Culture | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |
Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Posted By on Tue, Jul 12, 2016 at 3:23 PM

Pittsburgh marked its 200th birthday with a weekend of events, including a parade on Sat., July 9 that commemorated the election of Pittsburgh's first mayor in 1816, Ebenezer Denny. School kids, cultural organizations, previous mayors' descendents, historical-figure reenactors and colorful puppets marched down Liberty Avenue to Point State Park. See our photo's below, and read about the artist behind the giant puppets.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 3:02 PM

The Kelly-Strayhorn Theater hosts a concert by Zambian-born musician Mathew Tembo and the Afro Routes Band to benefit Surgicorps, which provides free medical care in developing countries.

Saturday’s benefit is specifically to support Surgicorps’ annual trip to Zambia.

Zambians who have benefited from Surgicorp’s five previous trips include Ruth, a 5-year-old girl whose scalp and one hand were disfigured in a fire when she was an infant. According to a press release, Surgicorps continues to help Ruth and others who otherwise would be “forced to live with painful injuries and deformities for the rest of their lives, with little access to medical care and little means to afford any care that is available in these impoverished countries.”

Tembo, a former Pittsburgher, is an award-winning, world-touring musician.

The benefit concert takes place at 8 p.m. Sat. June 18. Admission, per the Kelly-Strayhorn’s policy, is pay-what-makes-you-happy. VIP tickets are $100, and a VIP reception with wine, beer and hors d-oeuvres, begins at 6 p.m.

Both general-admission and VIP tickets are available here.

The Kelly-Strayhorn is located at 5941 Penn Ave., in East Liberty. 

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Friday, June 3, 2016

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

click to enlarge 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. 

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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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Posted By on Wed, May 11, 2016 at 2:31 PM

This nonprofit has come a long way since 2004, when it was launched to shelter a single writer under threat of persecution. (The first was dissident Chinese poet Huang Xiang.) Yesterday, the group that’s since become one of Pittsburgh’s top literary organizations announced that its big plans for a new headquarters are just months from completion.

click to enlarge The planned Alphabet City building (to left of "Garden" building) - PHOTO BY BILL O'DRISCOLL
Photo by Bill O'Driscoll
The planned Alphabet City building (to left of "Garden" building)
Alphabet City, located in the North Side’s former Masonic Building (right next to the landmark former Garden Theater), will include a name wine-and-cheese café, a bookstore, and event space accommodating up to 225.

While yesterday’s press event drew dignitaries including Mayor Bill Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the space is still quite raw. Green tarps billowed from the building’s façade onto West North Avenue, and the 100 or so press and visitors were required to don hard hats to tread the plywood floor of the 9,000-square-foot space, currently stripped to plaster and I-beams.

City of Asylum has long been busy sheltering writers and hosting literary events with an international flavor, including its signature annual Jazz Poetry event; in 12 years, it’s offered events featuring more than 300 writers and musicians from 60 countries, co-founder Henry Reese said yesterday. Last year alone, it drew more than 5,000 visitors to about 50 programs, all of them free.

This past November, the group became the U.S. headquarters for the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), which called City of Asylum/Pittsburgh “the model for the world.”

The $12.2 million Masonic Building reboot will allow the group to do even more: Some 150 programs are already planned in the first year of operation, according to press materials, starting with Sept. 9 and 10 readings by Svetlana Alexievich, the Nobel Prize-winning investigative journalist who fled Belarus in 2000.

The space will permanently host a 24-seat incarnation of Caselulla @ Alphabet City — the wine-and-cheese café is expanding outside of New York City for the first time — and City of Asylum Books @ Alphabet City, a bookstore specializing on books in translation (though it will also carry new and used books in English and operate a free-book program). Yesterday, Reese introduced the shop’s inaugural manager: Lesley Rains, who’s just completing the sale of her East End Book Exchange. (Rains tells CP that the new space will actually be bigger than EEBX, which lives in a Bloomfield storefront.)
The bookshop’s shelves will be movable to allow for full use of the space.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Posted By on Mon, Apr 18, 2016 at 11:38 AM

On Sat., April 16, CRY America — a children's rights organization — and the University of Pittsburgh's Indian Graduate Student Association hosted a Holi festival in Schenley Park. For 10 bucks, participants received a color packet to celebrate the Hindu festival that marks spring. The throwing of colored powder, water-balloon tossing, games and Bollywood music ensued.

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