An acclaimed British photographer will guide some local students to document their own communities as part of this year’s Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.
Janette Beckman first gained fame by documenting the London punk scene in the 1970s, and New York’s nascent hip-hop scene in the early ’80s. Her work has been exhibited internationally, and she’s shot fashion for Levi’s and Christian Dior.
This spring, she’ll work with Pittsburgh high school students from underserved communities on Faces of Pittsburgh. Participants will make portraits of their neighbors and gather their stories through one-on-one interviews. The work will be exhibited outdoors in Point State Park as part of the festival, but also eventually on walls and billboards in the neighborhoods themselves, says Sarah Aziz, director of festival management for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
“The goal of this collaborative workshop is to help each student reach his or her potential through an understanding of how photography, journalism, writing and art can enact change,” Aziz said Monday at the Trust’s event Downtown announcing festival attractions.
Aziz said Beckman will work closely with the students.
“They have been taking photography classes, so they’re kids who have some background in photography, but Janette is really wonderful specifically at teaching portraiture, and really when you look at her pictures, they pop to life, they really convey personalities,” Aziz said.
The ten-day festival begins June 1. Other public art includes Wilkinsburg artist Dee Briggs’ large-scale, abstract steel sculpture “Six Plates for Annabelle and Maggie.” The work is based on the concept of chirality, the operation of symmetry and mirror images in geometric shapes. It will be installed at the Gateway T station, and will be on view for a year after the festival.
The festival’s biggest draws, its music headliners, were announced previously, including gospel icon Mavis Staples, British rock band Everything Everything, live hip-hop and jazz group Sidewalk Chalk, and rootsy singer-songwriter Valerie June. The festival also features the familiar Juried Visual Arts Show, arts and crafts fair, and kids’ attractions. The festival’s Creativity Zone for kids will expand this year to include an audience-interactive dance component, created by Attack Theatre.
Other new components include visual art, music and dance by the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh initiative. Advancing Black Arts artists include Heather Hopson, with her photo essay and video series “Single Mom Defined,” music artist LoRen and Water Seed, and dance artists Brandon-Ahmauri McClendon and Pittsburgh-based Nick Daniels.
WESA receives funding from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.