Arts | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Some Pittsburghers upset that controversial comedian Owen Benjamin performed at Carnegie Public Library facility in Oakland

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 4:29 PM

The lecture hall at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main Branch - PHOTO COURTESY OF PIOTRUS, CREATIVE COMMONS
  • Photo courtesy of Piotrus, Creative Commons
  • The lecture hall at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main Branch
In April, controversy ensued following an online scuffle between local comedian Day Bracey and far-right comedian Owen Benjamin. The New Hazlett Theater canceled Benjamin’s show after discovering his history of racist and homophobic comments on social media. Bracey, who is African American, reacted by saying other venues shouldn't work with Benjamin.

But, on April 28, Benjamin secured a venue and performed a comedy show. He rented out the lecture hall at the Main Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, in Oakland. According to Carnegie Library spokesperson Suzanne Thinnes, Benjamin rented out the space as a private event, and the library didn’t promote or market the show, nor does the library promote or market any private event. Tickets were sold through Benjamin’s website, and the location of the event was only shared after tickets were purchased.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Pittsburgh officials remove controversial Stephen Foster statue

Posted By on Thu, Apr 26, 2018 at 11:54 AM

Pittsburgh workers removing the Stephen Foster statue - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Pittsburgh workers removing the Stephen Foster statue
Early in the morning on April 26, the controversial Stephen Foster statue was removed from its post in Oakland. In October 2017, the Pittsburgh Arts Commission voted to remove the statue, which many Pittsburghers had deemed racist for its minstrel-like depiction of a black man sitting at Foster’s feet. Foster, a native Pittsburgher, is the famous composer of songs like “Oh! Susanna” and “Camptown Races.”

The statue came off of its post fairly easily. A crew of several Department of Public Works employees wrapped thick rope around the statue and it was pulled off the base with a backhoe. The ropes were removed after the statue was loaded onto a flatbed truck; the truck drove slowly away and nothing was damaged.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Updated: "There Are Black People In The Future" text removed from East Liberty public-art project at behest of landlord

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2018 at 1:11 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Alisha Wormsley
The removal of a message from a public-art project last week is stirring controversy in Pittsburgh.

The Last Billboard, created by Carnegie Mellon professor Jon Rubin, has been posting messages by local artists to a billboard on top of a building in East Liberty since 2013, but last week marks the first time the building's landlord intervened. "There Are Black People In The Future" was posted to the billboard on March 3 and removed several weeks later.

"Last week, The Last Billboard’s landlord, We Do Property, forced Alisha’s text to be taken down over objections to the content (through a never-before evoked clause in the lease that gives the landlord the right to approve text)," Rubin wrote in a statement on the project's website on April 3.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, February 15, 2018

UPDATE: ToonSeum closing its Downtown Pittsburgh location

Posted By on Thu, Feb 15, 2018 at 11:47 AM

The ToomSeum's Downtown location on Liberty Avenue - CP FILE PHOTO
  • CP file photo
  • The ToomSeum's Downtown location on Liberty Avenue
(Editor's note: This article has been updated)

Since 2009, the cartoon-art museum, the ToonSeum, has occupied an intimate location on Liberty Avenue in Downtown, Pittsburgh. It has also occupied a special place in the hearts of fans of comic books, cartoons and superheroes.

But on Feb. 14, the museum announced it would be closing its permanent location and switching to a roaming-museum model.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Departing arts editor Bill O'Driscoll shares his favorite articles for City Paper

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 12:14 PM

After nearly 21 years here, tomorrow's my last day at City Paper.

I'm heading to 90.5 WESA, where I'll be arts and culture reporter.

I'd like to thank all my colleagues over the years, our readers, and all the people and institutions I've written about, for making it such a memorable ride. It all started back in 1997, when nobody at CP had email yet and the whole office shared one dial-up internet connection.

If you'll indulge me, to cap things off, here are some of my own favorite articles from over the years, culled from some of the nearly 1,100 issues I've been part of here.

Many are long-form pieces, from the days when we had the time and newsprint to run such articles weekly; they were a challenge to report and write, but looking back, they're some of the most worthwhile things I did.

All but one of these 18 articles are from 2003 or later, because that's as far back as CP's online archive goes. (Too bad; I have some faves from the early years, too.)

In chronological order:

This 2002 piece on motorcycle road-racer Keith Reed is not in our archive, but was cut-and-pasted by an enterprising message-boarder. (I think a few drop-caps are missing, but like some text magically salvaged from the library of Alexandria, it's mostly there.)

An April 2004 profile of falconer and bird-of-prey expert Earl Schriver, whose life's mission is to disabuse the public of what he called "the Bambi complex."

Big ideas are fun. Here's "Muse You Can Use," a May 2005 piece on what art's good for or whether it needs to be good for anything at all.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, December 11, 2017

Pittsburgh Public Theater's new artistic director, Marya Sea Kaminski

Posted By on Mon, Dec 11, 2017 at 4:19 PM

Maybe it’s too early to ask Marya Sea Kaminski what kind of artistic director she’ll be at Pittsburgh Public Theater. After all, Kaminski, currently associate artistic director at Seattle Repertory Theatre, was just hired here last week, and she won’t move to Pittsburgh until next summer.

Marya Sea Kaminski
  • Marya Sea Kaminski
But Kaminski is young (40) and new to town, and her resume has a little edge to it — including Seattle Rep’s spectacular recent community-centered staging of The Odyssey (more on which later). The Public is Pittsburgh's largest independent theater company, with a $7 million budget and a contemporary, 650-seat theater in the heart of Downtown's burgeoning Cultural District. And in announcing her hiring, the Public's board chair, Michael H. Ginsberg, called Kaminski "one of the most dynamic artistic leaders in the country." All of that makes her intriguing enough that we asked about her plans here anyway.

Short answer: Kaminski (first name pronounced “mar-RYE-ah”) thinks the Public has a great legacy, and that outgoing artistic director/managing director Ted Pappas (who led the Public for an impressive 18 years) has done a great job, both artistically and fiscally. But Kaminski also says she is committed to developing and showcasing new and underrepresented theatrical voices.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

First Night 2018 attractions announced

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 1:52 PM

  • Courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Some cities drop pickles, roses and bologna at midnight. But on Highmark First Night, the ball rises as the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve.

Now in its 24th year, Highmark First Night, sponsored by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, returns on Dec. 31 with more than 100 events throughout Downtown's 14-block Cultural District. (While some First Night performances and attractions take place outdoors, most are indoors.)

This year’s theme, as announced this morning at a press conference Downtown, is “Love, Peace, Pittsburgh.”

The festivities begin at 6 p.m. with children’s fireworks sponsored by Dollar Bank on the Highmark Stage. Afterward, steelpan band Barrels to Beethoven kicks off the night's musical performances with its energetic tropical sound.

Other attractions include the Allegheny Health Network Parade, with Grand Marshal Randy Gilson, artist and creator of the North Side's Randyland, at 8 p.m.; performances by Arcade Comedy Theater’s Penny Arcade, at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Player One, at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. at its new location at 811 Liberty Ave.; and Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers at the Benedum Center, at 7 p.m.

Outdoor warming and cell-phone charging stations return this year, and are located at the August Wilson Center and Katz Plaza.

  • Courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Lee Fields & The Expressions headline the night, performing soul and funk anthems from 10:45 p.m. to 12:10 a.m. at the Highmark stage, at Liberty and Stanwix. During the performance, Lee and company will ring in the New Year with the raising of the Future of Pittsburgh Ball and Zambelli fireworks.

Admission buttons for First Night are $10, and are free for children 5 and under. They are available online at, in person at the box office at Theater Square on 655 Penn Ave.; or by phone at 412-456-6666. They are also available at a $1 discount with an Advantage Card at participating Giant Eagle stores.

For $40, attendees can purchase First Night Friend VIP buttons that grant access to priority seating, parking and a private lounge in the O’Reilly Theater, where they can relax with hot beverages and sweet treats.

For more information and a complete list of events, visit

Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Pittsburgh-area artist starting crowdfunding campaign for “Captain Freedom: Combat Hate” comic

Posted By on Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 5:13 PM

  • Image courtesy of D.J. Coffman
Remember the good old days when Americans unequivocally hated Nazis? Well, a new independent comic is hoping to rekindle those feelings. “Captain Freedom: Combat Hate” is the tale of Captain Freedom, a superhero who fights Nazi villains and Axis powers, and a recent effort is trying to bring his stories of taking down racist villains.

Captain Freedom will be written by California-based Dan Taylor and drawn by Westmoreland County resident and occasional Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist, D.J. Coffman. Captain Freedom isn’t an original character. His first appearance was in Speed Comics No. 13 in 1941 and is credited as being created by “Franklin Flagg.” The character is in public domain, and Coffman says now is the perfect opportunity to revive Captain Freedom, given the public emergence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., and other places.

“The comic-book fans, they need a hero to step up and fight this stuff,” says Coffman.

So, Taylor, Coffman and several other comic-book-industry veterans are throwing their support behind the creation of a pilot issue of the new Captain Freedom. To get the project off the ground, they need some cash, so they started a Kickstarter campaign to raise at least $2,500. The comic will be part of the independent comic-book label Keep Left, which was created by Coffman and Taylor. Coffman says the more money they raise, the more pages the comic book will have.

Taylor says as some groups attempt to make racism and other hate-filled ideologies more normal, there needs to be an even stronger push to condemn it.

“In today’s tumultuous climate fueled by racism and supremacists, our country, our world, needs heroes to step up and denounce hate when our political leaders will not,” says Taylor in a press release. “While I do not condone violence, I feel that a war against hatred needs to be fought by those who stand against bigotry and racism. And the weapon we’ve chosen is resurrecting a comic-book superhero that fought the good fight in the Golden Age — a defender of democracy and foe of tyranny.”

Coffman says the comic will be all-ages friendly, and that heroes and villains will be easy to distinguish (guy with American flag-like costume is good, and the people with swastikas are bad). Coffman says he was motivated to join this project because he was frustrated with seeing people he knows feel like they have to be silent on issues regarding race and hate.

“I want to punch back at it the best way I know how ... and that's drawing some friggin' comics” says Coffman in a press release. “My heroes are guys like Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who taught me through their works that the pen and pencils are always mightier than swords."

Coffman also says that Captain Freedom’s sidekicks, the Young Defenders, will be updated to represent a more diverse America and will include minority characters. He says that Captain Freedom is about spreading the American values of liberty to anyone who wants follow them. “Captain Freedom’s one main star can represent many things, not just the U.S.,” says Coffman. “The star can also be seen as the one star guiding African-American slaves to freedom.”

Kickstarter donations come with prizes like signed copies and other memorabilia. The last day to donate is Fri., Oct. 6.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Downtown Pittsburgh’s Strawberry Way named favorite 'Street Transformation'

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 11:14 AM

Strawberry Way before (left) and after (right) - PHOTO COURTESY OF ENVISION DOWNTOWN
  • Photo courtesy of Envision Downtown
  • Strawberry Way before (left) and after (right)
The alley known as Strawberry Way that slices through the northern section of Downtown, from Liberty to Grant streets, has always been a shortcut for some Pittsburgh pedestrians, but not always a desirable one. Trash was usually strewn across its asphalt and the blank, high walls of skyscrapers hurried walkers through as fast as their feet could carry them.

Then this summer, thanks to the work of public-private partnership Envision Downtown and others, the alley was transformed. Colorful designs were painted on the blacktop by local artist Deanna Mance, roadblocks were put up to stop cars from driving through, and picnic tables and planter boxes were placed on the street to encourage people to enjoy their new Downtown oasis.

Last week, the national transit and urban planning news site Streetsblog USA awarded Strawberry Way its Best Street Transformation, People’s Choice. The Pittsburgh alley beat out five other projects in cities including San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta.

“Strawberry Way is the latest example of partnerships at work to promote a people-first Downtown Pittsburgh,” wrote Sean Luther of Envision Downtown in an email to City Paper. “In this case, Envision Downtown relied heavily on a coalition of the PDP, the City’s Department of Public Works, the Office of Public Art, the Colcom Foundation and PPG Paints to drive this transformative project forward.”

The Strawberry Way transformation won the honor by receiving the most votes on the Streetsblog USA website.

In addition to being more aesthetically pleasing than before, Luther says the the project has resulted in a 43 percent increase in pedestrian traffic through the alley, according to a study completed by Envision Downtown. Also, there has been an outstanding 462 percent increase in people spending time in Strawberry Way.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is proud of Strawberry Way’s transformation too. “Strawberry Way is a great example of our community-driven vision for making Pittsburgh a sustainable and efficient 21st Century city for all,” wrote Peduto in an email to CP.

Check out the CP video below to see the transformation in progress.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A conversation with this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist Nathan Mazur

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 10:17 AM

Artist Nathan Mazur with his Bus Issue cover illustration
  • Artist Nathan Mazur with his Bus Issue cover illustration

It's hard to look through Nathan Mazur’s portfolio without smiling. This local artist’s website is full of lovable creatures he’s designed for CD covers, T-shirts and posters. He’s also skilled at giving life to inanimate objects, putting happy faces on objects like flowers and foods — you can check out a cartoon waffle dancing in an animated music video he collaborated on with Santa Barbara musician Parry Gripp here.

This is Nathan’s second City Paper cover. The first was an illustration of tots lugging oversized instruments for a story on young musicians being kept from playing bars. This week, it’s a cartoon of a Pittsburgh Port Authority bus, complete with Nathan’s signature cartoon bee on the front, for our Bus Issue. We checked in with Nathan over email after he competed this week’s illustration.

What neighborhood do you current live in?
I hail from the east suburbs to ensure that Pittsburgh’s garbage traffic keeps me at least an hour from anything I need or want to do.

Are you freelancing full time, or do you have a separate day job as well?
I am far too anxious of a person for the feast and famine that accompanies full-time freelance, so I push pixels around at a think tank throughout the day.

What’s your favorite thing about being an artist in Pittsburgh?
There are lots of places in Pittsburgh to get your stuff displayed or peddle your wares, and the arts community in general is fairly accessible, helpful and friendly.

What’s your work space look like?
My work space is a messy, finished room in the basement with a couple desks: one for the computer and the other for painting. I share the room with a pair of Australian lizards and a 12-year-old Mexican Red-Knee tarantula. The python was moved to the laundry room because of his size. There’s some taxidermy specimens and various musical instruments in there as well. I’ve been working at the dining room table a lot lately, though.

Your online bio claims that you’re a “cereal enthusiast.” That warrants an explanation!
I’ve tried just about every commercially available cereal at some point. The sugary stuff is my vice. My favorites are Reese’s Puffs and Basic 4.

Tony the Tiger, Count Chocula ... There are so many great cartoon characters on cereal boxes. As a “cereal enthusiast,” what’s the best one?
I’m really liking the newly redesigned Lucky from Lucky Charms, though those weird, little cannibal squares they often use for Cinnamon Toast Crunch are endearing.

You’ve done work for books, record albums and television. What was your favorite assignment ever?
I don’t have a favorite assignment, really. I love the stuff I do for Parry Gripp because it’s always super fun. I also really like seeing my art get made into a tangible good, like a book, sticker, T-shirt or stuffed animal.

What’s the worst possible thing you can think of that someone could ask you to draw?
I dislike drawing classrooms with a lot of people in them or crowded bus interiors. It only reveals how shoddy my perspective skills are!

Your portfolio is full of adorable creatures and feels so happy. Have you intentionally avoided drawing anything too dark?
I haven’t purposely avoided anything dark, it’s just never really been asked of me. A lot of the garish colors and forced expressions I choose for my characters often have a manic undercurrent. Beneath the aposematic colors lurks implied danger, I suppose.

Where does the name of your website “Scared of Bees” come from?
Scared of Bees was a name for a band that never became fully realized. I had the web domain already purchased and needed a portfolio site, and since my actual name was already taken, I just used that. It’s worked out well as it’s kinda funny, more memorable than my given name, and is a good conversation starter. I’m not really scared of bees, though. We need more bees!

Your cover illustration for us this week is for our Bus Issue. Do you have any good stories about riding buses in Pittsburgh?
I was once taking a bus from Downtown to the South Side. It was late afternoon. Around 18th Street, some grizzled old dude walked on with a case of American. A couple minutes later, I heard him crack one open and enjoy a cold, frosty chug. And why wouldn’t he?

Do you have any upcoming projects we should be on the lookout for?
I’ve got a couple animated videos in the coming weeks I worked on for Parry Gripp. I’ve also recently undertaken something I’ve dubbed the #jartproject on Instagram where I draw something inside of a mason-jar stamp I bought at Michaels. I’m not happy with most of them, but it’s been a good exercise to create things without the benefit of ctrl+Z.

Tags: , , , , , ,


Digital Issues

This Week...

Special Issues

Read Past Issues

© 2019 Pittsburgh City Paper

Website powered by Foundation

National Advertising by VMG Advertising