittsburgh playwright Tammy Ryan’s Soldier’s Heart and a panel discussion with the audience.

5 Reasons Why People Should Go to MLB Spring Training

Mar 6, 2014
Jamesb01 / Wikipedia Commons

This month the call of “play ball” will be heard in ballparks around the country.

Fans of the game who want an early look at the boys of summer may want to venture to Florida to participate in the annual spring training games for Major League Baseball.

Correspondent Elaine Labalme discussed the five benefits of traveling to these games.

When the rest of us were focused on fighting the polar vortex and the snows of January, a group of more than 70 Pittsburghers were focused on making art every day as part of the annual Fun-a-Day project.  Much of that work will go on display starting Friday, March 7.

Fun-a-Day, in its sixth year in Pittsburgh, encourages people to make a pledge to be creative every day during the month of January.

Female presidents and prime ministers are currently serving in 18 different countries. Meanwhile, the United States has never had a female president, and is ranked 69th worldwide in women’s representation in national legislatures or parliaments.

What are other countries doing that America isn’t?

This question will be explored this Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Carnegie Museum of Art Theater, when Women and Girls Foundation CEO Heather Arnet premieres her documentary, Madame Presidenta: Why Not U.S.?.

An American Odyssey: Exploring the American Masters

Mar 5, 2014
The Warner Foundation and Warner Collection of American Art.

An American Odyssey: the Warner Collection of American Painting is a new exhibit that has opened at the Frick Pittsburgh.

Featuring the paintings of Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Gilbert Stuart and other American masters.  Sarah Hall, director of curatorial affairs for the Frick Pittsburgh gives a preview of the exhibit.

Brendan Bourke

National Book Award winner Colum McCann will speak to Pittsburgh-area high school students Monday as featured author for the Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA)'s 2014 "One Book, One Community" program.

McCann will appear at Woodland Hills High School to discuss his 2013 novel TransAtlantic, which combines historical research with fictional elements in a story that spans centuries, continents, and multiple generations of characters.

Looking for something fun to do on a Thursday night? The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History will be offering free admission on all Thursday evenings throughout March.

From 4-8pm everyone is admitted and parking is only five dollars after 5pm. “A lot of people might not be aware we are open on Thursday nights every week until 8, so if you’re having trouble finding time to come to the museum, you can always go on a Thursday night after work,” said Jonathan Gaugler, Media Relations manager for Carnegie Museum of Art.

Bob Prosser / flickr

Known as “Daddio of the Raddio,” “Your Platter-Pushin’ Poppa,” “Pork the Insane,” or “Pork the Tork,” DJ Porky Chedwick is a Pittsburgh legend.

Chedwick died Sunday at the age of 96, but his reputation and legacy set the standard for quality music on the airwaves for over 50 years.

Longtime Pittsburgh record producer and retailer Travis Klein remembers Chedwick for his honesty, integrity and pioneering radio work.

Allegheny County was one of 182 regions examined in the Americans for the Arts’ Arts and Economic Prosperity IV project.

When looking at cities of comparable size that were also in the study including Columbus, Ohio, San Diego  and Indianapolis, Pittsburgh came out on top with expenditures topping $686 million in 2010. But, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council said the impact is even greater and stretches beyond just arts and culture.

During March, the Community College of Allegheny County will be reminding Pittsburghers to enjoy a good book.

The Big Read, a national program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, will bring together organizations around the region to promote literacy.

“What we hope this will do for literacy is to spark an interest in reading because reading is good for the soul, it elevates the mind, it promotes critical thinking and it helps you to experience other cultures,” said Barbara Evans, associate dean of academic affairs and Big Read project director at CCAC.

Calista Frederick-Jaskiewicz of Wexford wants you to know that folding paper can be meaningful.

The 17-year-old’s project, Origami Salami, is receiving national recognition for its service to the community. Jaskiewicz was named a distinguished finalist of the 2014 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, which honors students in grades 5-12 who are making a positive difference in their communities.

Blue Star Art & Cowboy Dance Halls in San Antonio

Feb 27, 2014
Delaney Hall / flickr

Home to the Alamo and the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas combines a rich history and distinct architecture to create a modern and exciting cultural experience.

Travel contributor Elaine Labalme shares her favorites about the southern city and insists that visitors to the Lone Star State must visit San Antonio. 

Pittsburgh City Paper Writer Al Hoff Weighs in on the Oscar Buzz

Feb 21, 2014

The Academy Awards are right around the corner, Sunday March 2nd to be exact. There’s plenty of speculation about who’s likely to win, along with conversation about who's worthy of the awards.

Al Hoff is our movie contributor and a film critic for the Pittsburgh City Paper. She's parsed through the top Oscar contenders and says based on critic responses, the two favorites in many categories are American Hustle and 12 Years A Slave.

David Bachman / Pittsburgh Opera

The Pittsburgh Opera this weekend will travel back in time starting this weekend to bring you the story of Paul in the English-language opera “Paul’s Case.”

It’s based on the story of the same name by Willa Cather, who wrote it while living in Pittsburgh. The story starts out in Pittsburgh where young Paul, described as a “dandy,” yearns for a more exciting life away from dark and industrial Pittsburgh.  

“It really gets at how difficult it is to be a teenager whether it’s 1905 or today,” said composer Gregory Spears. “It’s a difficult time for all of us whether we’re teachers or teenagers ourselves or parents.”

People passing through Market Square have the opportunity to become part of an art installation starting February 21st.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) is launching the North American Premiere of Congregation, an interactive kinetic light installation.

In 2009, a gleaming performing arts space opened to great fanfare in downtown Pittsburgh.

Named after renowned playwright and native son August Wilson, it was meant to be a hub for African-American theater, art and education.

Today, the August Wilson Center is for sale, unable to pay its bills. But many wonder why it was allowed to get to this point.

August Wilson grew up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in the 1940s and '50s. He met Sala Udin in parochial school.

Pages