Arts & Culture

Arts and culture reporting from 90.5 WESA.

(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.

POLITICO Kicks Off Editorial Series Starting With Pittsburgh

Feb 4, 2014
MARK PETERSON/REDUX / POLITICO.com

POLITICO kicked off a yearlong, editorial series Tuesday, showcasing innovative ideas from cities across the nation and how they can be re-engineered for Washington.

POLITICO Editor Susan Glasser explained why Pittsburgh is the first city featured.

Business Lessons Learned in Gettysburg

Feb 3, 2014
SPakhrin / Flickr

Even though the battle of Gettysburg was fought more than 150 years ago, Point Park University business professor George Bromall says there are lessons to be learned from that war, which are still relevant today. Lessons of supply and demand, transportation, construction, and more.

Through a class titled Business History Perspectives, professor Bromall takes groups of undergraduates to the battlefields of Gettysburg to teach the importance of adaptive leadership.

Pittsburgh’s Market Square is going to get brighter with the help of an interactive light, video and sound art installation.

The piece, entitled “Congregation,” will be in the city Feb. 21–March 16 and is part of the Market Square Public Art Program.

Created by Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler, the installation will be played on a 50 ft. projection screen and will run on a 25-minute loop. Lights will shine on the Market Square courtyard and visitors will be able to interact and manipulate the show simply by walking through it.

Escape the Cold and Visit These Florida Beaches

Jan 30, 2014
http://www.flickr.com/photos/iwaswired/4320569453/in/photostream/

Cole Porter’s lyric said it best when he advised listeners to, “Get out of Town.”

It wouldn’t be surprising if people heeded that advice in light of the recent cold snap. Where better to escape than a nice warm beach?

Travel contributor Elaine Labalme offers up some of her favorite low-key escapes.

silkscreenfestival.org

Music that is centuries old is being reborn as a new sound in Pittsburgh.

Silk Sound Asian American Jazz Orchestra is an amalgam of different cultures and musical traditions coming together under the direction of Harish Saluja.

Former RMU Ice Hockey Goalie Travels to Winter Olympics

Jan 29, 2014
Brianne McLaughlin Twitter / Twitter

Former Robert Morris University women's ice hockey goalie Brianne McLaughlin has made the U.S. Women's Olympic ice hockey team for the second time and is headed to the winter games in Sochi, Russia.

She is the first Olympian to come out of the Colonials’ program and was part of the U.S. team that won a silver medal in the 2010 Vancouver games. McLaughlin, who says she “grew up on skates,” is currently in Boston gearing up for the winter games. She says she's proud to attend another match where she and her team have the chance to earn a gold medal.

Not My Life: A Documentary of Slavery in the Modern World

Jan 27, 2014
Not My Life / Facebook

Earlier Robert Bilheimer tackled the international spread of AIDS in a well-received documentary.  In his new film, Not My Life,  he takes on human trafficking.

Shot in a dozen countries on five continents, the film looks at a world where children are exploited daily through forced labor, domestic servitude, begging and sexual violence.

Love and Treasure, a Novel of the Hungarian Gold Train

Jan 27, 2014
Ayelet Waldman / Facebook

“I read about the Holocaust, I wrote about the Holocaust, I studied it in college, and I never had heard this story before,” admits writer Ayelet Waldman, who is in town for the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures series this evening to discuss her new novel Love and Treasure.

The book weaves a tale around the true World War II story of a Hungarian Gold Train. One of the main characters is an American lieutenant described as a "tough, smart New York Jew" who is charged with guarding this treasure, a responsibility that grows more complicated when he meets a beautiful Hungarian woman who has lost everything in the Holocaust.

Waldman has Jewish roots , attended Hebrew school as a child, has visited Israel,  but she says it was Google where she found the idea for this novel.

It seems like social media is starting to touch every part of our lives, and now that includes the concert hall too.

The Carnegie Mellon University School of Music is experimenting with what they’re calling “Tweet Seats” this Sunday. They’re asking some concert-goers not to turn their cell phones off during the Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra’s performance of pieces by Ravel, Mozart, and Beethoven, with guest conductor Ian Hobson.

The 100th Anniversary of Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp

Jan 24, 2014
Hollywood Theatre

This Sunday the Hollywood Theater is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first film appearance of Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp character.  Kid Auto Races at Venice Beach will be featured, along with the premiere of a brand new score of The Pawnshop, written and performed by Pittsburgh pianist Tom Roberts.

Roberts says he tried to relate to Chaplin when composing music for The Pawnshop.

Regional Museums: From Toothpick Ships to Grace Kelley Exhibits

Jan 23, 2014
Jon / flickr

Combat the polar vortex and set your sights toward some fantastic regional museums.

Spend a day or a weekend and catch Elaine Labalme's fab five traveling and permanent exhibits, just a short drive away. 

How a Local Poet Laureate Got His Start

Jan 22, 2014
Heinz History Center

This month the Heinz History Center’s Italian American Collection is hosting its inaugural Scholar-In-Residence program.

Receiving the honor is Pittsburgh native Joseph Bathanti. He is also the Poet Laureate of North Carolina and has written eight books of poetry and the award-winning novel East Liberty.

All of his works began with an unexpected move by the young University of Pittsburgh Alum. When he was 23 years old, Bathanti volunteered for the  Volunteers in Service to America program (VISTA) and the experience changed the course of his life.

Bathanti was sent to the North Carolina department of corrections to do his service.

“Lift Johnstown” is throwing a community-wide party Thursday -- a “Project Party.”

The goal of the “party” is to connect Johnstown residents with a local non-profit to help improve the community.

“Lift Johnstown is a collaborative effort to reinvent our community as a vibrant, small city,” Brad Clemenson, coordinator, said. “And one of the many ways we do that is we try to engage people in coming out, making a difference, getting involved, getting their hands dirty, working with people, whatever they like to do, you can help, you can make a difference.”

Stream It! Music to Make You Move in 2014

Jan 21, 2014
yuki55 / flickr

The first month of 2014 is almost over, how's your fitness resolution going?

The New Years' season craziness at the gym should be thinning out, now's the time to really stick with that routine.

Cindy Howes, host of the Morning Mix at 91.3 WYEP and program director Kyle Smith have helped compile a playlist with some of their favorite songs from 2013 to keep you moving as the year progresses. Follow it and stream it anywhere.

Pittsburgh Native John Davidson Seeks Out Challenging Characters

Jan 17, 2014
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Many 1970s TV viewers remember Pittsburgh native John Davidson as a game show emcee, or as one of the guest hosts for Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.

But Davidson actually got his start in showbiz on Broadway in the early 1960s. And now after many years of making a name for himself on the small screen, he's back on stage playing the part of the Wizard in Wicked. 

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