Arts & Culture

Arts and culture reporting from 90.5 WESA.

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.

Three State Parks You Need to Visit this Summer

Jun 5, 2014
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

If you’re looking to explore the great outdoors this summer, you can’t go wrong visiting one of the Commonwealth’s many state parks. From Erie to Scranton and all points in between, our guide to some of Pennsylvania’s state parks is travel contributor Elaine Labalme.

State parks can be found in 61 of Pennsylvania's 66 counties. Cherry Springs, Ricketts Glen, and Pine Grove Furnace are among Labalme's favorites.  

Chaka Khan Headlines at Pittsburgh Pride in the Street

Jun 5, 2014
ChakaKhan.com

A force of nature is a term used to describe a lot of things and if it applies to any single entertainer, Chaka Khan certainly fits the description.

Khan is a singer, songwriter, author, producer, actor, philanthropist and entrepreneur and she is coming to Pittsburgh to perform as the headliner for Pride in the Streets.

Khan shared her thoughts on headlining the event in Pittsburgh, “In lieu of what’s happened in the past week or so, I’m honored. I’m very honored to be performing at this momentous occasion.”

The temperatures are rising and the social scene is heating up. 90.5 WESA’s Josh and Yelp’s Rachel have some tips to keep you cool with this weekend’s Social Club. In this episode, chill out with a cocktail tip-of-the-week, take a petty cab for a joy ride, and collect some affordable local art. Listen in for why, “if you show up as an adult unaccompanied, you might get some looks.”

The Golden Legacy of Little Golden Books

Jun 4, 2014
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

For generations of children, Little Golden Books have served as an introduction to reading. The first set of 12 books was released on October 1, 1942, selling for 25 cents apiece. Since then, the series has sold more than two billion books worldwide in a variety of languages. They feature characters from all across the children’s pop culture spectrum drawn by many accomplished illustrators.

Having played such a significant role in the lives of children everywhere, several of the books were included in the Smithsonian Museum’s Division of Cultural History. This month selected artwork from the series will be on display at the Toonseum in Pittsburgh. Essential Pittsburgh visited the exhibit and talked with Joe Wos, the museum’s executive director. He explained why the books have remained timeless.

Preserving history can be an expensive task, but the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) is trying to make it a bit easier by handing out grants.

This year, the commission awarded $1.9 million to 130 museums and official county historical societies throughout the commonwealth.

“These grants are used for general operating support,” said Howard Pollman, PHMC spokesman. “So that really helps some museums and historical societies operate in some way because those kind of dollars are often very difficult to come by.”

Official Wigle Whiskey Twitter

 

In the past, the United States has faced a shortage of various products, such as oil. Now, according to publications such as the Smithsonian and Esquire, the nation is facing a new type of shortage-whiskey.

Demand for the drink is way out in front of the distilleries’ ability to produce. Meredith Grelli co-owns Wigle Whiskey in the Strip District, she came across town to talk about the great whiskey shortage and whiskey history in Pittsburgh.

Grelli noted that the shortage is due to the popularity of whiskey coming back in a big way.

“As Americans, we’ve sort of gone through this evolution. We were really interested in wine for awhile, and got very educated about wine. Then we became home brewers, and became very interested in beer, and that continues. And now it feels like spirits are kind of the final frontier.”

The Summer Movie Season, What to go See and What to Stream

May 30, 2014
Cinema in the Park / Citiparks

The official start of summer might still be a few weeks away, but the summer movie season is already under way. In late May and early June, major studios bring their biggest movies of the year to theaters and drive-ins across the nation, hoping for a blockbuster. 

Pittsburgh City Paper movie critic Al Hoff dropped by to talk about the must-see movies, and which movies are better left to be watched on Netflix. 

The biggest film of the summer, at least thus far, is Godzilla. Hoff said she enjoyed the monster but thought the characters could use more work.

“I think they rounded up some really great actors and I think they didn’t give them anything to do other than stand around and react to explosions and buildings falling. Number one, there was three great actresses in that film that had absolutely nothing to do. Two of them you weren’t even sure what their role was, and then the third was just the imperiled mom, which is a waste of anyone that can act. It was a little baffling to me but obviously the focus of the film is Godzilla and the other monsters,” said Hoff.

A Look at the Career of Pioneering Broadcaster Eleanor Schano

May 29, 2014
EleanorSchano.com

Eleanor Schano, a pioneering broadcaster in Pittsburgh, was the first female commercial announcer, the first television “weather girl” and the first female news reporter, mainly working on WDTV before it became KDKA.

She explains some of her early desires to be a reporter in her autobiography, Riding the Waves, The Life and Televised Times of Eleanor Schano.

“I always wanted to be a reporter, from the time I was six years old," Schano said "There was a comic strip when I was a kid that was called Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter. So here's this little kid growing up and I'm going to be Brenda Starr. So I would take my daddy's yellow flashlight, and while other kids were playing tag, I would gather up the neighborhood kids and I'm going to interview them. And I asked tough questions. ‘Who do you like more your mother or your father?’”

Pages