Program Notes: Arts Blog |

Friday, May 27, 2011

Artist Grant-Writing Workshop

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2011 at 1:13 PM

Over the past few decades, arts funding has moved to a more organizationally based model, leaving individual artists with fewer options to support their work. And funding in general is tight lately — witness the current proposal to decimate Pennsylvania Council on the Arts funding ( 

Nonetheless, there are still grant opportunities out there for artists seeking support from government arts agencies, private foundations and other nonprofits. The trick is taking advantage of them.

One local opportunity to learn how is scheduled for Sat., June 11, as Silver Eye Center for Photography offers a day-long workshop called Grant and Proposal Writing for Artists. The class, to be held at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' headquarters, in North Oakland, promises to guide participants "through every stage of successful grant writing."

The focus is on photographers and visual artists. The three teachers, Mary Navarro, Renee Piechocki and Ellen Fleurov, are experts in the grant-seeking (and -making) field.

Navarro, a fundraising consultant and adjunct Carnegie Mellon faculty member, was formerly a grantmaker for the Heinz Endowments. Recent consulting clients have included the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, The Heinz Endowments, the Carnegie Museum of Art and Point Park University.

Piechocki directs Pittsburgh's Office of Public Art (run by the City of Pittsburgh and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council) and is an artist herself.

And Fleurov is executive director of the Silver Eye Center, and has long experience as a grant writer for museums and other arts venues; she's also served as a grant panelist and site reviewer for the National Endowment for the Arts, among other organizations.

The instructors will take participants through planning, researching and crafting letters of inquiry; writing narratives; and budgeting, packaging and submitting proposals.

The workshop runs 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat., June 11 and is limited to 30 students. The cost is $70, or $55 for Silver Eye members (and for those who mention they got this info from CP's arts blog). Scholarships are also available.

To register, or with questions, call Silver Eye education coordinator Aaron Blum at 412-431-1810 or see

Friday, May 20, 2011

Artist/author of Clemente Graphic Novel

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 4:27 PM


Wilfred Santiago, the author and artist behind a terrific new graphic novel about Roberto Clemente, visits Phantom of the Attic Comics, in Oakland, tomorrow.

Here's the interview writer David Davis did with Santiago for CP back in April:

Santiago's 21 tells the baseball hero's life story, and not just his exploits with the Pirates and his humanitarian work. It also spends a good deal of time with young Roberto in Puerto Rico, partly to show what drove this proud athlete and partly to explore things like the Puerto Rican independence movement.

Santiago, you see, grew up in the very town where Clemente was born (though he was just 3 when Clemente died, in 1972).

For as ambitious as it is literarily, 21 might be even more engrossing visually. Santiago's playful stylizations powerfully render everything from the exploitation of Puerto Rico's cane fields to Clemente's own wildly kinetic prowess at the plate, on the basepaths and patrolling right at Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium. Its evocation of Pittsburgh during Clemente's early days here -- from the mid-1950s through the 1960 World Series -- are especially good.

Santiago, who's now based in Chicago, will sign copies of 21 from 1-4 p.m at Phantom of the Attic, 411 S. Craig St., Oakland. The store's phone number is 412-621-1210.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Draconian Cut in Arts Funding Proposed

Posted By on Wed, May 18, 2011 at 8:32 PM

In March, when Tom Corbett offered his first budget proposal as governor, things looked relatively good for the arts. The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, our state government's principal arts-funding body, was to receive a small cut -- but compared to the decimated state education budget, say, that was something arts groups could live with.

Not so the latest proposal to come out of the Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee. An amendment to its budget bill, HB 1485, would cut admnistrative and grants line items by more than 70 percent. That would reduce PCA grants to arts groups from $8.2 million to just $2.5 million. And the PCA's own administrative budget would be cut nearly in half, to $500,000.

The cuts would also affect some 4,000 classroom-days in PCA's Arts in Education programs.

Arts groups cobble together operating funds from a variety of sources, including earned revenue (like ticket sales), foundation grants and government funding. Government funding has already shrunk in recent years, along with foundation grants; meanwhile, even in the best of times, most arts groups don't live very far from insolvency.

While there are few groups for which the PCA provides a very big share of their operating funds, for some organizations the loss of even a few thousand dollars could be the difference between breaking even this season -- or being open next. And that's not to mention PCA grants to individual artists, which help many with projects they'd have a hard time completing otherwise.

The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council is urging people to contact their state representatives and voice your opposition to the new PCA cuts. The advocacy group suggests you demand restoration of the line items for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to levels Corbett recommended -- $8.262 million for grants and $895,000 for the PCA administrative line item.

If you don't know who your state rep is, find him or her at

GPAC also encourages people to contact legislators via emailed video. GPAC will even help with your video: The group will record your message for you free, at its office Downtown, 810 Penn Ave., between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Thu., May 26.

GPAC is at 412-391-2060 and www.pittsburghartscouncilorg.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pittsburgh Cartoonist Subs on Bizarro

Posted By on Sun, May 15, 2011 at 3:39 PM

Local cartoonist Wayno takes over Dan Piraro's acclaimed, nationally syndicated cartoon panel for one week starting tomorrow.

The local cartoonist has been a frequent Bizarro gag-writer since April 2009. The two met in 2008, when New York-based Piraro visited the Pittsburgh chapter of Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art Club, a cartoonist's forum.

Since earlier this year, Wayno's also been the colorist for the Monday through Saturday panels of the often surreal panel, which appear in color in some newspapers.

But this will be Wayno's first chance to show readers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other publications what he can do with images as well as with jokes. Bizarro is distributed internationally by King Features Syndicate to more than 350 daily and Sunday newspapers.

It also marks only the second time in 25 years of Bizarro that Piraro has taken a break; cartoonist and TV writer Francesco Marciuliano subbed for a week in 2008.

Wayno is known for his pop style. In 2009, a show of his work at Lawrenceville's Zombo Gallery included 40 portraits of pop-culture icons from David Bowie to Richard Pryor. Wayno is also an occasional CP contributor and a founding board member of the Toonseum, the Downtown museum of cartoon art.

No word on whether Wayno will pick up Piraro's signature penchant for inserting anomalous images of lit firecrackers, alien spaceships and slices of pie into most frames.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fleeting Pages Update

Posted By on Sat, May 14, 2011 at 2:09 PM

I stopped by the pop-up bookstore again last night. It was just after 8 p.m. on a Friday, and still drawing browsers. Customers, too, apparently – I ran into local fiction writer Sherrie Flick, who was dropping off more copies of her novel Reconsidering Happiness because the first batch, which she delivered this past Wednesday, had already sold out.

The store, area resident Jodi Morrison's all-volunteer effort to spotlight indie publishers in the vacated Borders Eastside, has also filled out quite a bit since my first visit, on the May 7 opening day. There were more books, more comics, etc. There were now even small sections curated by local indie bookshops, including Garfield used-book spot Awesome Books; Copacetic Comics; and the Big Idea collective.

To top it off, Highland Park coffeehouse Taza de Oro will be vending coffee there, too.

With all that, plus a daily slate of readings and workshops -- and surely more to come -- Fleeting Pages seems more worth a visit than ever.

The store is open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays.

And remember: The whole shebang closes, as planned, after its June 1 hours.

For a full schedule of events and more details, see

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gary Shteyngart at City of Asylum

Posted By on Wed, May 11, 2011 at 3:48 PM

The author's 2010 novel Super Sad True Love Story is set in a near-future where one of protagonist Lenny Abramoff's distinguishing traits is that he still reads books. Everyone else, including his notably younger girlfriend, Eunice, pretty much just texts and watches TV.

At last night's reading and Q&A at City of Asylum's tent on the North Side, the very funny and charming New York-based author ("This is my first appearance in a tent since my people left Egypt") talked about how online life and electronic messaging are, as he and others have put it, "rewiring our brains."

It's more than a matter of making rather private information increasingly public -- a trend Shteyngart satirizes with the novel's "apparats," pendants characters wear that give others access to one's "fuckability" and credit rating. (This is one way Lenny ends up on someone's list titled "101 People We Need to Feel Sorry For").

Most generally, of course, our new instant-gratification technology attenuates our attention spans. But Shteyngart spoke particularly of what we lose with the decline of longer literary forms, like the novel. The "sustained immersion" in a character's mind that a novel generates in turn creates an empathy that no other art can match, he says -- even good narrative TV (The Sopranos, etc.) is still a much more passive experience.

Shteyngart said that he himself "didn't know what the Intertubes was until 2006." But now, he says, too long in digital realms and even he loses the capacity to read. When he does need to read, he says, he heads to upstate New York -- out of his cell-phone range. And even then it takes him a week to get back into his accustomed novel-a-day pace.

Also last night, for thematic fun, moderator, Eric Shiner of The Andy Warhol Museum arranged to allow the audience of about 150 to ask Shteyngart questions via Twitter.

Toward evening's end, Shteyngart added that the waning of reading culture hasn't seemed to make shorter literary forms, like short stories and poems, more popular. Nor, he said, has it slowed the flow of students to MFA programs. "The fewer people read, the more people write," he quipped. "That's what's so exciting."

What this all means long-term, Shteyngart didn't assay. Noting that one of his satiric conceits in the book, see-through "onion-skin" jeans for women, is already on the market, he emphasized that his prognosticatory powers are limited: "I'm sort of the prophet of two months from now."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Donating Pittsburgh is Art Day

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2011 at 1:11 PM

Starting at midnight tonight, it's something like a birthday and Election Day combined for some 150 local nonprofit arts and cultural organizations.

Or so I'd assume, based on the deluge of Pittsburgh is Art Day appeals from such groups that have been flooding City Paper's inbox for the past couple weeks.

The deal is that for the 24 hours that comprise Wed., May 11, the Pittsburgh Foundation's PittsburghGives initiative is making a pool of matching funds available against any money that you donate to any of those performance groups, galleries, libraries, film festivals, museums and more.

As with other PittsburghGives days for other types of nonprofit enterprises, Pittsburgh is Art Day works like this. You, the individual donor, go to and select a beneficiary or beneficiaries. The minimum donation is $15, the maximum $10,000 per group.

For every dollar you give, the Pittsburgh Foundation provides matching funds pro-rated according to the total amount of donations. So, according to the site, if "$1 million is raised against a $475,000 pool [of matching funds], the match will be .47 on the dollar. This is not a $1-to-$1 match. The exact match percentage will be released when the event is closed and reconciled."

While there's a credit-card processing fee of 2.9 percent, none of the funds goes to the Pittsburgh Foundation. Everything else, including the matching funds, goes straight to the organization.

The obvious upside is that your donation to your favorite theater troupe or arts-education organization goes much further than it would any other day of the year.

But another function of PittsburghGives, says the Pittsburgh Foundation, is that it helps to "[s]potlight the charitable trends in our region. Where are people giving? What are your community's nonprofits saying is vital and needed right now?"

In other words, May 11 is a great day to tell one of the region's biggest funders what arts groups matter to you.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fleeting Pages is Launched

Posted By on Sun, May 8, 2011 at 12:47 PM

I visited Pittsburgh's pop-up bookstore, housed in the old Borders Eastside, late in the afternoon yesterday, its inaugural day. My first impression: fewer books but more people than when I last visited the former Borders's second-floor space ... when Borders still occupied it.

That's maybe a little unfair. After all, Fleeting Pages is mostly using only that top floor of the East Liberty building (which sits practically next door to Whole Foods). Still, you have to be impressed that a volunteer-run enterprise with zero advertising budget drew such a steady stream of interested customers.

"It's been constant all day, since before we opened," said clerk Jennifer Collins, citing a man who stood outside the space's glass doors that morning, until Fleeting Pages organizer Jodi Morrison finally let him in early. "At one point, we had four people sitting in chairs just reading, which to me is a sign of success."

Indeed, I arrived at about 4:30 p.m., and for the next 45 minutes there were usually two dozen or more people in the store, most of whom lingered to browse.

Unlike Borders, Fleeting Pages is all about independent publishers, zine-makers and artists, with a decidedly local focus.

When I entered, the first book table I saw held: the Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (Pittsburgh-based); Colorado-based literary journal Ruminate; an array of tiny $2 "artists' books" (like "Great Dog Walks in Hamden, Connecticut") from Fiji Island Mermaid Press; Murdaland, a Pittsburgh-compiled anthology of crime fiction; Fragments, David Carl's experimental novel from Chicago-based Green Lantern Press; a selection of notecards adorned with original art of Dowtown Pittsburgh architectural landmarks; and the 30th-anniversary edition of glossy New York art mag Bomb (featuring a Skype conversation between Sufjan Stevens and writer Thomas Pletzinger).

"A house without books is like a room without windows," reads the Heinrich Mann wall-quote left over from Borders' décor. While Fleeting Pages can't stock even the remaining shelves like the big chain could – the big, well-windowed room still feels rather bare, with the old café tables and magazine rack forlornly empty – there's plenty more.

The shelves hold fiction (plus a separate horror-and-mystery section); indie comics; zines (like "Zombie Sarah Palin"); poetry (lots of poetry); travel books (from California's Whereabouts Press); more literary journals; and nonfiction (from autism to Al Capone).

There are also handmade political posters from the Just Seeds cooperative, handmade journals and more. On one wall, local artist Bob Ziller's portraits of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman were so well-placed I had to make sure they weren't left over from the Borders days.

People are actually buying books, too. Morrison, of Braddock, said Fleeting Pages had already sold out of copies of local art book Encyclopedia Destructica. "For me, local people getting rid of their stuff is really good," she said.

By design, Fleeting Pages will last only a month. But at least as important as what's for sale is what will happen there – lots of readings and literary workshops are planned, even literary-themed movie screenings and a May 31 poetry slam. In fact, Morrison told me that one date, May 21, will see six events at the space, and only two dates in the month were still unbooked for events.

Fleeting Pages remains open to more events, by the way.

More books, too.

Around 5 p.m. Sat., as Morrison stood behind the checkout counter, a woman approachedd. "I'm a local author and I wondered if you could carry my book?" she asked.

"Sure!" said Morrison. 

Eileen Reutzel Colianni had self-published Watching A Miracle: And Other Essays That Touch the Heart, and now she could stock it at Fleeting Pages.

Fleeting Pages is open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For a complete schedule of events and more, see

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Corningworks' Are We There Yet?

Posted By on Sat, May 7, 2011 at 12:13 PM

While its title references the axiomatic child's question, it's important to note that in this engaging world-premiere dance work, the question is asked by an adult – one of the five nationally acclaimed over-40 artists in this latest offering from Beth Corning's Pittsburgh-based Glue Factory Project.

The show's theme concerns how to identify the arrival of adulthood. The production includes a dozen sequences, from solos to group numbers, that comment on maturity and mortality with an effective blend of humor and poignancy.

The artists are Corning (who formerly led Dance Alloy Theatre) and visiting artists John Giffin, Claire Porter. Jane Shockley and Peter Sparling. Lest anyone doubt that the performers refuse to take themselves too seriously, the whole troupe spends most of the show in clown make-up, including red noses, red shoes, and funny little sacklike white-cloth hats with holes for their ears.

"No skipping," someone enjoins during the opening sequence, when two dancers exhibit a little too much insouciance, but the evening is full of play. There's a solo with two baby dolls tethered on an elastic cord, and another, by Porter, with her head in a red wire bird cage filled with fluffy white feathers. The humor ranges from dry to absurdist; highlights include Sparling's solo in the company of a full-sized human skeleton. It's a catalog of nervous gestures resolving into something like acceptance.

There's also a lovely duet that showcases choreographer Corning's love of small but potent gestures, such as the emotionally fraught clasping and unclasping of hands. In another passage, the performers tell of how they dealt with the deaths of parents. Throughout (makeup or no), the performers pulse with intelligence and personality, the facial expressions of Porter and Sparling especially worth watching. 

Are We There Yet? makes canny use of a recurring prop: The portable 5' by 7' video screen that's the first thing we see, bearing video interviews in which various people are asked when they knew they were adults, or what adulthood means. The screen reappears throughout the evening as a traveling scrim: Unseen performers carry it from the wings to effect scene changes, and its cartoonish skittering across the floor (borne on invisible feet) is another nice comic touch.

If the screen, meanwhile, also suggests a tabula rasa on which the meaning of one's days might be inscribed, by show's end it actually becomes a table – one Corning herself decisively overturns when her fellow characters (having finally changed out of clown gear and into street clothes) threaten to take it too literally.

The videos, by the way, are another smart stroke. The interview subjects range from children and young adults to elders, and many of their definitions of adulthood are distressingly mundane ("Being on time"). 

But "are we there yet"? Corning and company explicitly eschew answering. This show gently but insistently suggests that the point is not to grasp the slippery fish of a definition of adulthood, but to make it from one end of the journey to the other with grace and humanity.

Are We There Yet? has two more performances at the New Hazlett Theater (6 Allegheny Square East, North Side), at 8 p.m. tonight and at 1 p.m. Sun., May 8. The latter is a pay-what-you-can show.


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