Arts & Culture

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

Finding Winter Warmth in a Bed and Breakfast Getaway

Dec 11, 2014
Jon-Mark Davey / Flickr

Looking for a way to de-stress from the holidays? Travel contributor Elaine Labalme suggests some bed and breakfast getaways in the Commonwealth. 

Local Perspectives on Celebrity Scandal and Damage Control

Dec 8, 2014
Dave / Flickr

Long considered one of America’s most beloved comedians, Bill Cosby is scheduled to perform in Pittsburgh this coming February. However, Cosby has been receiving a lot of negative press lately for allegations of sexual misconduct.

He is the latest in a long line of childhood heroes and lovable icons mired in scandal.

Pop culture contributor Joe Wos shared a brief history of celebrity scandal, from 1920’s silent movie actor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, to kiddie-show icons Paul Reubens, known by many as Pee-wee Herman and Kevin Clash, who played Elmo on Sesame Street for almost 30 years.

Wos says Reubens is a great example of someone who managed to turn his negative public image around after the scandal broke. He says that’s partially because Reubens’ crime was victimless.

But for celebrities like Cosby, who portray themselves on TV and in real life, as having a higher moral standing, Wos says when those people fall from grace, “I hate to say that there’s some enjoyment in it but there is a sense that he was put in his place. When you set yourself up to lead by example, you better be Mr. Rogers.”

Damage Control

Considering the media’s obsession with the cult of celebrity and scandal, is it any wonder that American TV viewers have become obsessed with the ABC drama “Scandal”? Millions watch Olivia Pope “handle” and “fix” the reputations and images of high profile clients each Thursday night.

But in real life what does it take to repair one’s image after falling from grace?

Two Pittsburgh organizations known for their sometimes controversial art installations are teaming up to talk about the First Amendment.

Conflict Kitchen in Schenley Plaza and the Mattress Factory on the North Side are hosting a panel discussion Tuesday on the challenges artists face when creating and presenting work inspired by the relationship between Palestine, Israel and the United States.

Aimee DiAndrea

Pointe Magazine has included Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre soloists Luca Sbrizzi and Gabrielle Thurlow among its Top 10 Standout Performances of 2014. The dancers, who will be featured in PBT’s production of the holiday classic The Nutcracker, take a moment from their rehearsal to speak with us.

How Does a Book Become a Bestseller?

Dec 5, 2014
m01229 / Flickr

Thousands of people set out to write a book each year and get it published. Many hope to see their book turn into a bestseller.

But even when a writer tries to do everything right, there’s still no guarantee of success. For that reason, Irina Reyn, an Assistant professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and author of the book “What Happened to Anna K?” has developed an undergraduate course focused how a manuscript becomes a book and how a book becomes a bestseller.

She joins us along with Mitch Hoffman, Executive Editor at Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette, to discuss what it takes to get a new book into the hands of readers.

Is there more to life than beer and cookies? Sure! There's also haggis, alligator tail, and other deep-fried curiosities.

Your weekend agenda in Pittsburgh:

Handmade Arcade

Brew Gentlemen's Food Truck Roundup

The Joy of Cookies

Do not expect to hear much out of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture for the next few months.

According to Pittsburgh Foundation spokesman Doug Root the Center will be entering a "quiet period" as an interim governing body has the facility assessed and searches for a new permanent oversight board.  

The temporary panel will include the heads of the Heinz Endowments, R.K. Mellon and the Pittsburgh Foundation — the three foundations that were instrumental in orchestrating a purchase of the bankrupt building from Dollar Bank.

ARAD Approves Largest Budget in 20-Year History

Dec 2, 2014

The Allegheny Regional Asset District will allocate more than it ever has in its 20-year history to organizations and projects in 2015.

The Board of Directors of the ARAD approved a $93.7 million budget Monday that details the distribution of $89.3 million in operating grants and $4.4 million in capital grants to a total of 90 nonprofit or government agencies.

Leigh Kelsey / Flickr

Congratulations, you just made it through the biggest eating holiday of the year!

With the fridge full of leftovers, the last thing you probably want to talk about is food, right? Well, travel contributor Elaine Labalme, is here to talk about some food destinations in the region worth visiting.

What to do with yourself after a full day of binge eating and all-around excess? We suggest three more days of exactly the same thing. Let the Hunger Games begin!

Meanwhile, we begin a three-week-long harangue urging you to shop local this holiday season. A few options to get you started this weekend:

I Made It! Holiday Market

Sample the Market

The Annual People's Gas Holiday Market Returns to Market Square

Nov 24, 2014
John Altdorfer

Vendors from around the world have returned for the 3rd People's Gas Holiday Market in Market Square. 

What draws them to the Steel City? We'll pose that question to Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership Vice President of Marketing and Communications Leigh White and holiday market vendor, Louise Larkin Manager of the Kathe Wohlfahrt Shop.

Dan Dion

At 2 p.m. on Sunday, 90.5 WESA is trying out a new cooking show, "America's Test Kitchen" from PBS. However it isn't a radio version of the TV show. Host Chris Kimball joins us to explain what's different.

And we'll talk with Ophira Eisenberg, host of the game show "Ask Me Another" which debuts Sunday morning at 10 a.m. Ms. Eisenberg was selected as one of New York Magazine's "Top ten comics that funny people find funny."

Ben McLeod / Flickr

This Sunday night at 7 p.m., 90.5 WESA welcomes a new show to the weekend lineup, an hour of storytelling called "Snap Judgment."

The program is hosted by Glynn Washington, whom the Atlantic referred to in a 2013 article as the fastest rising public radio star in memory.

Rachel may be at death's door, but it will take more than debilitating illness to stop the Social Club.

Light Up Night

CMNH After Dark


Heinz Endowments

As revilers traipse around downtown looking at holiday lights Friday night and through the rest of the holiday season, the Breathe Project hopes they will take a few moments to learn a little bit about the region’s air quality.

The work titled Particle Falls is being projected on the façade of the Benedum Center on Penn Avenue. Its cascading lights give viewers a real-time look at how much pollution is in the air above their heads. To be more specific, it measures the fine particulate mater in the air.

Isabella Rossellini Performs "Green Porno" in Pittsburgh

Nov 20, 2014
Warhol Museum

Iconic actress, performer and model Isabella Rossellini comes to Pittsburgh Friday for a special presentation of her one-woman show, "Green Porno."

Adapted from the Sundance Channel series of the same name, Rossellini has created a unique performance-lecture focusing on the mating rituals of a variety of species.

She joins us to discuss her interest in animals and biodiversity and how it led to this show at Carnegie Music Hall, presented in conjunction with The Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art & Natural History.

Rossellini says that her interest in animals began when she was just a girl, and later in life -- after many years as a model and actress -- she went back to school to study animal behavior.

When she started writing “Green Porno,” Rossellini explains that she worked hard to take dry scientific information and inject humor, create bold costumes and stage visually compelling scenarios to get accurate scientific information across in an entertaining way.

Mark Schultz /

Olympic gold medal wrestler Mark Schultz joins us to discuss his book "Foxcatcher: The True Story of my Brother's Murder, John du Pont's Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold."

In it, he tells the story of the 1996 murder of his brother, fellow Olympic gold medalist Dave Schultz, at the hands of John E. du Pont at the Foxcatcher Farms estate in Pennsylvania.

A movie based on the events, also titled "Foxcatcher" has been released this month. He joins us today to talk about his career in wrestling, his thoughts about the film and his reaction to his brother's murder.

City Sidewalks Dressed in Holiday Style

Nov 20, 2014
Vlasta Juricek / Flickr

The holiday season is here. To help you get in the spirit, travel contributor Elaine Labalme suggests some destinations, within driving distance, where you can see city sidewalks dressed in holiday style.

Traveling in winter time requires some extra preparation when it comes to packing and planning for the weather, Labalme explains, but it’s well worth the effort.

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.