Arts & Culture

Arts and culture reporting from 90.5 WESA.

No No: A Dockumentary Comes to the Harris Theater

Sep 5, 2014
No No: A Dockumentary

No No: A Dockumentary is opening in Pittsburgh, Saturday night at the Harris Theater.

The film tells the story of former Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, who pitched a no-hitter on June 12, 1970 - supposedly while under the influence of LSD. After retiring he became a counselor, helping other addicts in their recoveries. Hear from director Jeffrey Radice and view the film trailer.

Social Club for the Weekend of September 5th

Sep 5, 2014

The summer has begun to fade, but the Social Club keeps trucking on. 90.5 WESA’s Josh and Yelp’s Rachel have some great outdoor activities to help you take advantage of the warm weather while you still can. This week’s episode features pie of dubious nationality, foot wine and the revival of Tupperware sales. Listen in for why, “You’ve got to let the summer breathe a little bit."

Ten years ago, Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks staged its first production honoring the famous bard.

The premiere show, “As You Like It,” spanned two weekends in November at Frick Park, and Jennifer Tober served as director, choreographer and even costume designer.

“It was a kind of simple production, I pulled costumes from my own closet, or people wore really kind of utilitarian things that they had, and it was kind of a low-fi, low budget production,” Tober said. “And now the company has grown so much, now we have not-for-profit status and our cast has grown.”

Pittsburgh’s film credits have been steadily growing over the last few years, and the Steel City is the location of a new series called “The Chair,” which premieres on the cable channel Starz this weekend.

It’s about the making of two films – each from the same screen play, but adapted by different directors.

New Community Ideas for the August Wilson Center

Sep 4, 2014
AWC / Facebook

The August Wilson Center's future remains uncertain, but a group of community volunteers and activists have been holding community meetings to formulate a plan for a new August Wilson Center. The August Wilson Center Recovery Committee laid out the plans yesterday.

Group leader Janera Solomon and committee member E.J. Strassburger talk about their ambitions for the shuttered former center for African-American history. 

Read more about the details of the plan.

Fall Travel -- with a “Sports” Theme

Sep 4, 2014
Wally Gobetz / Flickr

Summer may be winding down, but with autumn comes plenty of fun for Pittsburgh sports fans. Travel contributor Elaine Labalme offers up some travel ideas for the fall with a distinctly “sports” theme.

Whether it’s a college football game, a little pre-season hockey, or taking a one-tank trip to follow the Pirates, she talks about travel destinations that are sure to please sports fans and their families.

Check out some of the highlights she suggests:

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

The August Wilson Center’s future remains uncertain, but a group of community volunteers and activists have been holding community meetings to formulate a plan for a new August Wilson Center.

The August Wilson Center Recovery Committee laid out plans for the center’s future, plans that group members said were formed by looking at past failures and successes. Group leader janera solomon said things must operate differently in the future.

Traveling to Europe's Most Exciting Cities

Aug 28, 2014
Steven Labalme

While a Roman holiday wasn’t part of her trip, contributor Elaine Labalme did venture to London, Paris, Amsterdam and Madrid. She’s back in Studio A this week with a recap of European cities fall travelers may want to visit.

Bob Studebaker / 90.5 WESA

Poet Jessica Server likes the sense of freedom she gets from writing and appreciates opportunities to present her work to audiences. She considers it “an act of engagement that’s a step of the creative process.”

“What I’ve always loved about writing is that it’s sort of a vehicle that can take you anywhere,” she said.  

Server, who lives in Friendship, said the most important qualities for a writer, especially a poet, are curiosity and awareness.

Kalle Gustafsson / Flickr

After the breakup of his wedding engagement, Phil Laboon was faced with $15,000 to $20,000 of payments wasted on the wedding and reception plans for the Priory Hotel on the North Side.

Rather than cancel completely, Laboon saw door number two and took it. He kept his reservations, subtracted the wedding aspects, and was left with LemonAID, a charity event to benefit Surgicorps International

Keeping Italian Traditions Alive in the Garden

Aug 26, 2014
Chris Squier / WESA

When Fenice and Nicola Mercurio moved to the United States from Italy decades ago, they brought their cooking traditions as well as a knowledge of Mediterranean gardening. As members of Pittsburgh's Italian Garden Project, the Mercurios and project founder Mary Menniti hold events and demonstrations in order to pass along their Italian heritage. See videos about the many other gardeners involved in the project.

The Cultural District is adding to the “culture” with locally designed bike racks. The racks come in all shapes and sizes, including one that looks like the Fort Duquesne Bridge and another standing 6ft tall.  

The first of the bike racks will be installed on Tuesday, while the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust begins the search for more racks to be placed downtown.

90.5 WESA’s Josh and Yelp’s Rachel are back to get you into just the right amount of trouble with this week’s Social Club. In this episode, topics include the Mistake on the Lake, the hidden treasures of Bloomfield and the best burger in Chile. Listen in for how you can, “Enjoy being Italian, or fake being Italian.”

The floor in the Pittsburgh International Airport’s Airside Terminal is in the process of being turned upside down by a local artist.

Crews are installing the work of Clayton Merrell on the floor of the terminal’s Center Core, which connects the escalators from the people movers to the four concourses.

“You can imagine if you are laying on your back looking up at the sky… the terminal is going to be an inversion of that where you will be walking on the sky and the horizon will be encircling that,” said artist and CMU professor Clayton Merrell.

Chutz-Pow, Superhero Holocaust Survivors

Aug 19, 2014
Daisy Ruth / WESA

The Toonseum and the Holocaust Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh have produced a comic book titled "Chutz-Pow! Superheroes of the Holocaust" to honor the bravery of five Pittsburghers during a tragic period of the 20th Century.

Author Wayne Wise and artist Marcel Walker say what makes their comic book so interesting is the fact that the heroes they depict are not the kind that wear capes.

Entire Warhol Film Collection To Be Digitized

Aug 15, 2014

Pop artist Andy Warhol is famous for his Campbell’s Soup and colorful Marilyn Monroe screen prints. However, many do not realize Warhol also directed and shot hundreds of films and videos over a decade-long period.

The Andy Warhol Museum (The Warhol) is partnering with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and digital effects company MPC to restore and digitize almost 600 films made by Warhol, many of which have never been seen by the public.

High Point Pittsburgh Project: Future of the Steel Tower?

Aug 14, 2014
Jorge Castro / Flickr

The Empire State Building and the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) are famous tourist destinations for viewing their respective cities. Can the U.S. Steel Tower be added to that list?

That's what David Bear, creator of the High Point Pittsburgh Project, is hoping for. He says Pittsburgh should have an observation deck atop the building.

Bear said the Steel Tower was originally built as a luxury heliport. For this reason, the entire roof of the building is barren. Bear, former travel editor for the Post-Gazette, found out just how interesting the roof of the building truly is as he looked in to it for his columns.

The Social Club returns this week with a match made in heaven. 90.5 WESA's Josh and Yelp's Rachel discuss two of the finer things in life: beer and ice cream. This week the Club features animal behaviors, the Brew Gentlemen and all-you-can-eat ice cream. Listen in for why, "Times have never been better if you want to eat candy or junk food ... and also get a little buzzed."

The city skyline will be the backdrop for an ‘80s cult film favorite, when the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and Pittsburgh Filmmakers host the first “Rooftop Shindig” Wednesday.

Style Week Comes to Pittsburgh

Aug 11, 2014

Think fashion — think Paris, Milan, New York … Pittsburgh?

Monday kicks off the second annual Style Week Pittsburgh, six days of events meant to support and promote Pittsburgh’s local fashion scene.

Event founder and CEO of Style & Steel Event Planning LLC Wadria Taylor says the week-long celebration is different from other fashion events.

Kelly Tunney / For WPSU

Oil City suffered the fate of many other Pennsylvania communities that were once driven by prominent industries. It was once the hub of the nation's oil production and home to major companies like Pennzoil and Quaker State.

But the companies moved away and the days of Oil City's prosperity are gone. Oil City has had to find ways to reinvent itself. And it's chosen to embrace art—and artists.

90.5 WESA’s Josh and Yelp’s Rachel are back as The Social Club looks into the future. This time around, Rachel has some week-long and month-long events to keep you occupied long-term. Listen in for tips on yinzing ironically, unicycles and the importance of style.

From tales about an elderly woman who decides to go to medical school, to fairy tales and historical accounts told by local students, the 14th annual Three Rivers Storytelling Festival held this Friday and Saturday at Winchester Thurston’s North Campus will be chock full of interesting yarns.

15-year old Shaler Area High School student Sara Walker says her favorite part of storytelling is connecting with listeners and seeing them captivated by her tales.

LeVar Burton: Opening Books and Opening Minds

Aug 6, 2014

LeVar Burton is known as an actor for the numerous roles that he has taken on over the years: as Kunta Kinte in “Roots,” as Detroit Tiger Ron LeFlore in “One In A Million: The Ron LeFlore Story,” and as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

But to millions of young adults, he was known as the affable host on the PBS show “Reading Rainbow” from 1983 to 2006. Burton will be in Pittsburgh for Steel City Con this week due to his fame on “Star Trek,” but Burton appeared on Essential Pittsburgh to discuss the revival of “Reading Rainbow.”

In 2011, Burton and his business partner, producer Mark Wolfe, acquired the “Reading Rainbow” license, promising to bring to the next generations of kids the finest reading and enrichment experiences found anywhere.

“Reading Rainbow” is now a fully re-imagined app bringing the beloved brand to children of the digital age and one of the most popular and highest rated children’s products in the market.

Marcus Charleston / WESA

Resistance is futile. Geeks have taken over the world, according to Joe Wos, executive director of the Toonseum, and Pittsburgh is a huge part of the takeover.

“In 1960, a woman named Dirce Archer, who is from Pittsburgh, brought World Con to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania," Wos said. "This is in 1960. This woman just bulldozed right through the science fiction community and said, ‘We’re bringing this to Pittsburgh.’ Despite at that time, 1960, Pittsburgh wasn’t known as a tourist attraction. And it was at that con where comic fandom had its first seeds planted.”

This 1960 conference is historic, as the World Con had the first people dressed up as superhero characters. These costumes led the way to creating conventions for comic book fans.

This weekend Pittsburgh is hosting its own science fiction and comic convention, Steel City Con.

The Steel City Con is at the Monroeville Convention Center Aug. 8, 9 and 10. Single-day tickets are $15 and three-day passes are $30.

After some time abroad, Yelp’s Rachel returns to the Steel City refreshed and ready to wow 90.5 WESA’s Josh with some weekend happenings. On tap this week: shopping, Spamalot, and the sounds of science. Listen in for why, “The one quote that I think of from the show I can’t even mention on air.”

Carnegie Museum of Art

The Carnegie Museum of Art's current exhibition of Renaissance paintings that underwent serious forensic investigation is called Faked, Forgotten, Found.

Lulu Lippincott, the institution's Curator of Fine Arts looks at the science of art preservation and restoration, as well as the winding paths that these works have followed to Pittsburgh.

Lippincott says the museum was skeptical when they “rediscovered” a painting of Isabella de Medici while Lippincott was cleaning up the museum’s collection of art. So skeptical, in fact, they took it to be X-rayed.

What they found was outstanding. She says the X-ray revealed that the painting had been “painted over” in the Victorian era. People in that era had the wrong idea of Isabella de Medici for years.

As seen in the X-rays, Lippincott says it’s almost as though the painting was airbrushed to make de Medici look better.

The Pittsburgh Biennial has begun at the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) with a local artist showcasing his two-and three-dimensional works, and the Pittsburgh Glass Center is about to join in on the Biennial with a wide array of glass ideas.

The Pittsburgh Biennial is held roughly every other year, 2011 was the last one, and gives local Pittsburgh artists a chance to be featured by the galleries around the city.

Courtesy photo

After the murders of Sarah and Susan Wolfe earlier this year, a community of grieving artists and friends were faced with the question of how to move on from the tragic loss.

Matthew Bucholz, Sarah’s boyfriend, led the group to channel their grief into something productive. Inspired by the Wolfe sisters’ involvement in the Riot Grrl movement in the mid-90s, Wolfepack Goods sells the work of local makers to raise money for the charity Girls Rock! Pittsburgh. Girls Rock! stages empowerment-through-music camps for young girls.

How World War I Divided One of Pittsburgh's Historic Churches

Jul 29, 2014
Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh has always had a large German population, and for centuries the German Evangelical Protestant Church, now known as the Smithfield United Church of Christ, was the pride of the community.

The church featured opulent stained-glass windows and a steeple which at one point, could be seen from any part of the city. Pittsburgh’s oldest organized church is now hidden between towering skyscrapers, a reminder of the city’s past. Historian Donn Neal joined us to look back at an especially trying time in the church’s history: World War I, which began in earnest 100 years ago this week.

The church was important, Neal says, because it was the center of German community.