Art Notes: High heat fails to burn out Heritage Festival fans


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Sizzling temperatures diminished attendance at Independence Day celebrations such as the Westmoreland Arts & Heritage Festival but didn't stop die-hard fans, and seasoned vendors seemed to take it all in stride.

Jewelers Linda and Stanley Osterhoudt of Linda O ... Oh Linda in Wickliffe, Ohio, were first-time participants in the Twin Lakes Park event who said they wouldn't let atypical heat and a slow Saturday discourage them from returning. Indie comics artist Chris Yambar of Youngstown, Ohio, who exhibited in the festival's first cartoon and comic art exhibit, said he'd blame festival organizers when he was shown a pull chain on the sun that they could control.

But not everyone was so good-humored, including food vendors taking the festival plunge for the first time who had a perishable product.

Adam Shaffer, festival interim executive director, said Monday that he didn't yet have concrete numbers but estimated revenue was down at least 25 percent. For example, the 37 cases of lemons used to make hand-squeezed lemonade were down from 45 in 2010 and from 50 last year. But they sold 147 cases of water the first of four days.

Still, he said he received "lots of" positive feedback, particularly for some of the new programming. Tops was the return of the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, which drew the biggest crowd of the festival, Mr. Shaffer said. "It's a 49-piece symphony and seeing them packed into [the Island Stage] is very impressive. It gives people a chance to see the symphony without getting dressed up. You can't carry a funnel cake into a concert hall."

Crowds of up to 200 gathered around John Lege's parrot display, Mr. Shaffer said. "That Guy with the Birds" replaced retired Earl Shriver's popular "Birds of Prey."

"He talks about bird rescue and biology, which makes it worthy of the festival," Mr. Shaffer said.

A more unusual presence, the Trundle Manor Traveling Creepshow, was also a hit. Included in the show are quirky vignettes incorporating dead animals, which the group asserts are not killed but found. "A crafter reported a dead bird in his booth and asked us to remove it," Mr. Shaffer said. He jokingly asked Creepshow folk whether they were interested and they said "'Absolutely. Where is it? We can use the feathers.' It's a kind of recycling. They respect the animals and are strict that none are tortured in any way. The women's costumes are a little sexy, but [the show] is not off-color or obscene. It's bizarre and creepy, as the title implies."

He was especially pleased that the festival's first benefit auction, held Sunday on the grounds, raised $3,114. "We had a nice little crowd and there was an entertainment factor with as many people watching as bidding." Donated items came from vendors and from exhibiting comic and cartoon artists. "The star piece, an original 'Pearls Before Swine' comic strip, sold for $800." A couple of other pieces of comic art that didn't sell at reserve prices will be put up on eBay soon, he said.

"The thing to take away from this festival," Mr. Shaffer said, "is the artists themselves appreciate being included." A community was formed that he attributes partly to scheduling that kept performers returning rather than just appearing on one festival day. "Previously, they were like ships in the night passing. This year they felt like they were part of a group. They want to come back. And they'll bring something to the table to benefit the festival."

CMU dean named

Dan J. Martin has been named the Stanley and Marcia Gumberg professor and dean of the College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Mellon University. He arrived at the school in 1992 and has served as CFA interim dean for two years. He is also a professor in the Heinz College and in the School of Drama.

Mr. Martin brings theater and management skills to a position that oversees schools of architecture, art, design, drama and music. His undergraduate degree in theater is from Western Michigan University, and he earned a master's of fine arts degree in performing arts management at City University of New York.

He has held visiting professorships at the University of Bologna, Italy, and the University of Montreal, Canada, and has worked with numerous theater groups.

At CMU, he was director of the Institute for the Management of Creative Enterprises, leading arts management, entertainment industry management, and arts management and technology programs.

Wilson Center opening

The exhibition "Richmond Barthe: His Life in Art" opens with free admission from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. The opening is part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Summer Gallery Crawl, throughout the Cultural District, Downtown. The 30 sculptures by Barthe (1901-1989), the first modern African American sculptor to gain global critical success, remain at the center through Sept. 15. 412-258-2700.

Biennial talks

Exhibiting artists Betty Elias, Cheryl Harshman, Kathryn Hayes, Sandra Moore and Elizabeth Myers Castonguay will discuss their works in the 2012 Westmoreland Juried Biennial at 7 p.m. Friday at Westmoreland Museum of American Art, 221 N. Main St., Greensburg. Free. Information: 724-837-1500 or www.wmuseumaa.org.

Touchstone anniversary

Touchstone Center for Crafts will hold a 40th anniversary celebration beginning at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 18 at its campus in Farmington, Fayette County. Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians and a Duquesne University student quartet will play during dinner catered by War Eagle Rations of Uniontown. Receptions will be held for exhibitions by Touchstone Artist of the Year Joe Sendek (ceramics, glass), Dan Kuhn (ceramics) and Chris McGinnis (painting, prints). Tickets start at $40. To purchase or sign up for classes: www.touchstonecrafts.org or 724-329-1370.

Center for the Arts awards

The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts 2012 Artist of the Year is Charlee Brodsky, photographer and Carnegie Mellon University professor. The 2012 Emerging Artist of the Year is performance artist Vanessa German, originator of what she's dubbed "spoken word opera." The exhibitions' opening will be Aug. 10.

Heritage quilts

Record your family quilt for the National Quilt Index (www.quiltindex.org) and the Western Pennsylvania Quilt Documentation Project Aug. 25 at Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg. Fifteen-minute appointments, limited to two per person, will be scheduled for between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. by Ginnie Leiner at 724-837-1500, ext. 41, and must be made by Aug. 22.

Quilts will be measured, photographed, the fabric dated, pattern identified and history recorded. Attendees should bring all known pertinent information about the quilt, maker and owner, including birth, marriage and death dates; when, where, why and for whom it was made. Commercially made quilts are not eligible. All handmade quilts, contemporary and historic, are eligible including whole-cloth quilts and quilt tops that have not been completed.

The project is sponsored by the Beaver County Historical Research and Landmark Foundation and includes 10 counties: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland. Documentation is free but a $5 donation is requested to defray costs. During the event there will be free refreshments and a 20 percent gift shop discount.

Westmoreland Museum quilts will also be documented and entered on the National Index. Quilts from the Foster and Muriel McCarl Collection, known for the coverlets given to and exhibited at Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, are listed on the index.

artarchitecture

Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: mthomas@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1925.


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