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Touchstone Center Creates A Retreat-Style Experience For Artists

Courtest of Touchstone Center for Crafts
Founded in 1972 as Pioneer Crafts Council, Touchstone's original mission was to foster interest in the preservation of traditional crafts.

On today's program: Touchstone keeps traditional crafting alive in the Laurel Highlands; The Bellefield Tower is the last remnant of a community; Pittsburgh's three major sports teams are having a rough year; and the ACLU of Pennsylvania wants to throw out a state constitutional amendment referendum. 

Bring your Pinterest board to life  
(00:00 — 12:39) 

Tucked into the Laurel Highlands ,not far from Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater or Ohiopyle State Park, is a school for artists to learn how to perfect their skills in traditional crafts with contemporary and experimental techniques. Touchstone Center for Crafts was founded in 1972, but skills taught in some of the classes there have been used as far back as the Iron Age. Pittsburghers can even get to their steel roots by learning how to blacksmith. 

Lindsay Gates, executive director of Touchstone, says skilled artists and novices alike can find something to learn at the center. Touchstone is creating classes for all skill levels in things like blacksmithing, glass blowing and ceramics. 

"You really don't have to have any skill at all to attend most of our workshops," she says. Find more details about class schedules and upcoming art exhibitions here

Why is there a stone tower next to a modern office building in Oakland?
(13:40 — 17:50) 

A weathered stone structure sitting quietly on the corner of Fifth and Bellefield avenues as students, cars and buses pass nearby used to belong to an 1800s Presbyterian congregation. In the building's 1976 historic survey, it was described as "a homely but pleasant Gothic building, influenced by the prevailing fashion for Richardson Romaneque in some of its detail and in its rock-faced stonework." 

90.5 WESA's Katie Blackley reports that these days, the tower stands as the final trace of the original Bellefield Presbyterian Church. The name is used at another house of worship now, but developers saved the tower as a reminder of the neighborhood's past.

Steel City sports slump: what's going on? 
(17:52 — 22:55) 

It's been a tough time for Pittsburgh sports fans lately. The Pirates are out of contention for the playoffs; the Steelers are down two quarterbacks; and the Penguins are without star forward Evgeni Malkin. What's going on? When did the trouble start for the City of Champions?

The Athletic's Rob Rossi traces the origins of what he calls, "The year from hell," back to the 2018 saga of Le'veon Bell with the Steelers to star player injuries at the start of this year's football and hockey seasons. But Rossi also explains why sports fans shouldn't give up hope just yet. 

ACLU says Marsy's Law amendment is unconstitutional 
(35:00 — 38:50) 

The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed an eleventh-hour challenge to a proposed constitutional amendment set to be on the ballot next month. 90.5 WESA's Katie Meyer reports that Pennsylvania’s ACLU chapter is arguing the measure—known as Marsy’s Law—would affect too many parts of the state constitution, a violation of laws governing statewide referenda. The group is bringing a suit on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and an individual plaintiff to keep the amendment off the November ballot. 

90.5 WESA's Julia Maruca contributed to this program. 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski is a reporter for 90.5 WESA. She reports on breaking stories from a variety of realms in Pittsburgh; with specific interest in the growing technology sector.
Kevin Gavin is a native Pittsburgher and has worked in public broadcasting since his college years. Gavin served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years, and since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects, and for the last five years as host of WESA's news program "The Confluence."