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 Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

These days artists have plenty of ways to put their work out there. Some, for instance, do pretty well with online sales.

Still, there’s nothing like exhibiting work in real life.

Tori Hirsch found that out a year ago, when a few of her oil paintings were exhibited as part of “Owning,” a three-person show staged as part of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council’s, or GPAC’s, Art on the Walls series.

Andrew Harnik / AP


On today's program: A White House correspondent shares tales from the road; what we’ve learned from five years of local coal mining data; a sportsbook expert estimates just how involved Pennsylvanians will be ahead of Super Bowl LIV; and how Pittsburgh plans to celebrate the Chinese New Year as the threat of disease plagues provinces abroad.

Films from the “silent” era were not usually viewed soundlessly; most were accompanied live by a pianist or organist. And it's that sound of a solo keyboardist – playing up-tempo runs for a chase scene, or minor chords for a tragic one – that many people still think of when they imagine music for films from before talkies.

Nonprofit Funds Lawyers To Defend News Media In Pennsylvania, Other States

Jan 21, 2020
Marc Levy / AP

A nonprofit press freedom group announced on Tuesday that it would provide pro bono legal services in five states to help local news organizations defend their right to gather and report the news.

The Local Legal Initiative of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press will fund attorneys in Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, the group said in a news release.

Courtesy of Heritage Gospel Chorale of Pittsburgh

Before he became a civil-rights icon, Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist reverend. And he was deeply inspired by gospel music. And appropriately, from the start, Let Freedom Sing, Pittsburgh’s annual concert for King’s birthday, has focused on classic and contemporary spirituals.


Life is busy, and it can be hard to keep up with the news. That’s why 90.5 WESA is launching a new podcast called Pittsburgh Explainer. Every Friday morning, we’ll bring you the biggest news stories of the week in 20 minutes. Hosted by WESA editor Liz Reid, you’ll hear from the reporters who cover politics, education, tech, health, arts and more, and get the real stories behind the headlines.

It’s the news you need, in the time you have. Pittsburgh Explainer launches Feb. 7.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

Writer and performer Lissa Brennan’s new work, “Grist from the Mill: 1902,” was informed by sources including two key influences from her childhood: Pittsburgh’s steel mills and Irish murder ballads.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA


On today's program: Pittsburgh’s Council on American-Islamic Relations has named a new leader; special education advocates say the state isn’t keeping up with the cost of services; FamilyLinks considers how to spend a $1 million grant to prevent homelessness; Mayor Peduto comments on Pittsburgh’s declining black population; and the Clairton community decides whether it wants to participate in a settlement with U.S. Steel. 

Former Steelers Coach Cowher Elected To Pro Football HOF

Jan 13, 2020
Don Wright / AP

The Chin is in.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in a surprise announcement Saturday night before the Tennessee Titans-Baltimore Ravens AFC divisional round playoff game.

Hall President and CEO David Baker delivered the news live in studio to Cowher, an analyst for CBS, during the network's “The NFL Today” pregame show broadcast.

Photo by Cyndi Mosites-Walter / Courtesy of Holly Watson PR

Chip Walter’s new book is titled “Immortality Inc.: Renegade Science, Silicon Valley Billions and the Quest to Live Forever.” It’s about the money, and the research, that’s seeking a way to extend human life indefinitely.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Pops series is under new leadership. Musician and entertainer Byron Stripling will serve as the next principal conductor of the PSO Pops series. Stripling has performed at Carnegie Hall and with the jazz bands of Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Dave Brubek.

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Months ago, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman went to Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding with an idea.

Could the Farm Show’s annual butter-sculpture centerpiece, he asked, be a dairy version of Gritty, Pennsylvania’s newest and arguably most internationally-beloved mascot?

Photo by Jason Cohn / Courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

First Night Pittsburgh has been the city’s biggest New Year’s Eve event since 1994, and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust isn’t messing with success. The 26th edition, sponsored by Highmark, remains a huge festival offering some 100 live acts, exhibitions, and activities downtown all night long. There’s wall-to-wall live music, most attractions are indoors, and fireworks will cap the evening at midnight.

Courtesy of Heinz History Center

To this day, more Americans associate Thomas Edison with electricity than they do George Westinghouse.

Keith Srakocic / AP

More than 400 reel-to-reel tapes and thousands of late-18th century photos and correspondences are among the items that will be preserved using funds from a state historic documents grant.

Art by Jim Rugg / Courtesy of the artist

Jim Rugg is a comics artist with a penchant for drawing female protagonists.

Rugg, who's 42, traces the tendency to his high school days.

“In art class, I remember the teacher pointing out that I did not draw women well,” he said, laughing. “You hear that stuff as an artist, and that’s what you dedicate yourself to.”

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

Jory Strothers already appreciated the legacy of Mac Miller, whose songs helped put Pittsburgh on the contemporary pop-music map. 

Keith Srakocic / AP

On today's program: It’s been a year of incremental progress in Pittsburgh. WESA staffers discuss it all, from a shakeup in the U.S. House and changes to the state justice system to ongoing concerns surrounding air quality, public school finances, major development projects, mayoral priorities and the state of local cultural institutions.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

In 11 years as executive director of the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, janera solomon changed more than just the prominence of that East Liberty performing-arts venue. She profoundly altered the Pittsburgh arts scene.

Photo by Brian Cohen

Hate draws lines. Resistance to hate should not.

Courtesy of Carnegie Museums


On today's program: a look at the impeachment process; Duquesne Light is betting on electric vehicles; and the new president of the Carnegie Museums hopes to foster more collaboration among the museums and the community.  

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Theater

Pittsburgh Public Theater managing director Lou Castelli recalls a conversation the company’s staff had with Marya Sea Kaminski early in her tenure as artistic director. It was about Christmas – specifically, how much Pittsburgh seems to love it.

Bastiaan Slabbers / WHYY

When he first saw the photo on the TV news, he thought it had to be a still from a movie. It couldn’t be real.

The year was 1972. Hannibal Lokumbe, a jazz trumpeter and composer, was 23 years old and living in New York. 

The photograph — what came to be widely known as “The Girl in the Picture” — shows a 9-year-old Kim Phuc Phan Thi, screaming, running naked, surrounded by other children and South Vietnamese soldiers, her village ablaze in the background after a napalm bombing. 

The image evoked such visceral emotion, Lokumbe rose from his seat. 

Courtesy of The Pittsburgh Foundation

For the first time since their revival, in 2012, the Carol R. Brown Creative Achievement Awards have gone to a pair of artists whose medium is words.

Pirates Manager Shelton Bringing Energy, Optimism To New Job

Dec 5, 2019
Carlos Osorio / AP

Derek Shelton's garage is clean, the byproduct of the Pittsburgh Pirates' drawn out managerial hiring process, one that took extended after the club fired general manager Neal Huntington in late October.

Courtesy of Karen Lillis

Among retail survivors of the era of big-box stores and online commerce, one of the more unlikely is the independent bookstore. A decade ago, many of Pittsburgh’s bookshops had been driven out by national chains, and the subsequent rise of web-based retailers like Amazon boded ill for any remaining brick-and-mortar outlets.

Venture Outdoors / Facebook


On today's program: Venture Outdoors wants to get more people outside; the face of long-haul trucking is changing; a conversation with a Pittsburgh teen climate activist; and exploring the infamously polluted Ohio River. 

Gregory Payan / AP

Major League Baseball is considering dropping 42 minor league teams from the circuit next year—and three of those teams are in Pennsylvania.

Paul Nicklen / National Geographic


On today's program: What it takes to rebuild relationships after addiction; what Democrats can learn from Franklin Park; Conor Lamb weighs in on Donald Trump’s foreign policy; Good Question! explores the history of Brunot Island; and a new exhibit celebrating the world's 50 greatest nature photos is traveling through Pittsburgh.

Gregory Payan / AP

Pennsylvania’s governor wants Major League Baseball to rethink a restructuring plan that would affect three minor league teams in his state.