Arts, Sports & Culture

We seek to cover our region's vibrant art and culture scene, as well as our iconic teams and the fans that follow them.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The “Soul of Kennywood” is how some refer to the band organ that sits in the center of the park’s carousel.

It’s a century old and each year before the park opens for the summer, it gets serviced. For the last two years, Joe Hilferty has been the man tuning and fixing the organ, which consists of a series of wooden pipes encased behind a pane.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

It’s been a good news, bad news year for the arts when it comes to the state budget debate. 

The budgets proposed by both Gov. Tom Wolf and the House Republican Caucus keep funding for the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts at $9.6 million, as well as $2 million for museums.

However, both budget proposals move the funding out of the general budget where it has traditionally resided.

The governor’s plan funds the arts and other line items through the issuance of bonds. But the Republican Caucus rejected that proposal.

David Bachman Photography

When Sean Gibson was first approached by a musician wanting to write an opera about his great-grandfather, he was a little skeptical.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

When Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy CEO Meg Cheever looks out of the “living room” of Frick Parks' environmental center, she marvels at what she sees. 

When I look out the windows, I see a wonderful park," she said. "I see lots of green trees and nature, sometimes a red-tailed hawk sometimes people enjoying the park and walking their dogs and taking their kids by the hand."

Fred Vuich / AP

Last week, Major League Baseball suspended Pirates center fielder Starling Marte for 80 games for using performance enhancing drugs.

That suspension means Marte, who has four more years left on a $31 million contract, won’t be eligible to play in the post-season, even if the Bucs make the playoffs this season because of a rule change agreed upon in the most recent round of collective bargaining.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Pittsburghers have long been fascinated with the mysterious, underground “fourth river.” As much as they gush about the three visible rivers, they’re often eager to tell you about the secret waterway beneath the Golden Triangle.

Kassia Janesch / National Aviary

Ever wonder what it’s like to experience flying the way a bird does?

It’s possible – sort of – with the National Aviary’s new virtual reality exhibit. It lets visitors get a feel for what it would be like to flap their wings through the sky.

While lying on a moveable platform, the user stretches out their arms across a mechanical wingspan, which they can flap during virtual flight. After an Aviary employee secures the headset and headphones, you’re off and soaring over New York City. 

Nam Y. Huh / AP

The NCAA will host more prestigious college tournaments in the Pittsburgh region over the next four years than any other, Visit Pittsburgh officials announced Wednesday.

The Steel City will welcome 22 events, from Division III men’s and women cross country regionals in 2020 to the 2021 Division I men’s hockey championship, dubbed the Frozen Four.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

Flowers from Easter services still adorned the altar at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oakland Tuesday, as nearly 2,000 mourners gathered to remember late Steelers chairman Dan Rooney.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Former President Barack Obama will be among the mourners attending the funeral of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney.

Tuesday's Mass will be celebrated at St. Paul Cathedral in the city's Oakland section.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

The funeral arrangements are set for Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney, and they include a public viewing at Heinz Field.

Team spokesman Burt Lauten says that will be held from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday at the PNC Champions Club at the stadium.

Rooney's funeral Mass will be Tuesday at 11 a.m. at St. Paul Cathedral in the city's Oakland section.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday ordered the Commonwealth flag to be flown at half-staff across Pennsylvania to honor Rooney, who died Thursday at 84.

AP, file

Former U.S. ambassador to Ireland and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney has died at the age of 84.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

Births in Allegheny County are expected to rise for the third consecutive year in 2017, but state Department of Health officials are hesitant to pin it on any one reason – especially a hockey game.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A soccer player, an athlete and a drug dealer sat together in a half-circle in the center of the stage. Each character slumped in their chair, reflective and resigned, as they explained how their prescription drug addiction began.

In the audience were 9-12th grade students at Cornell High School. The district was chosen to participate in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s national 360 Strategy, being piloted for the first time in the Pittsburgh region.

Some called him a hero of high moral values. Others dubbed him a traitor. Either way, the infamous Simon Girty will soon be remembered with an historical marker in Greenfield.

The installation is the culmination of nearly 30 years of research on the part of his great-great-great-great-great nephew, 83-year-old Ken Girty, who as a child believed his ancestor to be a good-for-nothing "baby-killer."

He's since changed his mind.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Artist Ron Donoughe has captured the city’s neighborhoods one brush stroke at a time. The plein air painter has visited each neighborhood, paintbrush in hand, in front of an easel and canvas for his 90 neighborhoods series, now on display at the Heinz History Center.

90.5 WESA’s Deanna Garcia recently spoke with Donoughe at his studio in Lawrenceville.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

Gene J. Puskar / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Pirates became one of 12 Major League Baseball teams to install LED sports lighting, just in time for the team's home opener Friday against the Atlanta Braves.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A piece of Pittsburgh sports history has been gifted to the Heinz History Center. The uniform and bat wielded by Bill Mazeroski in the Pirates' 1960 World Series-clinching victory against the New York Yankees will be part of its permanent collection.

“This is the very bat he held in his hand that day, October 13, 1960, and this is the uniform he wore that day,"  said Andy Masich, president and CEO of the History Center. "It still has Mazeroski’s sweat from 1960 on it."

the Afro American Music Institute

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Howard Alexander instructed a group of young musicians at the Afro American Music Institute in Homewood.

As a Xylophone gently clinked in the background, one of the center’s founders, James Johnson, touted some of the accomplishments of former students.  

“The young lady on piano just got a scholarship to go to Duquesne,” he said. “We’ve sent them to Berkeley, the University of Pittsburgh, and they do well.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

If you have ever wondered how the Carnegie Museum of Art keeps it’s collection looking so good, the answer is Michael Belman.

Belman is the Objects Conservator for the museum. He evaluates proposed new purchases and checks items coming and going from the collection on loan.

But the biggest part of what he does is repair, restore and preserves three-dimensional fine art. Just keeping objects in the gallery dusted is an important first step. He talked to 90.5 WESA's Mark Nootbaar about his process. 

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A new exhibit at Future Tenant aims to put a different face on Pittsburgh’s homeless population.

 

“The homeless are often seen as invisible people on the street, we ignore them, we walk by them, we just do our own thing,” said Daniel See, an art student at CMU.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

It's a sad day for the Social Club gang, this is our final episode. We're so grateful to everyone who's listened over the last few years and hope to share Pittsburgh happenings in a new format one day, too. 

So, for one last time, 90.5 WESA's Sarah Kovash, Josh Raulerson and Rachel Carlson of Yelp Pittsburgh fill you in on what's happening this weekend. 

Jen Saffron / Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council

A delegation of 20 Pittsburgh-area artists and arts advocates spent Monday and Tuesday in Washington, D.C. for the annual Arts Advocacy Day. For the last 30 years, advocates from across the country have met at the nation’s capital to lobby for the arts. But this year, participants said there’s a more at stake.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Todd McCormick leaned against a freshly scrubbed, cinder block wall and jammed the toe of his shoe against speckled gym floor matting.

“Words,” he said, grinning – willing the rubber to yield. “Words cannot even express how excited I am.”

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The story of Abraham is well known in Christianity, Islam and Judaism. According to the texts, God calls upon Abraham from his home in Mesopotamia to journey to the promised land with his family. 

That story inspired Pittsburgh writer Jacob Bacharach's second novel. 

"The Doorposts of Your House and on Your Gates" is a modern retelling of Abraham's tale set in Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania. 

90.5 WESA’s Virginia Alvino Young spoke with Bacharach about his new book. 

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Michael Olijnyk has a hard time throwing things away. He’s co-director of the Mattress Factory, along with with Barbara Luderowski. They live in the museum, on an upper floor.  

“We are obsessive, obsessive collectors,” he said.

Not hoarders, Olijnyk specified.  

Loew's Collection / American Theatre Architecture Archive

One of the nation’s largest collections of theater memorabilia recently moved to Pittsburgh, which, among our bridges, rivers and legendary sports teams, is known for having the first commercial movie theater.

The Theatre Historical Society of America, or THS, opened the curtain to their new facility along Penn Avenue last month, after outgrowing its previous home in Chicago. Founded in 1969, THS is a nonprofit educational organization that collects and archives artifacts from live and film theater productions.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Penn State plans extensive renovations to Beaver Stadium that would reduce its capacity but still keep seating over 100,000.

The university announced Monday those changes include more chairback seating, new concession locations, new restrooms, wider concourses and more premium-seating options.

It's all part of the university's Master Plan, a 20-year project creating new facilities and improving others. Projects include new indoor tennis and swimming facilities, and renovating Jeffrey Field, where the school's men's and women's soccer teams play.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of steel, it was the age of annexation.

On any Pittsburgh city map, there is an unlabeled stretch of land between the neighborhoods of Mt. Oliver and Knoxville. 

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