Art notes

Pyrotopia Festival of Fire Arts finds home in Munhall


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Pyrotopia Festival of Fire Arts has it all -- dazzling performances, fire science, live music, fireworks and daytime family programming. And it's all overseen by a cadre of security guards, fire fighters, police and medics to keep things safe.

The festival drew more than 4,000 people to its debut in 2012 and is coming back Saturday. Founder Eric Singer has secured a permanent site in West Field in Munhall, and it may become an annual event.

This year there will be triple the number of acts and activities as there were in 2012. Artists will include Pittsburghers like Airhart Circus, aerial acrobatics, and Tesla Coil, electric art and music; Toxic Bloom of Boston; and Phoenix Fire from Indianapolis. The emcees will be Phat Man Dee and Andrew the Impaled.

Some presenters have participated in events such as Burning Man, held annually in the Nevada desert, and Maker Faire, New York City, both known for experimental, creative, often futuristic-thinking participants, said festival marketing director Heather Jarrett. This year, Pyrotopia is pushing fire arts boundaries with glass blowers, chefs, musicians, engineers and roboticists participating. Ms. Jarrett emphasized there will be something for everyone.

"You can bring your baby in a sling or you can bring your 14-year-old."

From noon to 4 p.m., Volcano Village, the free family component, will offer interactive games, demonstrations and experiments by Carnegie Science Center, Mattress Factory, Assemble, Carnegie Library of Homestead and the PA Leadership Cyber School. Sterling Yoga will teach LED-spangled hula hooping. Pittsburgh Glass Center will use honey to simulate glass blowing.

"It has the same viscosity," Ms. Jarrett said. "There will be a lot of black light and glow art, LED jewelry making and other wearables."

The main festival begins at 8 p.m. and continues through midnight with performances, installations, sculpture and other art that incorporates the festival's "three themes of fire, light and electricity." The Flaming Simon fire game will return, and another game, Riskee Ball, is joining in from Toronto. Live music will be provided by brass and percussion band Lungs Face Feet, and DJ Pandemic Pete, known for his global dance parties, is expected to introduce a range of sounds from Balkan rap to gypsy funk. And because "this is not a Pittsburgh party unless there's fireworks," as Ms. Jarrett said, VFI Fireworks will close the evening with a special custom show. Admission is $10 in advance and $15 at the gate, which opens at 7:30 p.m.

Food trucks on site all day will include Double Wide Grill, Midnight Munchies, K&J Concessions and Hot4Hire. At night they'll be joined by BRGR, Oh My Grill, Franktuary, Art Institute Culinary Program, Mac & Gold and Brassero Grill.

For those who would like a little more, a VIP Party from 6 to 7 p.m. will include appetizers, flaming dessert demonstrations and on-site parking ($50).

Festival founder and producer Eric Singer, a robotics and fire artist, moved to Pittsburgh from New York in 2009. He is founder of LEMUR, the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots, an artists and technologists group that creates robotic musical instruments. And he's the man behind the Flaming Simon, which plays off the 1980s electronic memory game Simon. Participants attempt to reproduce a random pattern provided by the game device, "but with fire," Ms. Jarrett said.

Pyrotopia 2012 had no safety problems or injuries, and the organizers want to keep it that way. Safety precautions include no alcohol or illegal drugs, and no pets with the exception of licensed service animals. Attendees who plan to play Flaming Simon should wear natural fiber clothing and avoid synthetics. "That's what we pros do!" the website says.

Bleacher seating has been increased at the main stage and lawn blankets are permitted, but not lawn chairs.

The event is handicapped-accessible, including a near parking area and front-of-stage seating.

West Field is at 1900 West St., 15120, behind the Munhall Borough Building. Parking is free but limited. At night, free shuttles will run from 6:30 p.m to 12:15 a.m. from Steel Valley High School, 3113 Main St.

If there is rain or high winds, the event will be postponed. It will go on if there is drizzle. Any changes will be posted on the website, www.pyrotopia.net, and social media.

Warhol docu premiere

"Trapped: Andy Warhol's Amiga Experiments," a documentary about the retrieval of Warholian images from obsolete computer disks, will premiere at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall followed by a reception with cocktails and snacks in the museum. Participating in a post-screening discussion will be artist Cory Arcangel, who spearheaded the project; new media scholar Jon Ippolito; and Golan Levin, Keith Bare and Michael Dille of the Carnegie Mellon Computer Club.

The event is co-sponsored by The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University. Admission is $20, $12 for people age 30 and under and members. Information: 412-622-3131 or www.cmoa.org.

The documentary goes online May 12 at http://nowseethis.org as Part II of The Invisible Photograph section of the Hillman Photography Initiative at Carnegie Museum of Art.

2014 Pittsburgh Biennial

Pittsburgh Center for the Arts announced Monday that the 2014 Pittsburgh Biennial will have eight collaborating organizations. The exhibition has been organized by and held at the center since 1994 and expanded to four additional venues in 2011. The first segment will open in July and the last will close in 2015.

Venues, curators and dates are as follows:

July 19-September -- Carnegie Museum of Art; curator, Amanda Donnan.

Aug. 1-Oct. 26 -- Pittsburgh Glass Center; curator, Heather McElwee.

Aug. 15-Oct. 19 -- Pittsburgh Filmmakers; curator, Adam Welch.

Aug. 15-Nov. 2 -- Pittsburgh Center for the Arts; curator, Adam Welch.

Sept. 12-May 24, 2015 -- Mattress Factory; curators, Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk.

Sept. 19-Dec. 7 -- The Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University; curator, TBA (because director and curator Astria Suparak's position was eliminated last year).

Sept. 26-Nov. 10 -- SPACE; curator, Murray Horne.

Sept. 26-Jan. 4, 2015 -- The Andy Warhol Museum; curator, Nicholas Chambers.


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

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