Arts

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

The beleaguered August Wilson Center announced new funding, programming and board members in the latest effort to bring the African-American arts institution into financial viability and to fulfill its mission as a cultural institution.

Artists, bakers, professors, and ecologists are coming together to teach Pittsburghers how to write and perform spoken word poetry, how to bake a perfect loaf of bread, and how to incorporate plants in urban settings at the Steel City Folk School’s very first “pop-up event” this Saturday, June 20.

The folk school’s one-day event offers 11 half- and full-day courses to anyone interested in the Pittsburgh area.

But what exactly is a “folk school?"

courtesy BLK SHP

A traveling team of thinkers, artists and executives arrives in Pittsburgh this week in search of ideas for remaking the U.S. economy.

Members of the Austin-based BLK SHP group — pronounced “black sheep” — are traveling the nation by bus, meeting with entrepreneurs and community leaders, also known as "shepherds," in 20 towns and cities.

In planning the “Rediscovering America’s True North” tour, project director Alexa Clay sought out Rust Belt communities and other formerly industrial areas that are bouncing back from the recession through creativity and grass-roots innovation.

Words Without Walls / Chatham University

Words Without Walls is a program at Chatham University teaching creative writing to residents of Pittsburgh-area correctional facilities and drug treatment centers.The instructors are students in Chatham’s MFA program in Creative Writing. Joining us in Studio A to discuss the program and a special book launch taking place this Friday are  MFA Program Director and Author, Sheryl St. Germain and Jonny Blevins, a student and instructor in the program.

Explaining her ambitions for the program, St. Germain says:

"It was not just the idea that we thought we could help people tell their own stories, and that would heal. Obviously that was really important, but it was also important for me as a director to get students from our program working with alternative populations. ... It's a way to get students to interact with members of the community." -- Sheryl St. Germain

Also in the program, Carnegie Mellon professor David Shumway talks about the upcoming Pittsburgh Humanities Festival, and business contributor Rebecca Harris explains the business impact of having a baby.


Kelly Strayhorn Theater

A delegation from The Pittsburgh Arts Council is in Washington, D.C. Monday and Tuesday to participate in National Arts Advocacy Day.

Monday will feature briefings and discussions, and on Tuesday arts advocates will meet with individual lawmakers. There are some long-standing issues facing the arts, such as funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, tax policy and arts education.

This year, there are a couple of new areas of focus including integrating the arts in veterans programs.

Making Pittsburgh More Accessible in the Arts

Jan 16, 2015
DJK1 / Flickr

  For the second year in a row the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts called the Art Works grant. The support provided by the NEA is helping to fund an increasing accessibility initiative for Pittsburgh arts.

This initiative is designed to serve specific portions of the city‘s population. Anne Mulgrave, manager of grants and accessibility for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council describes the initiative, its goals and who it benefits.

A New Deal for the August Wilson Center

Sep 30, 2014
Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

With an August Wilson Center deal all but done, we'll look at the surprise agreement to sell the embattled downtown cultural center to a coalition of foundations for $8.85 million. A New York-based developer with plans of turning the building into a hotel has offered $9.5 million for the structure, but community outcry asking for the center to remain a locally held cultural institute apparently tipped the scales toward the foundations' bid. Tribune-Review reporter Natasha Lindstrom joins us for an update.

The Associated Press

Roberto Clemente died on Dec. 31, 1972, but you’d never know it from the hundreds of people who show up to Pirates games wearing jerseys with his name and number — 21 — printed on them. 

Now two musicals will trace the life of "The Great One" from his childhood in Puerto Rico to his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates from the mid-50’s to his untimely death at age 38.

Composer Alki Steriopoulous to spend nearly a decade writing a musical about Clemente.

It's called "21."

Life of Learning: American Education and the Arts

Sep 11, 2014
Josh Staiger / Flickr

Local and national arts education leaders gathered in Pittsburgh this week for a two-day Arts Education National Forum. There, teachers and advocates discussed how to prepare students for a new America through the arts.

As part of WESA’s Life of Learning initiative, Essential Pittsburgh explored the state of arts centered learning programs in area schools, community involvement and the future of arts education.

While the discussion of access to arts education has often meant a lack of resources, Sandra Ruppert, director of the Arts Education Partnership said the problem often is money and a lack of faith in arts.

“In some places around the country I believe the arts are not being taken seriously. The arts are sometimes considered more of an enrichment than a core academic subject and a necessity. Sometimes the arts are viewed for kids that are at risk or for the gifted and talented and not for every child,” she said. 

National, state and local education leaders are gathering in Pittsburgh to explore how to better integrate the arts into education. The Arts Education Partnership National Forum’s theme this year is preparing students for the next American in and through the Arts. Many conversations about education in recent years have centered on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), but many are trying to add arts – STEAM.

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.

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. 

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.

Joey Kennedy / Handmade Arcade

Shoppers will spend the next few weeks looking for the perfect holiday gifts for the special people in their lives.

For the 10th year in a row, the Handmade Arcade is offering Pittsburghers the opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind, handmade gifts at their annual event on Saturday.

Jennifer Baron is one of the co-organizers of the craft fair, and said the Handmade Arcade can provide shoppers a respite from the fatigue of Black Friday.

An Uncertain Future for the August Wilson Center

Oct 4, 2013
AWC / Facebook

When it comes to the August Wilson Center's current financial situation, cost and constructions fees caused “substantial debt” from the beginning, says Mark Clayton Southers, a playwright and former producer at the center.

Charlie Humphrey, CEO and Executive Director of Pittsburgh Filmmakers, says a problem the August Wilson Center faces now is that “nobody wants to fund debt” people want “to fund programs.”

Southers agrees that it's hard to fund a sinking ship and adds that some creative solutions are needed to gather enough funds to clear $7 million in debt.

Elaine Labalme's Midwest Adventure Continues

Aug 22, 2013
Steven Martin / Flickr

As great as the ballparks of the midwest may be, Essential Pittsburgh travel contributor Elaine Labalme found that there was much more to the cities that housed them than just baseball.

From the amazing Nelson-Atkins Art Museum in Kansas City to Milwaukee’s historic third ward, to the “photographer’s dream” that is the Gateway arch in St. Louis, Labalme quickly learned that the cultural happenings of the midwest were manifold.

As an added bonus, much of this art and culture is paired up with some of the tastiest eateries these cities have to offer. As Labalme puts it, “I would say food meets art is all over the midwest.”

Poems, visual art, stories and music are much more than forms of entertainment to two Pittsburghers, they are ways to promote social reform.

Co-founders Leslie Anne Mcilroy and Daniel Morrow will launch Human Equity through Art (HEArt) Online on Aug. 15.

The online journal will publish various forms of art submitted to them that challenge the status quo and fight discrimination.

The Black Orchid String Trio is comprised of Amber Rogers, Rachel Smith, and Jennifer Sternick.

“We’re new musicians,” said Smith, the group’s cellist. “We do play classical music now and again, but part of a contemporary performance, especially, is to present it in a way that classical music isn’t standardly presented.”

With names like Los Lonely Boys and Tab Benoit the 19th annual Pittsburgh Blues Festival is bound to be good, but the true measurement of the event's success is what it does for the community. The three-day music festival serves as the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s largest fundraiser of the year.

“My mantra is no child hungry,” said festival chairman Ron Esser. “One in seven children in this area goes to bed hungry every night; we can’t have that.”

“Cities of asylum” form a global network of support for oppressed and endangered writers.


In Europe they are supported by governments. In the United States they are usually sponsored by universities. City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, however, operates on a different model.

The Andy Warhol Museum / pictify.com

The Andy Warhol museum's newest exhibits feature local and national artists with unique styles, perfect for the Warhol. Arts and Culture contributor Brian Siewiorek talks about what you can look forward to with this summer's artists.

One of Pittsburgh’s most popular film festivals opened this weekend and continues through Sunday with the goal of not only entertaining viewers, but also opening the door to a better understanding of Asian cultures.  

The Silk Screen Film Festival defines Asia as stretching from Israel to Japan. Executive Director Harish Saluja said the goal of the organization and all of its events throughout the year is to build cultural bridges between Pittsburgh and that region of the world.