Culture

Under a Bridge

Since 1996, photographer Teake Zuidema has called Pittsburgh his hometown. For the largest part of that time, he photographed all over the country and world, but hardly ever in Pittsburgh. That changed in 2018 when he began to accept assignments to photograph musicians, dancers, ethnic minorities and roller skaters in the ’Burgh. When the pandemic …

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George Lange: Through a Joyful Lens

Internationally renowned photographer George Lange grew up in Squirrel Hill and recently returned with his family to live in his childhood home. He credits the joy from his Pittsburgh childhood with influencing his playful approach to photography, which often involves allowing his subjects to reveal sides of themselves that are not often shared. “I am …

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What the World Needs Now… Is Rod McKuen

Barry Alfonso, a writer living in Swissvale, has produced a book we didn’t know was needed. Chances are, if you remember Rod McKuen, you’ll know his popular image: a 1960s California pop singer-songwriter who also churned out best-selling volumes of poetry that non-best-selling poets considered the equivalent of Muzak. Indeed, Alfonso cites the assessment of …

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Colleges and Schools Can and Should Open in a Way That Does the Least Harm

Any untimely death is a tragedy. Our youth die in transit to and from schools and universities every year, but these institutions are not shut down as a result. Engaging in life involves some risk of death. COVID-19 deaths in youth are rare. Rational policies should aim to minimize such risks with no expectation of …

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Pittsburgh in Crisis

Editor’s note: 2020 has been full of calamity and adversity and it’s only June. Whether the pandemic and unprecedented economic shutdown or the more recent protests that have erupted here and across the world, the ordeals have ushered in a year that’s been unrecognizable from any that preceded it.  Photographer John Beale has captured images …

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Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

By chance, in early January, I watched a Netflix series called “Pandemic,” so my sensors were attuned early for the virus news from China. I was initially surprised that people were slow to give it credence and that financial markets blithely reached all-time highs Feb. 19. Soon enough though, as virus news swept the globe …

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Photo as Fact?

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic will become another watershed moment in our lives, and we will be asking “Where were you when…” for years to come. I remember what I was doing when the planes hit the twin towers on 9/11, but the event that rocked my world was the assassination of JFK. I might …

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Larimer Field

Before every game, before they hit us infield, the coaches yelled, “Line up,” and both teams, twenty-eight Little Leaguers, formed a skirmish, from the plate, down the left field line until it ended at the cyclone fence on Lenora Street where the old Abruzzese who didn’t speak English, and didn’t know baseball, except DiMaggio, sat …

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A Template for a Life of Learning and Art

I am a sucker for process. my favorite part of the Andy Warhol Museum has always been the top floor, where Warhol’s wispy childhood sketches hint at his expert ability to replicate reality and also his interest in amplifying his favorite parts of it. When I look at those early pieces, I am reminded that …

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Tom Quirk

White beard and shaved head,A Merton-monkish masterWhose watercolor class put meThrough the wringer with itsTwenty-painting requirementFor my slow painstaking work.Impossible, and not just at first,But he kept me at it, down-Playing my complaints, offeringMaddening encouragements.By mid-term I’d begun to setMy figures against ever starkerBackgrounds till they wereBacked by nothing except The paper’s sheer white nap—A blankness …

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Mister Rogers’ Real Neighborhood

With the recently released film and documentary about Fred Rogers, the national spotlight is shining on the man who changed the face of children’s television. He was known internationally, but since he resided in Pittsburgh and created “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” here at WQED, he is often associated with the city. However, his roots are less …

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Varied Characters, Settings Lift Robert Yune’s “Impossible Children”

In the creative writing classes I teach, scene often becomes an early point of emphasis, especially when it applies to fiction. Hemingway’s classic “Hills Like White Elephants” stands as an exemplar, as the brief story relies on little more than setting and dialogue. According to Nancy Pagh, author of the thoughtfully written “Write Moves: A …

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Signs of the Times

The coronavirus has posed problems for every corner of society, and as we saw over Easter weekend, churches have been no exception. Yet, whether blessing people in drive-through lines, using social media or the radio, during this Holy Week pastors have used every means at their disposal to keep close to their flocks. And as …

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A New Church Grows in Troubled Towns

It’s Sunday morning at Rust City Church and Pastor Sam Yacoub is on stage talking about his mom’s pension problems. “She retired from Delphi, with the promise of a pension and she retired thinking, ‘I’m going to spend time with my grandbabies and enjoy it,’” says Yacoub, dressed in a black baseball cap, denim jacket …

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Restarting Pittsburgh’s Arts Economy

In late summer of 1606, one of the liveliest theatre seasons London, England, had known was abruptly shut down by the sudden onset of bubonic plague. When public entertainments were allowed to resume almost two years later in April 1608, several drama companies that had flourished pre-plague were nowhere to be found. William Shakespeare’s company, …

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When the Spanish Flu Swept In, Pittsburgh Failed the Test

Within days of Allegheny County’s first confirmed case of coronavirus in March, city and county officials moved to shutter nonessential businesses, with their efforts buttressed by stay at home orders from Harrisburg shortly thereafter. This was not the case in 1918, when the Spanish flu ravaged the region, state, nation and world. And Pittsburghers paid …

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A Bauhaus Masterpiece

Is a house private or public? Like any compelling opposites, each really only exists with measured dollops of the other. Choices of how to eat, sleep, bathe and relax are very private. Yet the artistic movements or common practices inflecting those selections are very public—from publications and exhibitions to the sprawling possibilities of the design …

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The Deserted Streets of Pittsburgh 

In Downtown Pittsburgh, a beat cop checks the doors of businesses along Penn Avenue. The streets are empty except for the occasional person waiting at a bus stop. Market Square has an eerie feeling; eateries remain open for takeout, but few people pass through. On quiet Grant Street, an Allegheny County Sheriff’s Department vehicle passes …

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When Irish Was Spoken in Pittsburgh

Irish language scholar Douglas Hyde described Pittsburgh as “the dirtiest and blackest city in America” during his January 1906 visit. “Hell uncovered,” he jotted in his journal, paraphrasing the Atlantic Monthly’s 1868 coinage. Hyde also complained “the wind would cut your nose off.” But the 45-year-old Irishman hadn’t sailed across the Atlantic for mild weather …

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Austin’s “South by Southwest”—Should It Happen in Pittsburgh?

Until the sudden cancellation Friday due to coronavirus concerns, the world’s biggest annual Spring Break for tech/media hotshots and musicians was ready to reconvene March 13–22 all over the fair city of Austin, Texas. South By Southwest (SXSW) is a massive gathering of music, film, comedy, interactive media performers and speakers that in 2019 hosted 2,200 musical …

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Three Pittsburgh Poets, Three Distinct Voices

Poetry can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s celebrating the glorious music found in the end-rhymes of Robert Frost. For others, it’s a love of language poetry or blunt confessionalism. For Pittsburgh’s Sam Hazo, former Poet Laureate of Pennsylvania, it’s the “visionary” poetry of T.S. Eliot and Seamus Heaney. Hazo, in his …

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The Carnegie’s Jasper Johns Exhibition: Out of Step With His Time and Ours

The major fall show at the Carnegie Museum of Art, “An Art of Changes: Jasper Johns Prints, 1960–2018,” raises questions about the museum’s programming. Jasper Johns is an American master whose work set the stage for pop art, which, in turn, changed the course of art of the last 75 years. He merged abstract expressionist …

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