Arts & Culture

Arts and culture reporting from 90.5 WESA.

Pitt's Angular Arch Turns 40

May 13, 2014

The bright yellow geometric arch outside the University of Pittsburgh’s Posavar Hall will have a 40th birthday party on Thursday, complete with cake.

Pittsburgh’s Office of Public Art (OPA) and the University Art Gallery (UAG) are joining forces to celebrate the history of Tony Smith’s minimalist sculpture.

A tent will be set up next to the sculpture and guided tours around the sculpture will be offered at noon and 3pm.

UAG curator Isabelle Chartier will be one of the tour guides.

Heather McClain / 90.5WESA

Throughout the last year we’ve heard, and discussed at length, the problems faced by those who wish to save the financially troubled August Wilson Center.

Right now the fate of that facility is in the hands of a judge who may sell the building to pay off the center’s debts.

Janera Solomon, Executive Director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater acknowledged there were missteps that led to the current state of affairs at the August Wilson Center. She is leading a group committed to achieving a vision for the center that will celebrate August Wilson, African American culture, and the city.

She said while the troubles faced by the August Wilson Center are unique for Pittsburgh, when it comes to cultural organizations throughout the country, many struggle in their first 5 to 10 years. 

Rebecca S. Antal / Prime Stage

The Devil’s Arithmetic is an award-winning historical novel about time travel and the Holocaust by author Jane Yolen.

The book has been adapted for the theater by Lancaster, PA resident Barry Kornhauser. This weekend Prime Stage Theater gives the first performance of the adapted play, at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side.

The story centers on Hannah, a modern day teenager who is mysteriously transported back to the time of the Holocaust. 

Jessica Lasky / 90.5 WESA

The 55th annual Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival kicks off in Pittsburgh the first weekend in June. This year’s event will feature the signature Artist Market, live musical performances, and numerous art installations and performances throughout the cultural district. Festival organizers said this event, along with next week’s International Children’s Festival, the Jazz Live International Festival, and New Year’s First Night are huge economic drivers in the region.

Why Pittsburgh's Theater Scene Is Ideal For A Fringe Festival

May 7, 2014
Kim Traynor / wikipedia

In 1947, eight theater companies in Scotland were not invited to the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival.

Instead of going home, the companies set up on the outer edges of the festival, where they could take advantage of the large crowds and showcase their alternate brand of performance. Since then, these “fringe festivals” have expanded across the globe.

Dan Stiker had long dreamed of bringing a fringe festival to the Steel City, and this year that dream has become a reality as Pittsburgh stages its inaugural Fringe Festival.

Jennifer S. Jordan

Handbells aren't just for Christmas, Easter and holy hallelujahs.  The Three Rivers Ringers community handbell group is ringing in spring. The ensemble's performing classical waltzes,  jazz, tunes by pop star Lady Gaga and even wedding dance songs.

Mapping Pennsylvania's Historic Roller Coasters

May 1, 2014
Wikimedia

Dorney Park, Hershey Park, Dutch Wonderland, Lakemont Park, Idlewild, Kennywood... Pennsylvania has some of the most historic amusement parks, and roller coasters in the country.

As amusement parks start coming to life for the season, David Witoslawski, a McKeesport substitute school teacher and author of the book, Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip, gave us a guide to the state’s classic coasters and parks. The book is available in black and white as a paperback and in full color as an e-book.

"I love the matter of community spirit when it comes to going to amusement parks," Witoslawski said, "You go there and people just forget about all their problems in the world."

Arthur Goldwag / Facebook

Arthur Goldwag, writer of The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right speaks at the Penn State New Kensington campus this Thursday. 

The talk will focus on "conspiracy theory as the canary in the mine shaft of the Democratic Party."

The New Hate discusses racism and paranoid speculations about money that have long thrived on the American fringe as possible conspiracy theories. 

It also links the hysteria about the Illuminati of the new American Republic of the 1790s and the McCarthyism of the 1950s, and considers the similarities between the anti-New Deal sentiments of the 1930s and the modern day Tea Party movement.

When Goldwag originally began his book he said he focused on the older conspiracy theories and then something changed.

The Spirit of Pete Seeger Returns to Shadyside

Apr 29, 2014
Anthony Pepitone / Wikipedia

Musician and activist Pete Seeger filled his audiences with enthusiasm and hope. He is best remembered for his dedication to the American spirit with songs that continue to influence musicians today.

Seeger passed away this past January, but the First Unitarian Church in Shadyside will hold a Pete Seeger Tribute concert on Saturday to celebrate what would have been his 95th birthday.

Tribute coordinator Ginny Hildebrand says the church invited Seeger to perform in 1962, during the height of the "red scare," after being rejected from other Pittsburgh venues for being too “radical.”  

Art Advocates Take a Trip to Harrisburg

Apr 29, 2014

The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) joined arts advocates from all over Pennsylvania in the capitol Tuesday to lobby legislators for financial support of the arts.

According to GPAC CEO Mitch Swain, the main points of focus are a re-establishment of the PA Governor’s School for the Arts, additional funding for the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission and the approval of a proposed budget that allocates $9 million in funds to the arts.

A New York developer has emerged as the top bidder for Pittsburgh's bankrupt August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

WQED.org

It was sixty years ago this month that WQED went on the air as one of the nation’s first public television stations. The idea that a station did not run commercials, but instead relied on public donations, was revolutionary. Today, it’s hard to imagine life without public television. WQED gave viewers programs such as Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Previn and the Pittsburgh, and The War That Made America

WQED President and CEO Deborah Acklin said the start of WQED was made possible by non-commercial educational licenses, also known as NCE’s, being offered for the first time for television.

“For the first time, it was going to be a license that was owned by the community as opposed to owned by a school board or owned by a University or the other kind of models that were out there. There were only four, WQED was the fourth, there were only four stations on air when WQED went on the air. So everything was an experiment.” 

Pittsburgh's Lost Steamboat Serves as an Accidental Time Capsule

Apr 28, 2014
Artist Gary Lucy

How did a 19th century steamboat made in Pittsburgh wind up perfectly preserved in a Kansas cornfield? This is just one of many questions that emerges from the story told by Leslie Przybylek, lead curator for the Treasures of the Arabia Exhibit at the Senator John Heinz History Center. The Arabia is known as Pittsburgh’s lost steamboat and serves as an accidental time capsule. In its hull, were dozens of hats, shoes, pants, even edible food stuffs, all more than 150 years old.

In bringing the exhibit to Pittsburgh, Przbylek has been working with the Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City, where the excavated items are normally on display. She explained how the boat ended up in that cornfield.

Kelly Bogel

Etched on the walls of Pittsburgh’s most well-worn buildings, advertisements for long-forgotten products serve as a haunting remembrance of the city’s past consumerism. Two Pittsburgh photographers have documented these signs in an exhibit called “Palimpsests: Ghost Signs of Pittsburgh.” 

Dance Africa, Promoting Cultural Heritage through Dance

Apr 25, 2014
Legacy Arts Project / Facebook

Thirty-seven years ago choreographer Dr. Charles Davis founded Dance Africa in New York City. The festival of dance, based in African cultures has since become the largest celebration of African Dance in the country.

The festival is in Pittsburgh at the August Wilson Center for its third year, in collaboration with the Legacy Arts Project, where Pittsburgh residents can learn the artistic traditions of the African Diaspora.

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

The ongoing plight of the August Wilson Center continues with some bidders showing interest and others withdrawing. 

Pittsburgh City Paper reporter Rebecca Nuttall has been covering the ongoing news of the troubled arts center and the latest group of possible bidders.

“The first bid that the public heard about was a $4 million bid from three Pittsburgh foundations, the Heinz endowments, the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Richard King Mellon foundation. And a lot of the community seemed to support that a bit.

Senator John Heinz History Center

Ships sink.

They crash or capsize, and are usually never seen again, but that’s not the case with the Arabia, which sank in the Missouri River in the latter half of the 19th century—found 130 years later in a corn field.

Starting Saturday, visitors to the Senator John Heinz History Center will be able to see nearly 2,000 artifacts recovered from the once lost steamboat that was built in Pittsburgh in 1853.

History center President Andy Masich said the boat gives visitors a glimpse of what life was like in the 1800’s.

Four evenings a year, Pittsburghers can stroll through the Cultural District and pop into any art gallery for free to see a showcase of exhibits.

Each gallery crawl is different, and tonight’s features a North American premiere, a 3-D printing exhibit from a group of Penn State students and one last chance to see a robotic exhibition.

At Wood Street Galleries, "crawlers" can view North American premiere installations, Edwin van der Heide’s “Evolving Spark Network” and Alexandre Burton’s “Impacts,” in an exhibition called “Electrified.”

Take A Trip: Four Things To Do In Nashville, Tenn.

Apr 24, 2014
Timothy Wildey / flickr

Nine hours away from the Steel City is the Music City — Nashville, Tennessee. But there’s more to the city than country music. This week, contributor Elaine Labalme told us how to the get the most out of a visit to Nashville.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) will join Holocaust survivors at Heinz Hall Sunday evening to commemorate Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Remembering Through Music,” presented by the Holocaust Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, features four musical interludes by a quartet of PSO musicians and a candlelight ceremony with six Holocaust survivors.

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

A cache of works by Andy Warhol has been unlocked from its digital jail and is about to seen by a wider audience for the first time. 

A multi-national team of computer scientists, art experts and museum employees “unlocked” the images from floppy disks created by technology that was cutting edge in 1980s but has long since gone defunct. 

Courtesy photo

When Zak Kruszynski came across the phrase “bones and all,” he thought it got to the root of what he wanted to accomplish with a woodworking business.

That is, to reuse materials — often totally discarded — as often as possible, and to try to use every bit to reduce waste.

"Also, I thought it had a great ring to it,” he said.

Julian Routh

Twenty lucky people in the Cultural District in Pittsburgh received free books from the HearYourselfThink Project Wednesday for World Book Night.

Across the country, 25,000 volunteers handed out half a million books to encourage reading.

“We can open folks’ eyes to the power and joy of reading, and we’re talking to folks in the street asking them ‘have you read a good book lately’ and starting the conversation. It’s really great to be out here getting books into folks’ hands,” said director of HearYourselfThink, Dave Ninehouser.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald have asked for the removal of Judith Fitzgerald (no relation) as receiver of the bankrupt August Wilson Center for African American Culture.  

The mayor and county executive sent a letter Tuesday to Lawrence O’Toole, the administrative judge of Orphans’ Court to remove Fitzgerald.

Tips for Turning a Simple Snapshot into Something Unforgettable

Apr 21, 2014
George Lange / Lange Studios

With cell phones or tablets outfitted with cameras, everyone’s a photographer. So how do you capture that perfect image? 

Famed photographer, and Pittsburgh native, George Lange has been published in Esquire, Glamour and the NY Times among others.

His book The Unforgettable Photograph offers ideas, tips, and secrets for taking better photos.

Four and a half centuries after he was born, the work of William Shakespeare continues to be performed across the globe, and Pittsburgh is marking the Bard’s birthday with a set of celebratory events.

Yvonne Hudson, artistic director with the art series Poet’s Corner, said they will be holding two events Wednesday to commemorate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.

In a matter of minutes, a Pittsburgh rock ‘n’ roll band went from jamming in a driveway to meeting the leader of the free world.

The four members of Comfort Tech will remember those few moments for the rest of their lives.

“It was completely unexpected,” guitarist and vocalist Eric DiFiore said.

It started with a simple idea Wednesday afternoon to set up and play outside while the motorcade carrying President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden made its way to the Community College of Allegheny County’s West Hills Center, where the two would be speaking.

Edward Everett Hale, 1904 (via Wikimedia Commons)

An online debate broke out earlier this week over two otherwise unremarkable lines in a 1648 poem by the English poet Robert Herrick:

Tumble me down, and I will sit / Upon my ruins, (smiling yet :)

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

What started eight years ago as a gathering of store owners and employees celebrating the culture of independent record stores has evolved to include major music industry events, limited edition album releases and people camped out in front of record stores.

Saturday is National Record Store Day, and it’s one of the biggest days of the year for record stores and collectors alike.

“I like that it was started to bring back the whole record store experience,” said James “Selecta” Scoglietti, part owner of 720 Records in Lawrenceville. “People used to go every weekend to their local record store, and it was a social event. It was like a barbershop, where guys and gals would come in and discuss the latest hot tracks of the week. So I love that it’s bringing that back to the mainstream.”

Spring Break With The New Girl

Apr 17, 2014
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / flickr

A little madness in the spring is wholesome …even for the King, wrote Emily Dickinson. What better way to quell the madness caused by Spring fever than with a getaway? Travel contributor Elaine Labalme joined us this week with suggestions for Spring Break excursions.

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