Arts & Culture

Arts and culture reporting from 90.5 WESA.

Julian Routh

Twenty lucky people in the Cultural District in Pittsburgh received free books from the HearYourselfThink Project Wednesday for World Book Night.

Across the country, 25,000 volunteers handed out half a million books to encourage reading.

“We can open folks’ eyes to the power and joy of reading, and we’re talking to folks in the street asking them ‘have you read a good book lately’ and starting the conversation. It’s really great to be out here getting books into folks’ hands,” said director of HearYourselfThink, Dave Ninehouser.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald have asked for the removal of Judith Fitzgerald (no relation) as receiver of the bankrupt August Wilson Center for African American Culture.  

The mayor and county executive sent a letter Tuesday to Lawrence O’Toole, the administrative judge of Orphans’ Court to remove Fitzgerald.

Tips for Turning a Simple Snapshot into Something Unforgettable

Apr 21, 2014
George Lange / Lange Studios

With cell phones or tablets outfitted with cameras, everyone’s a photographer. So how do you capture that perfect image? 

Famed photographer, and Pittsburgh native, George Lange has been published in Esquire, Glamour and the NY Times among others.

His book The Unforgettable Photograph offers ideas, tips, and secrets for taking better photos.

Four and a half centuries after he was born, the work of William Shakespeare continues to be performed across the globe, and Pittsburgh is marking the Bard’s birthday with a set of celebratory events.

Yvonne Hudson, artistic director with the art series Poet’s Corner, said they will be holding two events Wednesday to commemorate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.

In a matter of minutes, a Pittsburgh rock ‘n’ roll band went from jamming in a driveway to meeting the leader of the free world.

The four members of Comfort Tech will remember those few moments for the rest of their lives.

“It was completely unexpected,” guitarist and vocalist Eric DiFiore said.

It started with a simple idea Wednesday afternoon to set up and play outside while the motorcade carrying President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden made its way to the Community College of Allegheny County’s West Hills Center, where the two would be speaking.

Edward Everett Hale, 1904 (via Wikimedia Commons)

An online debate broke out earlier this week over two otherwise unremarkable lines in a 1648 poem by the English poet Robert Herrick:

Tumble me down, and I will sit / Upon my ruins, (smiling yet :)

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

What started eight years ago as a gathering of store owners and employees celebrating the culture of independent record stores has evolved to include major music industry events, limited edition album releases and people camped out in front of record stores.

Saturday is National Record Store Day, and it’s one of the biggest days of the year for record stores and collectors alike.

“I like that it was started to bring back the whole record store experience,” said James “Selecta” Scoglietti, part owner of 720 Records in Lawrenceville. “People used to go every weekend to their local record store, and it was a social event. It was like a barbershop, where guys and gals would come in and discuss the latest hot tracks of the week. So I love that it’s bringing that back to the mainstream.”

Spring Break With The New Girl

Apr 17, 2014
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / flickr

A little madness in the spring is wholesome …even for the King, wrote Emily Dickinson. What better way to quell the madness caused by Spring fever than with a getaway? Travel contributor Elaine Labalme joined us this week with suggestions for Spring Break excursions.

There comes a time in Pittsburgh each year when storefronts look more vibrant, the Pirates open their ballpark and the city breathes a collective sigh of relief.

It’s spring, and the Downtown Pittsburgh Partnership wants Pittsburghers to celebrate by dusting off their cameras for a contest.

The PDP’s “Share Your Spring” contest, which opened Wednesday, encourages people to submit photos that capture their excitement for spring in downtown Pittsburgh.

Roger Humphries: Uplifting Pittsburgh Through the Generations

Apr 11, 2014
Billy Jackson / NOMMO Productions

Roger Humphries is one of Pittsburgh’s most notable jazz musicians. He’s performed professionally since the age of 14 with artists such as Horace Silvers and Ray Charles. But his contributions to the Pittsburgh community go beyond music, he’s uplifted generations of young people.

Humphries is the focus of the award-winning documentary Roger Humphries: Pass it On made by Billy Jackson.

The Beatles and Their Historic High Five Anniversary

Apr 11, 2014
CBS / Wikipedia

The Beatles have sold more than 2.3 billion albums through the years, a remarkable sales record by any measure. But the group's most historic chart-making moment was the first week of April, 1964 when the band held the top five positions on the Billboard charts.

Penn State Laureate Kenneth Womack is an English professor at Penn State as well as an expert on the Beatles. 

He explained how this record came about, “This great moment with these top five songs, in addition to drawing from these different periods in The Beatles' career, also are the culmination of what happened back in February when the Beatles came to America, had the wonderful series of appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. This first week of April is when it all came together and just exploded in this kind of frankly, commercial moment for the Beatles."

The historic high-five refers to the top five positions on the Billboard charts all held by the Beatles in 1964:

5. “Please Please Me”

Balancing Business and Fun with Pop-Up Canada

Apr 10, 2014
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

For one week, Pittsburghers can experience the culture of Canada in a temporary installment downtown called Pop-Up Canada.

The concept, according to Canadian Consul General John Prato, is to encourage a conversation between Pittsburgh and Canada about different urban issues including energy, innovation and civic life.

Prato says the week is designed so that Canadian representatives can meet and learn from local political, business and community leaders. 

What Does It Take To Be A Canadian Mountie?

Apr 10, 2014
Marcus Charleston / 90.5WESA

What would a visit from a Canadian delegation be without the presence of one of the country's most recognizable symbols - a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman?

We spoke with Constable Eric Hymander, a former banker, about what it takes to become a Mountie.  

Every year there are anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 applicants that want to join the RCMP and only the top 1 percent of applicants are accepted.

Hymander said it takes about a year to review applicants’ abilities, and once accepted they spend six months undergoing vigorous training in Saskatchewan.

After Checking out Pop Up Canada, Pop on Up to Niagara Falls

Apr 10, 2014
Helen Zhang / flickr

With the celebration of Canada taking place this week in the Steel City, Niagara Falls offers something for visitors on both the American and Canadian sides. 

Long regarded as a honeymoon destination, Niagara Falls is close enough for a long weekend getaway. Travel contributor Elaine Labalme offered suggestions for a trip to the falls.

Trevor Hurlbut / flickr

If you follow celebrity news, one story which made news last week was Gwyneth Paltrow’s divorce from Coldplay musician Chris Martin. The news was especially notable because of a term they used to describe the breakup - “conscious uncoupling.” The phrase raised eyebrows in the relationship counseling and divorce industries.

Paula Hopkins, a divorce attorney who specializes in collaborative law in the Pittsburgh area had never heard of conscious uncoupling until Paltrow’s announcement. But following the announcement, Hopkins found quite a bit of information about the term.

The debt-ridden August Wilson Center might have a buyer.

A group of local foundations, including the Pittsburgh Foundation, submitted a bid last week to acquire the downtown Pittsburgh African American cultural center which is delinquent on its $7 million mortgage.

Forum Aims to Re-Energize Darfur Movement

Apr 4, 2014

When South Sudan separated from the North to form an independent country in 2011, the fight didn’t end.

In fact, it may be stronger than ever.

In an effort to promote advocacy, the Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition (PDEC) is hosting a forum on South Sudan and Sudan on Sunday.

The event will bring together members of the Sudanese diaspora in Pittsburgh and speakers, including Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills) and Jacqueline Burns of the U.S. State Department, to discuss developments in Sudan and how to reenergize the Save Darfur movement.

HeroesBehindtheBadge.com

Saturday night Drusky Entertainment is presenting the Pittsburgh premiere of Heroes Behind the Badge, a documentary that tells the stories of two officers who paid the ultimate price, as well as the stories of three severely injured officers.

One of those officers is patrolman James Kuzak, who was shot five times after responding to a home invasion call in the city of Clairton.

Brian Drusky of Drusky Entertainment has timed the showing such that it arrives three years after Officer Kuzak’s incident and five after the death of three Pittsburgh police officers. 

Blumenthal: The Story of Harold Blumenthal

Apr 2, 2014
Blumenthalmovie.com

The film Blumenthal is a comedy that follows the relatives of Harold Blumenthal, a legendary playwright who made his career parodying his family in his work, and died laughing at his own joke.

The film was developed and produced by Carnegie Mellon University graduate Alexander Cendese who also co-stars in the movie. It was written and directed by fellow Carnegie Mellon University graduate Seth Fisher.

Brave Miss World Website

Weeks before Linor Abargil was crowned Miss World 1998, she was brutally raped while modeling in Italy.

Years later, in the documentary Brave Miss World, director Cecilia Peck followed Abargil as she confronted her rapist and encouraged other women to speak out about their own stories of rape.

The film highlights Abargil’s journey from her Miss World crowning to her global advocacy efforts against rape. 

4 Spring Festivals Worth Traveling To

Mar 27, 2014
Mark Peters / flickr

It’s officially spring, even if the weather may want to tell us otherwise. We’re going to remain optimistic and look forward to sunny and warm days spent outdoors.

This week travel contributor Elaine Labalme suggested spring festivals you might enjoy.

Bob Studebaker / 90.5 WESA

NPR once referred to the Conflict Kitchen in Schenley Plaza as “an experimental public art project, and the medium is the sandwich wrap.”

It’s take-out food where you take away more than just something to eat. Conflict Kitchen only serves food from countries with which the U.S. is in conflict.

Co-directors Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski schedule events, performances and discussions that seek to expand public engagement with culture, politics and issues at stake within the focus country.

courtesy of American Anthropological Association and Science Museum of Minnesota

A new exhibit opening at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History takes on the vast subject of race. The “Race: Are We So Different” exhibit examines the subject from several different angles.

“From the scientific angle: What is the science? What is the science involved in race? What is race? Is race real? The history of the idea of race and finally the contemporary lived experience of race.” said Cecile Shellman with the Carnegie Museum. “How is race played out, particularly in the United States of America?”

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.

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