Category: Culture

  • Rosary March

    Yesterday’s Rosary March comes up Sixth Avenue. It’s not a very good picture, but old Pa Pitt was not expecting this colorful procession, and did what he could in the seconds he had to record the event from the window of a moving vehicle.

  • Three Rivers Arts Festival

    This year the Artists’ Market was moved to Fort Duquesne Boulevard, which felt much less claustrophobic than last year’s location on Penn Avenue. To judge by the crowds, it was a big success.

  • Squonk Performs Hand to Hand

    Squonk performing Hand to Hand
    Hand to Hand

    Thirty years ago, Squonk Opera was a struggling alternative band performing in the standard struggling-local-band venues. But at some point early on, the group discovered that they could actually succeed by rebranding themselves as performance artists and getting commissions from arts organizations. Since then the “wacky provincial opera company,” now calling itself just Squonk, has been a regular at artsy events all over the world, but especially the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

    Jackie Dempsey
    Jackie Dempsey, keyboards, is one of the two original members of Squonk. Steve O’Hearn, who plays a variety of implausible wind instruments, is the other.

    Squonk will be performing Hand to Hand on Sunday, June 11, at 2:00 p.m. and again at 4:00 p.m. They claim that these are the world’s largest puppet hands, and who is going to argue?

  • Three Rivers Arts Festival

    Arts Festival on Penn Avenue

    This year the Arts Festival has taken over Penn Avenue and cross streets in the Cultural District.

  • In the Lobby of Heinz Hall


    Heinz Hall, the home of the Pittsburgh Symphony, began its life as a 1920s movie palace. Although the decorative scheme was subdued somewhat in the restoration, there is still a strong element of fantasy in the interior.



  • Light-Up Night

    Abstract Christmas tree

    It would be hard to explain Light-Up Night to an out-of-towner. The abstract idea of a night when Christmas lights are turned on for the season is not hard to convey, but no words could describe the seething mass of cheerful humanity that gathers downtown, stuffing trolleys like rolling sardine cans and tying up traffic for hours. It is a night when every good Pittsburgher feels obliged to pay his respects to the Golden Triangle. There are bands, orchestras, choirs, street performers, multiple fireworks displays, lights, ice skating, and even a few random acts of kindness. Every year it’s a bigger deal than last year.

    Diamond decorated for Light-Up Night
    Christmas tree
    Horne’s Christmas tree

    The Horne’s Christmas tree, above, is a tradition that predates Light-Up Night by decades. The Horne’s department store is gone, but the owners of the building still graciously allow us to admire the famous tree that takes up a whole corner of what used to be our second-largest department store.

  • Rubber Ducky


    It’s a giant inflatable rubber ducky. Why? There may be no good answer to that question. But, to judge by the crowds at the Point today (the duck’s last weekend in the water), it seems that a giant inflatable rubber duck was just what Pittsburgh wanted.  The Port Authority is running double streetcars and Subway Locals (which serve only from Station Square through downtown to Allegheny) to handle the traffic on the subway. Downtown is full of tourists from exotic places like Iowa who came to have their pictures taken in front of the rubber duck. Traffic jams surround the Point. Street vendors are selling bags and bags of rubber ducks. Restaurants downtown are packed. All because of a rubber ducky.

  • Lobby of Heinz Hall


    Heinz Hall, the former Loew’s Penn movie palace, brings a little taste of pre-revolutionary Versailles to the theater district downtown. These low-light snapshots are a bit grainy, but they convey something of the opulence of the interior.

  • Fulton Building and Byham Theater


    The Fulton Building, with its enormous arch, has been turned into a luxury hotel right in the heart of the theater district. It is so much in the heart, in fact, that the entrance to the Byham Theater goes right through the Fulton Building, and the marquee is on the Sixth Street front of it. Many theater-goers probably never realize that, by the time they have navigated the long foyer and ended up in the real lobby of the theater, they have gone all the way through one building and ended up in another. That low brick building to the left of the Fulton Building is the theater itself—downtown’s oldest working theater, built in 1903 as the Gayety vaudeville house (originally with its entrance on the river side), and later known as the Fulton until the Byham family paid for a major renovation in 1996. Behind the theater is the CNG Tower, a landmark of 1980s postmodernist architecture that presents radically different views from different angles.

  • Grand Staircase, Carnegie Museum

    Originally the main entrance and still the centerpiece of the vast Carnegie establishment in Oakland, this three-storey open space is decorated with murals by John White Alexander depicting the Apotheosis of Pittsburgh. Most museum visitors ignore them while hurrying on past to the dinosaurs, but the mural group is actually one of the museum’s great artistic treasures. It’s worth spending half an hour in the Grand Staircase picking out the details, like the faces of the damned in the billowing smoke.