Arts & Culture

Arts and culture reporting from 90.5 WESA.

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.”

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. 

Quebec City Embodies the Picturesque Winter

Jan 16, 2014
Michael McDonough / flickr

Our intrepid travel contributor Elaine Labalme continues her trek through the great white north.

This week she talks about Quebec City, capital of the province, where the old buildings reflect classic architecture and vibrant culture.  “It’s very welcoming and it’s a great respite for a few days,” says Labalme.

Round up the cattle and put on your finest 10-gallon hat because this year’s Fire and Ice Festival will take you to the American frontier.

“Wild, Wild West,” the 19th annual winter festival, will be held Jan. 17-19 in Uptown Somerset and Stephanie Williams, executive director of Somerset Inc., said this year is going to be unlike any other.

Courtesy PNC

Oral histories from some of the region’s most prominent African Americans will be a featured part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Pittsburgh.

As part of PNC’s Legacy Project, the oral histories will be displayed at 600 Liberty Ave. and are available online.

The exhibit features the oral histories of 12 African Americans, including musicians Sean Jones and Patricia Prattis Jennings, community leaders Alma Speed Fox and Esther L. Bush, and Tony Award winning actor Billy Porter.

Heather McClain / 90.5WESA

Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures brings some of the world’s leading authors and speakers to Pittsburgh.

For the last 7 years, Executive Director Jayne Adair has grown the organization’s audience to be one of the largest attended literary series in the country.

Adair plans to retire later this year, so we wanted to speak with her about the experience of working with Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures, the upcoming season of speakers, and what it takes to bring those big names to town.

Terrifically Cosmopolitan Montreal

Jan 9, 2014
Daryl Mitchell / flickr

Combining the best of old-world charm and modern sophistication, travel contributor Elaine Labalme finds Canada’s second largest city, Montreal to be “terrifically cosmopolitan.”

She suggests her favorite spots for food, arts and rest in this northern city.

Lauren Zawilenski / Chicago Dibs Tumblr

It's that time of year again, snow inevitably falls, you spend time shoveling out a parking spot on the street, spread salt, then have to worry about someone pulling into that space while you're away. 

So what do you do? Mark it with a chair? Maybe another piece of patio furniture? How about a tiki torch or your discarded Christmas tree?

The Tumblr blog, Chicago Dibs has been collecting photos of parking spot markers with photos that range from straight forward...

To straight up odd.

During former mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s term, he created ArtPGH, which is part of a 25-year comprehensive plan for the city of Pittsburgh.

ArtPGH encourages public art in the city and involves artists in designing public space.

It seems as if Bill Peduto has some artistic shoes to fill, but the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) thinks he is already making great strides.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

From South Africa to Pittsburgh — four cheetahs are now living at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

The animals are considered “genetically valuable” according to Dr. Ginger Sturgeon, the zoo's director of animal health. The goal of acquiring such animals is to ensure that future populations of the endangered cats can continue to be diverse.

The Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie, Pa. has hired a part time curator to oversee its collection of rare artifacts from the U.S. Civil War.

Diane Klinefelter is a historian who served as the library’s director until 2012. She will return in January to take up the new position, which is being funded through a grant from the Massey Charitable Trust.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

The Cultural Trust is inviting Pittsburghers to spend the last few hours of 2013 getting lost in a 90,000-pound ice labyrinth.

“In honor of the 20th anniversary, we are building this fantastic ice labyrinth,” Darcy Kucenic, Director of First Night Pittsburgh, said.  “It is a 30 by 40 maze made of blocks of ice, it is five feet tall and the walls will eventually be lit up with LED lights.”

Rich Bubin of Ice Creations in Churchill and his 12-person team are carving and assembling the labyrinth’s 300 blocks.

Organizers expect huge crowds as Pittsburgh First Night 2014 celebrates the New Year with a lineup of music, art, theater, comedy and fireworks.

The biggest New Year's celebration in Pittsburgh had around 36,000 individuals attend last year. As a part of the festival, there will be more than 150 family-friendly performances, art installations, and events at different indoor and outdoor venues throughout the Cultural District.

One of the City of Asylum’s post popular events will be back on the North Side next year thanks to a new federal grant.

The $20,000 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant will go to fund City of Asylum’s Jazz/Poetry Concert scheduled for September 2014. The event features musicians and poets from all over the world. The free concert is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

The deadline to apply to be part of the first annual Pittsburgh Fringe Festival is rapidly approaching.

Founder and Executive Director Dan Stiker said Fringe celebrates theatre that is bizarre, challenging, and obscure.

“It started in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1947 and has since become an international movement of theatre that’s … not seen on the main stages that you’d typically see theatre on,” said Stiker.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Looking back at some of Pittsburgh’s top news stories of 2013, 90.5 WESA Senior News Editor Mark Nootbaar focuses on features produced in the WESA newsroom.

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh region was impacted by many major news stories during 2013. From a breakthrough in the stalemate over funding for transportation infrastructure, to a police scandal and the election of a new mayor.

WESA’s Senior News Editor Mark Nootbaar gives some perspective on the year’s top stories.

At the state level, privatization of government functions were a theme for the Corbett Administration.

Kelsey Diercks / Flickr

The holiday season is often a time to reflect on why and for what we should be grateful. Pittsburgh Today has published its list of 10 Pittsburgh Reasons to be Thankful.

Doug Heuck is the editor of Pittsburgh Today and talks about some of the positive things Pittsburghers can be thankful for.

Flickr user Jason Pratt

Apparently living a Pittsburgh lifestyle is good for your health.

Well, not if you think that simply means eating pierogies and Primanti's everyday. 

The Huffington Post focused on nine lessons Pittsburgh offers on living well, as part of their Living Well, On Location series.

Joseph A / Flickr

City of Asylum Pittsburgh was launched in 2004 and has since been a hub of activity on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Created as a sanctuary for writers in exile, City of Asylum is expanding into a vehicle for community development on the city’s North Side.

Henry Reese, founder of City of Asylum, says the organization's role in the community is constantly evolving.

Paul Kentish / flickr

From historic Bennington, to Burlington on the shores of Lake Champlain there’s a lot to see and do in Vermont.

One of the best ways to enjoy the Green Mountain State is a cozy stay at a bed and breakfast. Travel contributor Elaine Labalme suggests some of her favorites.

“If anyone has mastered the art of B & B, it’s Vermonters,” says Labalme.

Larry Rippel / Courtesy of the artist

Callán, a Pittsburgh-based traditional Celtic folk ensemble, is comprised of artists from a wide range of backgrounds.

Percussionist Kip Ruefle found his way to traditional music by following his interest in the bodhran, the traditional Irish drum. He brings decades of performing rock and jazz into the mix.

Rich Engler / RichEngler.com

Rich Engler is a nationally recognized concert promoter from Pittsburgh. The former co-owner of  DiCesare-Engler Productions has written a new book called Behind the Stage Door, a retrospective of his 40 years as one of the top concert promoters in the region.

Engler shares some entertaining, personal stories of what went on backstage at many of the largest concerts to come through Pittsburgh, and how he went from rock musician to rock promoter.

Carl Wycoff / Flickr

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States is recognized in currency with statues, a monument in DC and many other areas along the way.

One commemoration includes the Lincoln Highway. Brian Butko is director of publications for the Heinz History Center and an expert on the highway's history, which celebrates its centennial this year.

Butko's knowledge of the Lincoln Highway begins even before the highway was started.

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

260 years ago this month, a 21-year old major in the Virginia militia named George Washington had two brushes with death in the Pittsburgh area, which could have dramatically altered the course of American history. Decades before he became the father of our county, Washington was on a dangerous diplomatic mission in the Western Pennsylvania wilderness.

We explored this little known chapter of Washington's life with historical re-enactor Daniel Nehrer, and retired Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Martin J. O'Brien at the Harmony Museum, not far from where Washington was on December 27, 1753, at the boundary of French and English territory.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Students from the Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts enjoyed an opportunity to hear from two Pittsburgh VIPs on Tuesday: painter Burton Morris and Mayor-elect Bill Peduto.

Three dozen CAPA students took in the Morris exhibit at the Heinz History Center, which includes more than 100 of his works. They were also tasked with the responsibility of choosing one piece to hang in the mayor’s office, once Peduto takes over on Jan. 6.

When Andrew Carnegie decided Pittsburgh needed an art museum he did not have any artwork to put in it, so he devised a plan to build a collection using a regularly occurring art exhibition.

“The genesis for the (Carnegie) International, when it was built in 1896 by Andrew Carnegie, was to bring new art to Pittsburgh and to find ‘the old masters of tomorrow’ and collect them for the museum,” said 2013 Carnegie International Co-Curator Tina Kukielski.

Amazon

Last week the Carnegie Museum of Art posted a tweet with an old advertisement for a 1960 Westinghouse Center Drawer Refrigerator asking,

“Have you seen one of these in your garage or in your neighbor’s basement?”

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