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Friday, April 16, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2021 at 11:43 AM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh artist Morg Cunningham
Pittsburgh artist Morg Cunningham
This week's Marijuana Issue cover features pals partaking in cannabis products by Pittsburgh artist Morg Cunningham. Hailing from the North Hills and now a neighbor in Beechview, Cunningham works by day as a digital designer and an illustrator at night. Pittsburgh City Paper caught up with the artist after her Marijuana Issue cover hit stands this week.

How long have you lived in Pittsburgh?
My whole life! I grew up in the North Hills and left briefly for college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Once I got my first job, I moved to Bloomfield, then to Beechview, where I just bought my first house with my partner. I’m pretty invested in my neighborhood’s community garden, so I’m staying put for a while!

How did you get into illustrating?
I was going to school for graphic design and took a digital illustration class over a summer and really enjoyed it. I dabbled a little with it throughout college, but I didn’t hone in on it like I wish I had looking back. Fine art drawing was definitely not my scene, and I wasn’t sure where my silly doodles were going to get me. I only really got back into illustration a couple years ago when my friend Alex asked me if I wanted to work on stuff to submit for the Pittsburgh Zine Fair with her. I really think that was a turning point for me and am so grateful because we got in! It was a hugely motivating and validating experience for me.
click to enlarge ARTWORK: MORG CUNNINGHAM
Artwork: Morg Cunningham
Is art your full time job?
I’m a digital designer so a lot of the day to day isn’t exactly art, but there’s room to be creative and I like to raise my hand when illustrative assignments come around. There was a period after college where I hardly made anything in my free time. I felt drained at the end of the day and beat down. I’ve since realized it’s the passion projects I do after-hours that keep my creative spirit alive and well.

Your art features illustrations of colorful food, critters, and lettering, as well as zines and even some Sculpey! When you sit down to create, how do you decide what to work on? Do you work in series, or do you draw on your daily experience?
I am all over the place. Sometimes I like to have a plan, sometimes things happen spontaneously. Sometimes I work on drawings to build a skill; other times I’m working on a zine or bigger idea.

Last year changed a lot of creatives work and routine … how do you think 2020 impacted your work? Are there things that you want to carry on moving forward into 2021 and beyond or evolutions in your work because of this time?
I work from home now, so the lines between work life and real life have been difficult to separate. This year I’ve been instituting a “Morg Makes Stuff” night twice a week though to help set time aside. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my phone tells me "hey it’s 7:00, you’ve had dinner, now it’s time to go make something." I sometimes turn to my partner begrudgingly not knowing what to work on. I have a tendency to start too many projects and leave loose ends for months at a time. So, he usually tells me to finish one of those and then I play with clay instead. It’s not a perfect system yet!

What is your dream job?
I think a cookbook would be the big dream of a project to check off a bucket list. I just love cooking, baking, and eating so much and would love to be part of someone’s process of putting recipes to paper.
click to enlarge ARTWORK: MORG CUNNINGHAM
Artwork: Morg Cunningham
What’s the most fun project you’ve been paid to do?
The City Paper cover! I’ve had the opportunity to do illustrative work for brands at my previous agency jobs and now in-house but I’ve never seen my name attached to something like that. Not to mention, it was for the Marijuana Issue, I mean it was just a lot of fun!

Do you have any big or exciting projects coming up?
I have been planning a “re-launch” of my Etsy shop for this summer. I have a “How to Drink” zine series that I’ve reworked as well as some other journals, zines and Sculpey creations! I have a few small things in my Etsy shop currently but the big restock will be coming in June. People can follow me on Instagram to peep the new stuff and know when it’s going to be in the shop!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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

click to enlarge 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.

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

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

click to enlarge 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.

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

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

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF ALISHA WORMSLEY
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.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

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.

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Friday, February 2, 2018

Posted By on Fri, Feb 2, 2018 at 3:42 PM

New performance-art series folkLAB: In Our Voice seeks artists who publicly identify as queer for its April/May production.

folkLAB aims to create a new American folklore through the voices of the oppressed. The troupe debuted in December with a show by women artists.

folkLAB organizes small ensembles who identify with a specific public identity and work intensively for 3.5 weeks to create a brand-new performance piece inspired by any folklore they choose. (The December show, Femme, drew on sources including the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, for instance.)

Ensemble members are paid 65 percent of net ticket sales and a small stipend. The forthcoming show's working title is "Prodigalis."

Applicants must be available for all rehearsals (mostly on weekday evenings), tech rehearsals and performance dates. Applications must include a letter of intent stating the applicant's interest in the project, and two artist "or tangentially artistic" professional references. Recommended but not required are performance experience, devising experience, and interdisciplinary art experience.

Email folklab.series@gmail.com with entries, statements of interest or questions.

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

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.


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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 12:26 PM

Muriel Rukeyser was a political activist and important American poet, and one of her most notable works was The Book of the Dead. The 1938 poetry sequence was written in response to the Hawk's Nest Tunnel disaster in West Virginia, in which hundreds of miners died of silicosis.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

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.

click to enlarge 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.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Dec 8, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Stephen Karam's comedic family drama is built around a Thanksgiving dinner that feels ripped from this past November.

click to enlarge J. Tucker Smith and Valeri Mudek in "The Humans" - PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL HENNINGER
Photo courtesy of Michael Henninger
J. Tucker Smith and Valeri Mudek in "The Humans"
The parents and grandmother, from Scranton, are visiting the youngest daughter and her boyfriend in their Manhattan apartment, joined by the older daughter, who lives in Philly. There's Catholicism, regret, ribbing, "I love you, but I'm just saying," dementia, overlapping dialogue, and lots of bathroom breaks.

The acting is terrific in this local premiere at Pittsburgh Public Theater, and director Pamela Berlin orchestrates the action on the bi-level set beautifully, leaving room for tender human moments that are all the more moving for their brevity. It's quite funny, also.

As Ted Hoover notes in his review for CP, the play's ending is rather mystifying. But it is, if nothing else, open-ended, and provides lots of fodder for discussion.

The Humans has four more performances, tonight through Sunday.

Tickets are $15.75-65 and are available here.

The O'Reilly Theater is located at 621 Penn Ave., Downtown.

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