Arts & Culture

Arts and culture reporting from 90.5 WESA.

The Social Club podcast gets charitable this week, as Yelp’s Rachel throws out some weekend suggestions for those in need of a good cause. Don’t worry, though, lovers of debauchery: 90.5 WESA’s Josh made sure to pull Rachel back to talk about something “entirely frivolous.”

Listen in on their conversation for a Pup (not pub) Crawl, '90s covers, a secret song, and for why, “It’s good luck to get pooped on by an exotic bird in the jungle.”

Savannah: A Belle of Southern Charm

Jul 10, 2014
Dizzy Girl / Flickr

It’s the oldest city in Georgia and was once the state capital: Savannah. The city draws a number of tourists who come to look at its architecture and historic sites. One recent visitor to the city was travel contributor Elaine Labalme.

The charms and southern comfort found in Savannah make it a great place to visit for a summer trip. Labalme gives us her fabulous five lists of things to see, do and most importantly, where to eat in the city of Savannah.

Leeanne Schwartz / Hillman Photography Initiative CMOA

Pictures are said to be a way to capture moments forever and if one has enough pictures they can create a story. This thought is shared by the Hillman Photography Initiative at Carnegie Museum of Art.

They're seeking photos from Pittsburgh residents to tell the city’s story, a people's history of Pittsburgh.

Program Manager Divya Rao Heffley said the project is the first of its kind and the artists who thought of it, Melissa Catanese and Ed Panar are asking people to share stories and photographs.

Summertime in Pittsburgh, Sweet Simplicity and Spectacle

Jul 8, 2014
Taber Andrew Bain / Flickr

The July Fourth holiday weekend saw a number of activities in the city, from the Regatta to the annual visit of the Furries.

Betsy Benson, publisher of Pittsburgh Magazine says big summer events, such as the reopening of the Point State Park fountain and the arrival of the large rubber duck of last summer, have been big in Pittsburgh because of the attention they receive.

She says Pittsburghers really know how to enjoy the simplicity of these events, no matter how small.

“More people are swarming into the city, through tunnels and across rivers, for weekday and weekend activities. Yes, there are a couple of big events coming to town this summer, notably the USA gymnastics visit in August, but a lot of the activity is small stuff that just adds up. Like hundreds of people showing up to do yoga in Market Square. And the Furries, their presence makes any routine trip downtown a potentially odd and remarkable experience.”

Exploring 80 Years of a Summertime Classic with 91.3 WYEP Host Brian Siewiorek

Part of what makes any summer truly great is a catchy summer tune. 91.3 WYEP production director and host Brian Siewiorek guides us through the historic popularity of a classic summer song composed 80 years ago, Summertime by George and Ira Gershwin.

With the Fourth of July weekend upon us, 90.5 WESA’s Josh Raulerson and Yelp’s Rachel Carlson have a special Staycation episode for your listening pleasure. Since yinz probably finalized your plans for the Fourth long ago, Rachel whipped up a list of the best things you can do in Pittsburgh this summer regardless of the date, including kayaking, a secret Potato Patch, the Sounds of Science, and a chance to Go Ape. Listen in for why “you could get some maybe uncomfortable insights into your relationships.”

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

The world’s largest furry convention is under way in downtown Pittsburgh. The convention for artists, animators, costumers, puppeteers and fans has called the Steel City home since 2006.

“By the time we’re finished with this particular convention, Anthrocon will have left $41 million of economic activity in the Pittsburgh region over the last nine years,” said Craig Davis, president and CEO of Visit Pittsburgh, the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau.

The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble begins its new season July 11 and artistic director Kevin Noe stopped by the WESA studios to talk about the organization and what they have planed for their audience. He began by describing how the ensemble performs. 

Edgar Degas is perhaps most famous for his brightly colored paintings of ballerinas in 19th century Paris – but you won’t find any of those works in the exhibition at the Frick Art & Historical Center that premiered Saturday.

That’s according to Sarah Hall, Director of Curatorial Affairs, who said this exhibit will instead give visitors a glimpse into Degas’s other works that she described as “subtler.”

Carl Pietzner / Wikipedia

One-hundred years ago this Saturday, June 28, 1914, Arch-duke Francis Ferdinand, nephew and heir of the Austrian Emperor, was shot and killed by Gavrilo Princip while riding in an open car through the Bosnian capital. The tragic incident set in motion events that led to the start of World War I.

The Last Billboard: Simplistic Poetry in the City

Jun 27, 2014
Jon Rubin / thelastbillboard.com

At the corner of Highland Ave and Baum Blvd, above one of the busiest intersections in East Liberty, there is an old fashioned metal framed billboard on one of the rooftops.

The messages on the billboard have changed fairly often over the last 4 years. The chosen phrases are simplistic and not like a typical advertisement. Recent press from websites such as Buzzfeed have prompted curiosity about where the messages come from and why they’re there.

Jon Rubin is the unique interdisciplinary artist behind the project, which he calls The Last Billboard.

In this episode, we have a beer tracking app, a pile of trash in Heinz Field, food trucks and the opportunity to get your wino on. Josh Raulerson is back from vacation in Colorado, and he brought with him some recommendations on the best local brews in Boulder. He trades them with Yelp’s Rachel Carlson, in exchange for some weekend party tips. Listen in for why there’s, “a time and place for every wine.”

A Summer Staple: 5 Outdoor Concert Venues to Visit

Jun 26, 2014
Heather Harvey / Flickr

One of the many joys of summer is listening to music at an outdoor venue. Whether you enjoy opera, jazz, rock or classical it somehow seems more enjoyable outdoors.

Travel contributor Elaine Labalme, suggests some famous performance spaces where you can enjoy an outdoor concert.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

Speaking about her self-published “In The Garden: A Botanically Illustrated Gardening Book,” Sandra McPeake says, “I want it to become a very dirty book … take it to the garden … learn how to plant.”

McPeake’s love of gardening is a family tradition, and it’s based on the food she likes to eat.

"What are we really hungry for and what do I normally harvest to cook with” are questions she asks herself before each spring’s planting.

Row House Cinema / Facebook

For generations theaters have been an important part of thriving cities and towns across the country. In recent years more people are seeing how theaters can be an economic engine of development.

The Conclave Theater tour is held every year in a different city. This year Pittsburgh hosts the tour, showcasing the region's contributions to theatrical architecture.

As the summer officially begins, 90.5 WESA’s Josh has a bad case of whiplash from this already fast-moving season. Thankfully, Yelp’s Rachel Carlson, has the know-how to pull him out of his funk.

In this episode, the dynamic duo tells of the event of the summer, the difference between plates and bowls, the best sandwich on the Northside, and the pitfalls of sugar. Listen in for why, “It’s worse than cocaine and tobacco put together.”

An Essay by Nafari Vanaski: Pittsburgh Honored by Odd Lists

Jun 18, 2014
Phil Quinn / wikipedia

From livability to walk-ability, Pittsburgh keeps showing up on an endless series of lists. These honors were the focus of a recent column by Tribune Review writer, Nafari Vanaski.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

  More than twenty children lined the stage at the CLO Academy of Musical Theater today to rehearse songs from their Cinderella production - and now even more children can take part in future productions.

That’s because the PNC Foundation has awarded the academy a four-year, $800,000 grant.

A Mother's Loss During The Freedom Summer

Jun 17, 2014
Federal Bureau of Investigation / Wikimedia

Fifty years ago this week, three men who were working for Freedom Summer, a project to register black voters in the South, disappeared.

The bodies of Andrew Goodman, James Cheney, and Michael Schwerner were found 44 days later by the FBI.

The men had been driving through Mississippi when they were pulled over by Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price and led off the road, where they were shot and killed by members of the local Ku Klux Klan. 

Before she passed away in 2007, Goodman's mother Carolyn collaborated with author Brad Herzog on a book called My Mantelpiece, a memoir of survival and social justice. Herzog talked about his collaboration with Mrs. Goodman, who was an activist herself, and the influence she had on her son.

Voices from the Firing Line: Jim Crowe Customs in Pittsburgh

Jun 17, 2014
National Archives Foundation

Community County of Allegheny County Professor Ralph Proctor has just released his latest book Voices from the Firing Line: A Personal Account of the Pittsburgh Civil Rights Movement.

Written as a personal narrative, the book discusses demonstrations and the methodology of those in the movement, as well as the results they achieved. Proctor said he remembers a segregated Pittsburgh, even though he was far away from the Jim Crowe laws of the south.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Race: Are We So Different? is one of the current exhibits at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The touring exhibition examines the history of how race has been defined and its impact on our lives.

Cecile Shellman, communications and community specialist for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, said the exhibit’s long term goal is to be an “awareness building campaign, and to stamp out racism.”

“It’s just a taboo subject for some people," Shellman said. 

"Some people may lack the skills or the interest or the vocabulary or the courage to talk about race. And this exhibition really does invite people in overt and unconscious ways to talk about race. I think across the board, all of the other venues and here at the museum, we realize we’re actually helping people by encouraging that openness.”

One Pittsburgh summer tradition, the Three Rivers Arts Festival, is behind us and another one is ahead – the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival.

The fourth annual celebration of jazz has grown since it started and has attracted a wide audience that benefits the region.

Pittsburgh Jazz Performers: Past And Present

Jun 13, 2014
Joella Marano / Flickr

Pittsburgh's Black Jazz Musicians Union

Every Saturday, a group of local musicians gathers in the auditorium of the Homewood Library to carry on Pittsburgh’s rich jazz tradition. They are the descendants of the Black Musician’s Union, a collection of pianists, drummers, and other performers who worked Pittsburgh’s clubs and dissolved in the 1960s.

Many of the clubs and musicians are long gone, but the stories of this small group continue to thrive, and they're now seeing increased attention because of a new film.  Anthology: Local #471 Musicians Union, is about the now-defunct union and some of its more famous members.

With the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival starting next week, it was the perfect time for Essential Pittsburgh to look back at Pittsburgh’s rich jazz history. Labor historian Charles McCollester and Jackie Young, whose father Harold founded the local jazz group talked about how the Black Musician’s Union was established.

“The 460 (the original musician’s union) just didn’t really want to represent the black musicians, they didn’t want to give them their share of gigs, they didn’t want to represent them if they had some type of conflict, so that’s why the 471 was erected in the first place.”

McCollester talked about the importance of the 471 in the local jazz scene.

Dan Savage / Wikipedia

Sex columnist, author, and lecturer Dan Savage is in Pittsburgh this weekend for HUMP tour, a film festival which has garnered a bit of controversy locally. It's a festival of independently made adult films, which was originally slated to screen in Dormont. But because of a local ordinance, the festival will instead be shown in Lawrenceville. 

Savage describes HUMP as a film festival of amateur porn that marries funny with sexy. The festival begins at 9 pm Friday at the Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville.

Savage is best known for his syndicated sex advice column, regularly featured in the Pittsburgh City Paper and the It Gets Better Project, created to inspire and give hope to LGBT teens.

90.5 WESA's Josh Raulerson has a confession to make: He doesn't get out much. Thankfully, Yelp's Rachel Carlson is on hand to pick up the slack for this episode of the Social Club.

This weekend, we have a few good reasons to be feel Pride, a trail of libations, and ... a cat stroller? Listen in for why, "Pets and booze and beer are our thing."

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh might not have its own beach, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a giant sandcastle.

Sculptors Rusty Croft and Kirk Rademaker from the Travel Channel’s show Sand Masters transformed a five-ton pile of sand into a work of art in Market Square Thursday.

The artists co-own the business Sand Guys and have been professionally sculpting sand since 1997.

VisitErie, Erie County’s tourism promotion agency, hired the “masters” to create the sculpture for its “Hello Summer, Hello Erie!” advertising campaign.

The Smithereens Rock the Arts Festival

Jun 12, 2014
M. Jeremy Goldman / Flickr

The Smithereens perform tonight as part of the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. In the 80s and 90s, the group was churning out hit songs like “Only a Memory,” “Blood and Roses” and a “Girl Like You.” Pat DiNizio is the lead singer of the rock group, and joined us in studio to talk about the history of the group, and what he’s been up to since the group’s heyday.

DiNizio describes fame as “anticlimactic.” He says he finally realized the band had “made it” when he heard “Girl Like You," broadcasted on a radio station in New York, after six years. DiNizio says it was emotionally for him, because the band never expected to sell more than 3,000 records. They sold millions.

A North Side-based group known most for its support of exiled writers is spreading the word, literally. 

The City of Asylum has partnered with the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art to connect its Alphabet City, a literary center, to its Alphabet Reading Garden, the residential part of the neighborhood, by creating what it is calling a River of Words. The “River” will consist of area neighbors hosting words made out of  plastic placed on the outside of their homes.

When Opposites No Longer Attract: Coming Out After Marriage

Jun 11, 2014
@MichaelJTesta / Twitter

Coming out can be a difficult process for anyone who realizes that they're lesbian, gay, or transgender. But what are the challenges for LGBT people who have been married, raised families and realize they’re not straight?

This topic is the focus of the book, When Opposites No Longer Attract, by Michael Testa. It's based on his own personal experience with this situation.

Three Rivers Arts Festival Goes Green

Jun 9, 2014
Pittsburgh Cultural Trust / Twitter

The Three Rivers Arts Festival got underway over the weekend. This year, the annual celebration made up of concerts, art exhibits and food has a decidedly green component.

Three River Arts Festival director Veronica Corpuz explained the importance of this component.

“It’s one of the few green arts festivals of its kind in the country. We say it’s a green festival, it means that our operations, everything from how we sort our waste and try to divert as much waste from landfills by recycling and composting materials… to create a zero waste event at the Arts Festival. Given that behind the scenes operations, we’ve tried to bring that more to the forefront, through the art.” 

Those attending the 55th annual Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival will find portraits of air, a 4 story figure named Lady Pneumatica and a tribute to the Fort Pitt Block House.

The festival that runs today through June 15 has a theme of aesthetic creativity and environmental sustainability.

“Many of our art installations explore either the built environment and architecture or the natural environment and how our actions can impact and affect the natural world around us,” Veronica Corpuz, Director of Festival Management, said.

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