Polish Hill funk and soul musician Elias Khouri is only 17 and already becoming “Pittsburgh famous.”
He looked and sounded like a young Jimi Hendrix while jamming on stage earlier this summer at Three Rivers Arts Festival. His Elias Khouri and the E.K. Band was recently featured at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s Night Market and Free Concert Series. He’s also a cover model, currently gracing the front of Whirl magazine, where he’s listed as a “rising musical phenom.”
He also already has a few groupies.
“And I appreciate each and every one of them,” he said.
But his first gig ever? The Polish Hill Arts Festival in 2015.
“I was born in Polish Hill and have a connection to this neighborhood,” Khouri said. “My Polish Hill neighbors would knock on my door and tell me, ‘Hey, we’ve been listening to you from outside. Keep up the good work!’”
Khouri will return with his band on Sunday for the 11th annual Polish Hill Arts Festival, featuring live music, food vendors, hands-on activities and over 40 artists selling their work.
This event is a community affair. When the neighborhood’s civic association lost federal funding years ago, Polish Hill resident Aubrey Halliburton stepped up and recruited a group of volunteers to keep the festival alive.
“She was determined not to lose this amazing treasure of an event that we all love so much,” said festival volunteer Kim Teplitzky.
This weekend’s family-friendly festival marks a third year it will be organized by this small, but dedicated group of volunteers. Halliburton said this year’s event is going to be bigger than ever, including more artist booths.
Like Khouri, many of the artists also live and/or work in Polish Hill.
The festival volunteers give preference to vendors in the neighborhood, “keeping our fees low so that these amazing and creative artists have a place to showcase and sell their handiwork,” said Teplitzky. “It’s pretty special.”
Ceramics artist Talon Smith will be selling her soda-fired pottery, which uses sodium bicarbonate in the kiln to create lovely minimalistic textures. Smith lived in Polish Hill for two years before moving to Bloomfield, but she continues to share a studio space across from Gooski’s with Three Rivers Clay Works (also selling at the fest).
“The other vendors are always amazing,” said Smith. “It’s basically a full day of high fives, friends and the added bonus of selling some work.”
Other Polish Hill artists include Zsofia Molgaard, whose colorful quilted bags are influenced from where she grew up in Hungary, and Corey Lyons of Forged Signature, whose metal jewelry is the perfect fit for Polish Hill’s punk scene.
Hands-on activities include a live welding and arts demo from the Mobile Sculpture Workshop, a community outreach program for youth and neighbors, started by folks who live in Polish Hill.
Program Director Tim Kaulen said they’ll be working on miniature models and early fabrication for a sculpture the workshop will present to the neighborhood of Hazelwood when completed later this year.
The festival kicks off at noon. Pro tip: get there a little early and grab a latte from popular neighborhood spot Kaibur Coffee before things get started.
Polish Hill Arts Festival Noon-8 p.m. Sun., July 15. Corner of Brereton and Dobson St., Polish Hill. Free. tinyurl.com/polishhillfest