Arts, Sports & Culture

We seek to cover our region's vibrant art and culture scene, as well as our iconic teams and the fans that follow them.

Expanded Arts and Culture reporting in western Pennsylvania is generously supported by the Jack Buncher Foundation.

Photo by Aislinn Weidele

It might seem merely serendipitous that both democracy as we know it and theater as we know it arose in roughly the same place and time: Athens, Greece, in the late 6th century BCE.

Photo by Joey Kennedy

The 14th annual Handmade Arcade on Saturday will look a lot like the past several ones, as Pittsburgh’s oldest and largest indie craft fair takes over a big chunk of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for the day.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

Irma Freeman was born in 1903, in Germany. She died in 1994, in Pittsburgh, having established a name locally as a self-taught artist.

Short: Arguing Can Be Invigorating

Dec 5, 2018
Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

“The English word ‘rabbi’ is derived from the Hebrew word ‘rabi’ meaning, ‘my teacher,’” explains Rabbi Seth Adelson. On a recent afternoon, he gestured toward the bookshelves that line the back of his office and said Jews have traditionally been known as the people of the book. “We are committed to writing our tradition down. We're still arguing about our ancient books,” he said. “That is what has kept us alive.”

Elaine Effort / 90.5 WESA


Homewood fiber artist Tina Williams Brewer recently received the 2018 Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Artist of the Year. Brewer spoke with 90.5 WESA’s Elaine Effort for our series 90.5 WESA Celebrates: 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories about the quilting technique Brewer has shared for decades with seniors, students, and other artists.


Below are excerpts of their discussion.


Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.


Photo by Alisa Garin / Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh is familiar with unusual venues for music and performance art. Over the years, it’s seen art rock in a junkyard, and theater both on a river barge and in an empty swimming pool.

Subsurface was likely a milestone, though. The Carnegie Mellon University event last year was probably the first ever around here held in the labyrinth-like setting of a limestone mine.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Bill of Rights Day was born in strife: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the order creating it on Dec. 15, 1941 – just days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was Roosevelt’s way of marking the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

From tree and light displays to baked goods, music and shopping, the holiday season brings with it scores of Yuletide traditions in Pittsburgh.

For 57 years, they've included the Carnegie Trees display in the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hall of Architecture. The museum's Women's Committee erects five colossal Colorado spruce trees every winter, curatuting each to a unique theme. This year, members looked to Carnegie International artist Karen Kilimnik to set the tone.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania is in the midst of launching its sports betting industry—becoming part of the first wave of states to do so.

Provided photo

Say “women aviators before World War II” and most people will respond “Amelia Earhart.” But Earhart was far from the only pioneer in this field. And a few of them, in fact, hailed from Pittsburgh.

Photo courtesy of

Billy Strayhorn wasn’t born in Pittsburgh. But he largely grew up here and got much of his musical training in Pittsburgh, too. On Saturday, the theater that bears his name honors his birthday with its 11th annual tribute concert.

Seven Springs Mountain Resort

Friday is opening day for the slopes at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in the Laurel Highlands.

Every year, opening day is determined by the weather. A week or two of cold, low humidity days are required to make enough artificial snow to accommodate skiers and snowboarders. This year, snowmaking began on Nov. 10. It’s the third year in a row slopes will open the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Seven Springs communications manager Katie Buchan said the first natural snow of the season was early this year, and brought about 6 inches.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

The Black Cat Market in Lawrenceville opened at the end of August, the passion project of owners Olivia Ciotoli and Indigo Baloch. 

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

This past Saturday, Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Center for the Arts held an auction at the group’s Melwood Avenue headquarters, home to Filmmakers for more than two decades.

Short: Bartender Confidential

Nov 21, 2018
Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

An ice machine breaks; a cook cuts her hand; the kitchen runs out of a key ingredient early in the night. After 20 years in restaurants, bartender Nicole Battle has seen it all. No matter what is going on behind the scenes, “you're expected to be on all the time,” she said. “It’s ... insanely mentally challenging sometimes.”

Short: The Art Behind The Art

Nov 20, 2018
Kevin C. Brown / 90.5 WESA

Before a ballet can be performed, dancers need to know their moves, tickets must be sold, and musicians hired. Oh, and the performers need something to wear.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

Ann Gurske has lived in Beechview for 58 of her 75 years. This fall, there was something new at the city-run Healthy Active Living Center where she often goes for lunch and socializing: a public art project.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

In the summer of 1991, Bob Ziller had just moved to Pittsburgh from New York. He wasn’t living “anywhere in particular,” he says. He found a home away from home at a business that was another newcomer to the South Side: The Beehive Coffeehouse & Dessertery, which had just opened at South 14th and East Carson streets.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Six and a half tiny homes with a tie to inventor Thomas Edison are the latest addition to the Carnegie Science Center’s Miniature Railroad and Village exhibit. The model of Cement City, a historic district in Donora, Pa., represents an engineering experiment that challenged conventional homebuilding.

Art by Chris McGinnis

Chris McGinnis grew up in Indiana County and often spent family vacations at a camp in Allegheny National Forest, two hours north of Pittsburgh. He and his siblings explored the remains of an old tanning mill on the Clarion River – a ghost town recalling an industry of days gone by.

Courtesy of Film Pittsburgh

For many of the world’s filmmakers – surely most of them – short films are the way to go, a more affordable way to tell a story or realize one’s vision than a full-length feature. The hard part of the bargain is it’s a lot harder to find an audience. Movie theaters don’t routinely program short films; television stations don’t show them; and online, you’re competing with the whole internet.

Eric A. Smith / Hill Dance Academy Theater

A Pittsburgh dance organization is supporting a new initiative for more diversity in professional ballet. The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet is an effort anchored by the Dance Theater of Harlem, The International Association of Blacks in Dance and Dance/USA. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is among 21 major ballet organizations to adopt the agenda.

Alexander Hamilton Descendant Loans Heirlooms To Philly Museum

Nov 12, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

The fifth great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton loaned some family heirlooms, including a ring that has a lock of his hair inside, to the Museum of the American Revolution Monday.

Photo by Autumn Stankay / SkySight Photography

Starting Nov. 3, many visitors to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art have gotten a pleasant surprise: The venerable institution no longer requests donations from visitors.

Hold On To Your Music Foundation

In the aftermath of the shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue, many find it sobering to recall that this month is the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins have donated nearly $350,000 to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh to benefit the victims of last month's synagogue massacre.

Short: Shoes Of The Trade

Nov 8, 2018
Kevin C. Brown / 90.5 WESA

Stay on your toes. For Julia Erickson, a principal dancer with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, this phrase is more than metaphor. It’s part of her job. And one that requires a special tool.

Photo courtesy of City Books

Like many Pittsburghers, Arlan Hess says that after the shootings last month at Tree of Life synagogue, she felt helpless.

Then she realized there was a way she could help.

Hess owns City Books on the North Side, and on Saturday the shop will host the Tree of Life Memorial Reading, with a dozen local writers and live music.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Genealogies, time cards, and newspaper clippings are among the hundreds of artifacts in the Heinz History Center’s Rauh Jewish History Program and Archives

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

When the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust announced it would bring the smash hit musical "Hamilton" to the Benedum Center, leadership knew they were in for the biggest sale in their history. But they also knew that Hamilton tickets were among the most lucrative for scalpers: according to the New York Times, resale prices for Hamilton tickets can climb up to $10,090.