Arts & Culture

Arts and culture reporting from 90.5 WESA.

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.

CCAC's 'Big Read' Focuses On Vietnam War

Mar 3, 2014

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.

Wexford 17-Year-Old Folds Paper for Good

Feb 27, 2014

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.

Getting Over the Winter Doldrums

Feb 20, 2014
katie bodner / flickr

To say it’s been a tough winter would be an understatement.

Despite the cold many people have been able to combat cabin fever, including travel contributor Elaine Labalme. She offers suggestions to help you overcome the winter blahs.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Feb 20, 2014
Pittsburgh Playhouse / Point Park University

“Sex, democracy and rock ‘n’ roll” take the stage at the Pittsburgh Playhouse this weekend when the colorful life of our nation’s seventh president is performed in the rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.

The show’s director, Michael McKelvey, says the show portrays the leader in a time where the “true” roots of democracy dominated the political sphere.

McKelvey relates that power and democracy became a sort of drug for Jackson and he became obsessed with relating to his constituents and trying to appease every voice.

The Chair: One Movie Script, One City, Two Directors

Feb 18, 2014
Brook Ward / flickr

One feature film, two directors, a pool of equal resources and the city of Pittsburgh.

This is the premise of a new documentary series titled The Chair starting production this month.

Chris Moore, creator of Project Greenlight and producer of movies such as Good Will Hunting and Promised Land, developed the idea for the series.

Moore has reached out to directors Shane Dawson and Anna Martemucci to see what direction a single production can take under different directors

(Rebroadcast) Presidential Walking Tours in Washington, PA

Feb 17, 2014
Doug Kerr / Flickr

Washington & Jefferson College has a unique way to celebrate and honor past American Presidents that have spoken, stayed, or visited Washington, PA.

Professors Jennifer Harding and Thomas Mainwaring developed a walking presidential tour which offers a historical look at the connection between fifteen Presidents and the City of Washington.

(Rebroadcast) President Taft at Rodef Shalom

Feb 17, 2014
Wikimedia

In May of 1909, a Shabbat, President William Howard Taft became the first American President to speak  from the Bimah of a Jewish Congregation while in office.

The Rodef Shalom Congregation, in Pittsburgh played host to the touring President. Archivist Martha Berg talked with us last year about Taft's visit to Pittsburgh and the importance of his speech.

(Rebroadcast) On the Trail of George Washington in Western PA

Feb 17, 2014
Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

260 years ago, a 21-year old George Washington had two brushes with death in the Pittsburgh area that could have dramatically altered the course of American History.

He was on a dangerous diplomatic mission in the Western Pennsylvania wilderness. We explored this little known chapter of Washington's life last December, with retired Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Martin J. O'Brien.

Jim Bowen / Flickr

While the White House is located on Pennsylvania Avenue, only one Pennsylvanian has ever occupied the executive office; Lancaster area native James Buchanan, the fifteenth President of the United States.

Patrick Clarke, Director of President James Buchanan’s home Wheatland, believes that Buchanan’s childhood in the Keystone State helped him develop into the leader he would become.

“There are some historians that believe growing up so close to the border of Virginia, today of course the border belongs to West Virginia, but some believe it kind of shaped him and his thinking.”

Buchanan's presidency was at a time when the nation was in growing turmoil.

Crafting a Great Love Story with StoryCorps' David Isay

Feb 14, 2014
Barbara Steinacker / flickr

Everyone enjoys a good love story and Dave Isay knows that.

That’s why the founder of StoryCorps wrote the book, All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps.

The oral history project documents everyday people sharing stories about their lives.

Isay believes that there is not much difference between what makes a good story and what makes a good love story.

Valentine's Contest Urges Pittsburghers to Love City

Feb 14, 2014

On Valentine’s Day, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) is reminding Pittsburghers to give their city some love, too.  

The PDP held a contest challenging people to share what they love about Pittsburgh.

Contestants were asked to send the PDP a photo of them holding a sign bearing the message “I Love Downtown Pittsburgh Because…” somewhere in the city, along with a caption explaining why they love Downtown.

The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium has agreed to pay $4,550 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ending the agency's investigation into the death of a child who was fatally mauled after falling into the wild African Painted dog exhibit.

Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo, said it’s the right time to take the next step.

“Safety is always our top priority,” she said in a written statement. “All of our exhibits meet the highest USDA and AZA standards and we will continue to work with both agencies to ensure those standards are met and exceeded.”

Wikipedia

Visitors to the City County Building this February may find themselves captured by the rich history of Pittsburgh-based African American cartoonists.

In a new exhibit titled Beyond the Funny Pages: The Works of Arts and Life Captured in Comics, Toonseum collaborates with the City Parks office of special events to create a time capsule of art by black cartoonists living in the Steel City. 

Part 2 of the New Girl's Presidential Homes Tour

Feb 13, 2014
http://www.flickr.com/photos/awj68/8538842288/

Last week travel contributor Elaine Labalme recommended some presidential homes worth visiting. However, with forty-four U.S. presidents to choose from, there are more residences worth visiting.

Here are a few more presidential homes to add to your list of trips to take!

Candies and Flowers and Cards--Oh My!

Feb 11, 2014
Selena N.B.H / flickr

Shopping bags will overflow with candy, cards, flowers and jewelry this Friday as Valentine’s Day approaches.

The holiday was originally associated with traditional romantic love in the Middle Ages, but became commercial in the early 18th century when lovers began giving gifts and making each other cards.

Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, shares some of the numbers that will be seen this Friday. 

Al Letson / alletson.com

Saturday’s in February, 90.5 WESA is airing State of the Reunion. The host, Al Letson describes the program as "telling the stories of America, one community at a time."

The State of the Reunion began after Letson watched a popular television show.

The 50th Anniversary of The Beatles' Big Night

Feb 7, 2014
CBS / Wikipedia

Fifty years ago this Sunday, February 9, 1964, the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

It was a live performance of several of their songs that had been hyped extensively and preceded by their hit song "I Want to Hold Your Hand" rising to the top of the American pop charts. WYEP Music Director Mike Sauter talks about the impact of the Beatles performance that night.

“It’s just an absolutely unique and remarkable phenomenon. The adulation that the Beatles instantaneously received, not just here in the US, but preceded by the UK and other countries subsequently around the world. It was just a very unique phenomenon to have happened and there’s no one reason why you can say why it happened in any one country or happened at that particular time or place.”

August Wilson Center Must Find Deep-Pocket Donors

Feb 6, 2014
AWC / Facebook

The plight of the August Wilson Center has been a source of constant stories in the local media.

Despite liquidation, debt and other fiscal battles many are working hard to save the center.

City Paper reporter Rebecca Nuttall has followed  efforts and provides an update on the latest news regarding the August Wilson Center.

The building, which took $42 million to open in 2009, had more construction costs than were originally estimated and put the center in debt before it had even opened. Nuttall says a lot of the people she talks to seem to have great ideas about how to save the center, but the financial backing may not be available. 

The Hebrew Mamita Breaks Through Cultural Stereotypes

Feb 6, 2014

Native New Yorker and slam poet Vanessa Hidary, a.k.a. the Hebrew Mamita grew up on Manhattan's culturally diverse Upper West Side, as a Sephardic Jew with close friends from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

This experience inspired her to write "Culture Bandit," the nationally toured solo show that chronicles Vanessa's coming of age during the golden age of Hip-Hop and her dedication to fostering understanding and friendship between all people.

She will perform her poetry at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh Thursday.

Take a Road Trip and Tour of Presidential Homes

Feb 6, 2014
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chuck_taylor/5287916645/

Ohio and Virginia are both nicknamed the home of presidents. From Mount Vernon to Monticello presidential homes are great places to visit and learn about history. 

With President’s Day a little over a week away, travel contributor Elaine Labalme gives some suggestions of presidential residences you might like to visit.

Underneath the Lintel / Facebook

Pittsburgh based actor, Randy Kovitz, is the lone performer in a one-man play called Underneath the Lintel. The play is a journey of self discovery in which the hero, a librarian, tries to solve the mystery of a book that's been missing for over a century.

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