Thursday, June 9, 2016

SPACE hosts Pittsburgh's third annual Performance Art Festival tomorrow and Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 3:14 PM

After drawing more than 500 visitors last year, the Performance Art Festival (PAF) is back, featuring performances by 22 artists from all over the globe, and now as part of the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.

PAF performer Hannah Thompson, of Pittsburgh - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • Photo courtesy of the artist
  • PAF performer Hannah Thompson, of Pittsburgh
Founded by Bunker Projects, a gallery and artist residency based in Friendship, the festival plans to showcase 16 combined hours of performance. Cutting-edge pieces will include public interventions as well as site-specific performances centering on themes that connect across cultural and political boundaries.

The performers in the third annual festival, curated by Abagail Beddall, hail from as far away as Norway, Italy, South Korea, Spain and Mexico, and from Washington D.C., Chicago, New York City and, of course, Pittsburgh. 

Bunker Projects chose to expand the festival from its home base, which has a gallery area of about 500 square feet along with apartments and studios for resident artists.

PAF performer Lara Salmon, of Los Angeles - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • Photo courtesy of the artist
  • PAF performer Lara Salmon, of Los Angeles
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust offered Downtown's SPACE Gallery as part of the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

PAF 2016 will take place 4-10 p.m. both tomorrow and Saturday. Admission is free. To learn more, visit

SPACE Gallery is at 812 Liberty Ave., Downtown.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Photos from refugee camp a highlight at Pittsburgh’s Arts Festival

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2016 at 10:52 AM

One of the more powerful statements at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival is Inside the Zaatari Refugee Camp 04.01.16-04.21.16: Displacement / Resilience/ Hope. This installation by locally based photographer Maranie Staab turns the old Liberty Avenue visitors’-information kiosk into a moving testament to the humanity of people who have nowhere to go.

A photo from "Inside the Zaatari Refugee Camp" - PHOTO BY MARANIE STAAB
  • Photo by Maranie Staab
  • A photo from "Inside the Zaatari Refugee Camp"
Staab made the 18 photos during her recent three-week stay at the camp, which is located in Jordan and is now what she calls “a semi-permanent home” for about 100,000 people who have fled war and other terrors. Most of the refugees are from Syria.

The camp, which opened four years ago, occupies three square miles of desert. Run by the Jordanian government and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, it was designed to shelter 60,000, but has instead been home to as many as 250,000 at a time (making it, says Staab, the fourth largest “city” in Jordan).

And Zaatari is of course only one of many destinations for such refugees, of whom Syria alone has produced more than 2.5 million.

Exterior view of "Inside the Zaatari Refugee Camp" - PHOTO BY BILL O'DRISCOLL
  • Photo by Bill O'Driscoll
  • Exterior view of "Inside the Zaatari Refugee Camp"
Staab says her goal was to show the refugees as individuals, not as the faceless masses so often depicted in the media, and to communicate their resourcefulness in the face of dire circumstances.

Inside the Zaatari Refugee Camp is located right next to Carrie Mincemoyer's highly visible Dandelions installation on the Liberty Avenue sidewalk. Staab herself is frequently staffing the installation and says she’ll be there especially during high-traffic times, like the weekend. This past Friday, the first day of the festival, she told CP that her photos had already sparked dialogue about the refugee crisis with visitors to the exhibit.

The installation, like the festival as a whole, continues through this Sunday, and attendance is free.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Pittsburgh artist Vince Dorse hopes Kickstarter will bring his award-winning comic to print

Posted By on Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 2:33 PM

A panel from Vince Dorse’s Untold Tales of Bigfoot
  • A panel from Vince Dorse’s Untold Tales of Bigfoot

Pittsburgh artist Vince Dorse is hoping a Kickstarter campaign will turn his award-winning online comic Untold Tales of Bigfoot into a graphic novel by this December — just in time for holiday gifts for your favorite kid or your favorite kid-at-heart.

The all-ages story, which follows the adventures of a lost dog named Scout and a lonesome Bigfoot, won Dorse an esteemed Reuben comics-arts award for Best Online Comic, Long-Form. In just two weeks, Dorse has raised over 80 percent of his Kickstarter goal. “I’ve never had more fun or felt more connected to any other project I’ve ever worked on,” he tells CP. “And getting it into print, getting a chance to bring the story to more people, means maybe I get to keep doing this thing that I’ve really come to love.”

The story is super cute and sweet, and the Kickstarter awards are pretty awesome: At the $55 pledge level, Dorse will provide a digital file of you — or someone you love — drawn cartoon style, hanging out with Scout and Bigfoot. Print it out and stick it in a signed book and you have the perfect gift. As of today, more than 30 people have chosen pledges at that amount or higher. I asked Dorse if he was nervous to draw that many caricatures.

“I’m actually excited about drawing the people who back the book. In my head, I’m wandering around in the woods with Bigfoot and Scout all the time, so I’m hoping anyone who’s a fan of the story would enjoy a little piece of that experience. Bigfoot wouldn’t mind a few more friends.”

We first brought you the news about Untold Tales of Bigfoot’s upcoming Kickstarter in our interview with Dorse earlier this year. Revisit it here for more background on Dorse’s work and his collaborations with City Paper.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

The Three Rivers Arts Festival opening weekend brings art and music to Downtown Pittsburgh

Posted By on Mon, Jun 6, 2016 at 2:42 PM

The Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival opened this weekend, bringing 10 days of free performing and visual arts to Downtown Pittsburgh. We captured the scene on Sunday night, with local reggae group The Freedom Band, who we profiled earlier this year, taking the main stage at Point State Park at 6 p.m.

Headliners Ibeyi, an experimental and soulful French-Cuban duo, closed out the night with an electrifying stage presence, with music sung in both English and the Nigerian language, Yoruba.

Three Rivers Arts Festival
Three Rivers Arts Festival Three Rivers Arts Festival Three Rivers Arts Festival Three Rivers Arts Festival Three Rivers Arts Festival Three Rivers Arts Festival Three Rivers Arts Festival Three Rivers Arts Festival

Three Rivers Arts Festival

Click to View 50 slides

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Ai Weiwei speaks in Pittsburgh on eve of Warhol exhibit

Posted By on Fri, Jun 3, 2016 at 6:35 PM

Ai Weiwei spoke to a sold-out audience at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland the night before Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibit opened at the Andy Warhol Museum - PHOTO BY WILLIAM LUDT
  • Photo by William Ludt
  • Ai Weiwei spoke to a sold-out audience at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland the night before Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibit opened at the Andy Warhol Museum
The historic, nearly 2,000-seat Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland was sold out for the appearance of Chinese dissident artist and international icon Ai Weiwei.

The talk, hosted by Andy Warhol Museum executive director Eric Shiner, served as kick-off for today's opening of Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei, an exhibit juxtaposing the two artists' lives and works. The exhibit comes to Pittsburgh from the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.

Ai has spoken out against authoritarianism in China. His arrest in 2011 in China, for what the Communist government said were financial crimes, was criticized as politically motivated. Ai's passport was confiscated for four years.  In 2014, working from China, he directed an exhibit at Alcatraz, where portraits of "prisoners of conscience," including Edward Snowden, created from Legos, were on display, and music of the Russian band Pussy Riot played.

With such a iconic presence in the room, one might expect high-brow intellectualism and somber discussion. But Ai brought a down-to-earth, warm presence and sense of humor. He kept the audience laughing, delivering one-liners to Shiner's lighthearted questions. In response to Shiner's inquiry about the many cats at his Beijing studio (which Shiner compared to Warhol's affection for cats), Ai said, "We all have our weak points." Asked what Warhol would have thought of his work, Ai speculated, "He'd say, 'geez, that's great." 

The crowd enjoyed a particularly amusing moment when Shiner brought up Ai's Lego episode leading up to the Melbourne show — in which the company would not fill his order because his artwork with them would be political. "I was very surprised and frustrated because [my] show was coming up. ... I put on my Instagram account that I'm being refused [by Lego], and almost all newspapers started writing 'Why this guy can't get his Legos?' Suddenly, I had been victimized," he said, pointing out the irony in juxtaposing his work on human rights with how the world viewed his not being able to get Legos as a significant issue. The incident led Lego to change its policy on bulk orders and to stop asking customers what they are using them for. 

Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei at the Andy Warhol Museum
Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei at the Andy Warhol Museum Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei at the Andy Warhol Museum Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei at the Andy Warhol Museum Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei at the Andy Warhol Museum Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei at the Andy Warhol Museum

Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei at the Andy Warhol Museum

Click to View 6 slides

But Shiner and Ai's talk wasn't all humor. Ai minced no words when he began to speak about the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe.

"This is a tragedy of our humankind today, and anybody pretending not to know it is a crime," Ai said. "As someone called an artist activist, I have some kind of obligation to this."

Ai set up a studio on the Greek Island of Lesbos, where many Afghani, Iraqi, Syrian and other refugees are disembarking from overloaded dinghies.

Ai's Instragram account is full of photos from his visits to refugee camps.

Another poignant, socially conscious moment happened at the beginning of the program when surprise-guest Jasiri X performed his new work "Our Generation," calling attention to institutionalized racism and sexism as well as labor issues. "Our generation ... we will dismantle institutions based on patriarchy ... and build new ones," he recited to the crowd.

A photo of Jasiri X and Ai can be seen on the artist's Instagram feed.

At the end of the program, Shiner thanked Ai for taking time from his work on the refugee crisis to visit Pittsburgh, and the artist walked off stage to a standing ovation.

The Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibit is at the Warhol until Aug. 28. Additionally, Ai's Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads is on exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art's Hall of Architecture until Aug. 29.

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Verizon, CWA agree to contract; little guy's news story is pulled

Posted By on Fri, Jun 3, 2016 at 2:08 PM

  • Photo by William Ludt

Everybody remembers their first one — the first story they report on when they’re hired at a newspaper. At my university’s paper, my first story was on the new Chick-Fil-A opening on campus. Here at the City Paper, it was a story on the Communication Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ strike against their employer, Verizon. So, let’s just call that an upgrade in terms of subject matter.

As reporters, we’re expected to sprint after a story — pen and notebook in hand. We attempt to hurdle over other news organizations; grill corporate spokespersons for a quote; and take complicated ideas and put them in layman's terms. All the while, we slowly turn to dust waiting for the records we requested back when Jesus was in grade school.

Then we struggle to get our damn audio recorder on for an interview, and we end up spilling that day's 12th cup of coffee all over ourselves. (Full disclosure: I don’t drink coffee, but hopefully you’re picking up what I’m putting down.) It can be thankless work. And sometimes the story evolves. In the case of this CWA strike story, that’s what happened.

This past weekend, after spending most of Friday afternoon walking the streets of Cleveland (yes, Cleveland. What of it?), I made my way to my favorite dive bar for what was going to be a weekend of loud, angry music. It was a great week so far. I was riding high on the anticipation of my first story, as a news intern, being published in the City Paper — my first reporting position outside of a university newspaper.

I was sitting at a booth on the back patio of said bar, catching up with a friend and talking about punk music. That’s when I received a Google Alert about the strike. It stated that the unions and Verizon came to a tentative contract agreement. I slunk down a bit in my seat and thought about what that agreement could possibly mean for what I’d written earlier that week.

I thought about the workers on the sidewalk 24 hours a day outside the Verizon technical center next door to our office. I thought about the interviews and b-roll a coworker and I shot of said workers, as they shook pom-poms and blasted an air horn at passing traffic. I thought about the Verizon representative I spoke with who couldn’t tell me anything about contract negotiations — as well as the union rep who couldn’t say anything either. And, I thought about the union workers I met one Saturday afternoon, who rallied with friends and family members outside a call center in the pouring rain, cheering with a chorus of car horns — still jovial after a full month of picketing.

  • Photo by William Ludt

The following day, I checked my inbox again. I received yet another update: The unions were going back to work. After 45 days of picketing, the largest strike in recent U.S. history ended, thus nixing my story.

Prior to the contract agreement, there was silence on both sides of the strike, so I hadn’t a clue when this was all going to end. The previous CWA strike in 2011 lasted 15 days, but contract negotiations carried on for months after. In this case, it seems that negotiations moved much faster.

Despite the whole triumph of the little guy over a corporation, I was disappointed finding out my story was pulled.

  • Photo by William Ludt

I was back in Pittsburgh after that weekend. I sat in my room — joints swollen, ears ringing — trying to cope with the heat. I moped around my apartment and attempted to achieve catharsis through eating a lot of pretzels and playing violent video games. But to no avail.

I’ll avoid cliche as much as my vocabulary permits, but that’s the way the news-cookie crumbles. One day, folks are standing outside of their employer’s corporate offices, with torso-length signs tethered around their necks, marching up and down the sidewalk, demanding that their wages and benefits return to what they once were. Then the next day, they find out that they’re returning to work.

Regardless of whether my story was printed or not, I put in the legwork. And I’m certain that something I report is bound to be published in the paper ... eventually.

My superiors at the City Paper suggested that I react to having my first full-fledged story pulled from publication by writing this blog post. And it also gives me the opportunity to show off some of the photos I shot between interviews. So, why not?

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What you need to know about Pittsburgh news this week

Posted By on Fri, Jun 3, 2016 at 6:00 AM

What's going on in Pittsburgh:

  • Photo courtesy of Daniela Vesco/Parkwood Entertainment
1. Beyoncé "slayed" at Heinz Field Tuesday night, and the local Beyhive loved it. CP contributor Meg Fair reviewed the show, writing "Beyoncé proves in a matter of hours that you can work hard, be a loving mother, a sexual creature and a fulfilled human being as long as you love yourself first and foremost."


  • Photo by Luke Thor Travis
2. The “Big Screen” was back outside Consol Energy Center, showing the game for free to fans gathered outside. Handmade signs, Penguins face paint and big smiles were seen throughout the crowd, as the Penguins won 2-1 in overtime, putting them ahead 2-0 in the best-of-seven NHL championship series. See our photo slideshow from the night. The Pens play Game 3 this Saturday night in San Jose.


  • Photo courtesy of Caroline Voagen Nelson
3. The Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival kicks off this Fri., June 3 and lasts until June 12. We preview the 57th annual fest in our issue this week, and patron can expect visual art, theater, live music, food booths and trucks, and the artists' market. New features include sensory-friendly “breakout areas” for people on the autism spectrum and the fest’s first-ever feeding room for parents and kids, with a changing station, quiet space for breast-feeding and more.


  • Photo courtesy of Phipps Conservatory
4. Phipps Conservatory is gearing up for the bloom of the smelly corpse flower, which yes, smells like rotting flesh in order to attract the insects that pollinate it. The bloom is rare, happening only once every few years, and so starting this weekend Phipps will be open until 8 p.m. nightly (and 10 p.m. on Fridays) in anticipation of the flower's opening. Phipps even named its Sumatra-native Romero, as in the local filmmaker George Romero who made Night of the Living Dead.


On our podcast:

  • Photo courtesy of Jenna Szabo
This week on the City Paper Podcast, host Alex Gordon talks to comedian Kyle Dunnigan about his multiple Emmy awards for his writing and original music on Comedy Central's Inside Amy Schumer; his former job as a balloon-delivery man; and his unrelenting commitment to satire. Dunnigan will be in Pittsburgh this Fri., June 3 at the Altar Bar.



  • Photo courtesy of Frank Harris
Local artist Frank Harris illustrated a parody of Grant Wood's famous "American Gothic" painting for our cover this week, only his version featured Iceberg and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. The parody is a nod to the Pens Stanley Cup-run converging with the start of the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. We caught up with Harris for a Q&A about his work and prediction for the Stanley Cup Final.


From the pages of our print edition:

A.J. Koury of Homewood Children's Village - PHOTO BY RENEE ROSENSTEEL
  • Photo by Renee Rosensteel
  • A.J. Koury of Homewood Children's Village
This week, City Paper's Ashley Murray writes about the status of childhood lead testing in Pennsylvania. Testing kids' blood for lead levels is not mandatory in the state, and so Homewood Children's Village, a nonprofit that operates in a neighborhood with older housing stock where lead paint is a risk, is coordinating lead testing for kids in the community. Meanwhile local health officials and lawmakers are pushing to make testing mandatory.


This week in City Paper history:
  • Cover illustration by Pat Lewis and photo by Heather Mull

City Paper’s Issue 22 should probably be known as the marriage-equality issue. On May 30, 2012, staff writer Lauren Daley began a multi-part series describing the difficulties that same-sex couples face when they try to get married, using her experience as the backdrop. Daley and her girlfriend were planning their wedding in New York (where same-sex nuptials were legal at the time; they were banned in Pennsylvania). But once they came back home, it was like their marriage wouldn’t exist. Daley writes: “Pennsylvania lawmakers don’t want my girlfriend and me to ever get married. But once we’re married out of state, those same officials seem equally intent that we never, ever part. At least not without a lengthy court battle. Thanks to Pennsylvania’s ‘Defense of Marriage Act,’ which defines marriage solely as being between a man and a woman, same-sex couples have a murky legal status — even if their union has been ratified in another state.” Unfortunately, Daley and her wife had moved to New York before May 21, 2014, the day same-sex marriage was declared legal in Pennsylvania. And on May 28, 2014, CP ran just a photo on its cover of a woman, smiling and triumphantly thrusting her fist into the air. No words accompanied the image; words weren’t necessary on this day. Read more about this week in City Paper history.

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

New zine aims to share the voices of the LGBT community living beyond Pittsburgh's borders

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2016 at 4:14 PM

While openness toward the LGBT community has improved in Allegheny County over the years, urban Pennsylvanians sometimes forget there are many other places throughout the state that don’t share Pittsburgh’s pride. (Only Erie and Allegheny counties provide legal protections for LGBT job- and home-seekers in Western Pennsylvania, after all.)

Copies of the AMPLIFY zine - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Copies of the AMPLIFY zine
To that end, advocate and blogger Sue Kerr has chosen to amplify unheard voices in hopes that those LGBT people living in less-friendly communities don’t feel marginalized. Started in 2015 as part of her artist-in-residency with Garfield’s Most Wanted Fine Art, AMPLIFY blog documents the experiences of LGBT people with ties to 18 Western Pennsylvania counties and has already told the stories of about 150 individuals.

Now Kerr is hoping to spread awareness of her project with a print zine that has been distributed regionally . “The zine was part of the plan all along,” says Kerr. “We wanted to provide something tangible. Then when people have safe access to the internet, they can explore [the blog] further.”

The first issue of AMPLIFY includes 11 stories, taken from her blog, that cover a wide range of different LGBT experiences. Kerr plans to print four issues a year and hopes to focus on certain groups, like pansexuals or bisexuals, in upcoming editions. She also hopes to eventually distribute the zine to all 26 Western Pennsylvania counties.

So far, the project has proved popular. According to Kerr, the first 500 copies of the zine were distributed in 12 days, and the Pittsburgh Youth Pride Prom has requested an additional 350 copies. A grant from the Pittsburgh Foundation helped Kerr expand her AMPLIFY project, but she says that additionally funding must be sought to print more copies of the zine. (Those interesting in donating can visit the crowdfunding page here.)

Kerr says that some LGBT residents in rural counties are a bit more hesitant of online technology, and so she hopes the zine will provide another avenue for those in the community to tell their stories.

“There is a thirst for print,” says Kerr. “Many people would rather fill out [their story forms] on paper.” 

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Pittsburgh cheers on the Penguins outside Consol Energy Center during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2016 at 3:29 PM

Hockey fans in Pittsburgh donned black-and-gold attire and swarmed Downtown Wednesday night, as the Pittsburgh Penguins took on the San Jose Sharks in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The “Big Screen” was back outside Consol Energy Center, showing the game for free to fans gathered outside. Handmade signs, Penguins face paint and big smiles were seen throughout the crowd, as the Penguins won 2-1 in overtime, putting them ahead 2-0 in the best-of-seven NHL championship series. The Pens play Game 3 this Saturday night in San Jose.

Check out our photos below from last night’s festivities outside Consol Energy Center.

All photos by Luke Thor Travis.

Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2
Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2 Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2 Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2 Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2 Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2 Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2 Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2 Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2

Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2

Photos by Luke Thor Travis

Click to View 60 slides

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Marketing for new Pittsburgh-area haunted attraction has an unmentionable give away

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2016 at 1:14 PM

I'm always a little wary when I get a hand-addressed manila envelope in the mail and the package has a strange bulge to it. Not wary enough to leave it closed, but wary nonetheless.

From inside the envelope, I pull out a press release for a new haunted attraction coming to the Pittsburgh region this fall called Haunted Expedition.

"We find people are bored with the same old haunted attractions,"says Sean Berger, CEO of the company called Haunted Expedition Inc. "Customers are becoming less satisfied with walking through hallways and having actors jump out and scare them. They want to be immersed into a life-like experience."

How Immersive? so immersive that you'll ... well, the picture says it all:

Can I get in your pants, I just shit mine? - HAUNTED EXPEDITIONS INC.
  • Haunted Expeditions Inc.
  • Can I get in your pants, I just shit mine?

Look, I'm no Don Draper and I didn't call anyone on Madison Avenue, but I'm pretty sure this is a freakin' brilliant piece of marketing. According to the press release, the venue, which is described as a "hands-on" show, has been opened the past two Halloween but without a formal launch. Berger says, "We wanted to make sure we had everything down pat before we went full swing into advertising."

Full swing? I think fully loaded would have been better. But, again, I'm no Don Draper.

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