Art notes: Declining Philadelphia Inquirer has consequences beyond its walls


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People may think that discussions of the decline of newspapers are inside baseball reserved for journalists, but Will Steacy raises larger social implications in a project that took a very personal turn.

Mr. Steacy, a fine arts photographer with an interest in socioeconomic issues (he exhibited at Silver Eye Center for Photography in 2012), is descended from five generations of newspaper men. His great-great-great-grandfather started the Evening Dispatch in York, Pa., in 1876 and his father was an editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Mr. Steacy grew up wandering the newsroom. In 2009, he began documenting the Inquirer’s switch to digital. But his project focus changed when the newspaper began downsizing, a pattern reflected across the country. His father, Thomas, was laid off after 29 years with the paper.

Mr. Steacy feels a majority of the American public is unaware of what’s happening to newspapers and, more importantly, what the consequences could be for a democracy dependent upon a free press. “The newspaper is our mirror. We may not always like the image reflecting back at us, but it’s that mirror that holds us all accountable and keeps the playing fields level. The newspaper isn't just a business. It’s a civic trust,” he says in a video explaining his project.

Now Mr. Steacy is looking for support to bring the story to a larger audience with the publication of a book, “Deadline.” A Kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000 was near $13,000 in pledges as of Tuesday. The cutoff is 3 p.m. Aug. 19 (www.kickstarter.com/projects/1666235599/deadline-1).

“When we lose reporters, editors, news beats and sections of papers, we lose coverage, information and a connection to our cities and our society, and, in the end, we lose ourselves,” he says.

Pittsburgh Biennial part 3

Round three of the 2014 Pittsburgh Biennial will open Friday with receptions at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (5:30-9 p.m.) and Pittsburgh Filmmakers (8-11 p.m.). Both shows are curated by PCA curator Adam Welch, who selected 22 artists for the center plus a performance collaborative. The center initiated the biennial in 1994 and has since merged with Pittsburgh Filmmakers, so these are the most home-based of the many parts of the large exhibition that opened July 18 at Carnegie Museum of Art. The final opening will be Sept. 27 at The Andy Warhol Museum.

At the center are Andrew Allison, Rafael Abreu-Canedo, Chris Beauregard, Kim Beck, Eli Blasko, Seth Clark, Lenka Clayton, Ron Copeland, Sean Derry, Paula Garrick Klein, Steve Gurysh, Kate Hansen, Jane Haskell, Eli Kessler, Ryan Lammie, Anna Mikolay, Alexi Morrissey, Rich Pell, Blaine Siegel, Sisters of the Lattice, Gemma Smith, Ivette Spradlin and Barbara Weissberger. Mr. Pell, Ms. Weissberger and the Sisters also show at filmmakers.

Admission to the center event is $5, seniors $4, students $3, children 12 and under and members free. Information: 412-361-0873, 412-681-5449 or pittsburghbiennial.org.

Sandra German

I was sad to learn that Pittsburgh fiber artist Sandra Keat German died July 28. She was 65. Many have admired her beautiful, colorful quilts, their often narrative patterns shaped by a joyful creativity, and her mastery of “free motion machine quilting.” Her work has been exhibited internationally. Memorial contributions can be sent to The Amazing Sandra German, Love Front Porch, 7743 Hamilton Ave., Pittsburgh 15208, the community art project founded and overseen by her daughter, Vanessa German (checks should be made to Vanessa). It will also be the site of the future Sandra German Visionary Quilt and Fiber Arts Festival.

Ms. German reflected her late mother’s warmth on her Facebook page:

“You may be tempted to show up on my doorstep, with your sorrow and your arms stretched wide to meet my sorrow,” she wrote, then suggested:

“But what i would say to do, instead of those. nice. thoughtful things. is this -- go forth and seek out your favorite and best teacher. Tell this teacher. thank you. This need not be a school teacher. This could just, you know. be a person who has been. Your. Teacher. Go to this human being and lay your gratitude upon their hearts.” 

Pittsburgh in Arkansas

Work by Pittsburghers Lenka Clayton and Vanessa German will be included in  “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now” at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. The museum’s president and assistant curator visited almost 1,000 artists across the country and selected 102 for the exhibition, which opens Sept. 13. The museum was founded in 2011 by Walmart heiress Alice Walton and has been acquiring works for the collection ranging from Asher Durand’s “Kindred Spirits” to Andy Warhol’s “Coca-Cola [3].”

Brother Nathan Cochran

Another loss last month was that of Brother Nathan Cochran, O.S.B., a monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey, director of The Saint Vincent Gallery and member of the fine arts faculty at Saint Vincent College, Latrobe. He died July 30 and was 57.

Brother Nathan was founder of the Nationwide Juried Catholic Arts Competition and Exhibition, and its fifth iteration will open with a reception, as Brother Nathan had planned, on Oct. 26 at the gallery. Juror Janet McKenzie is a Vermont artist nationally recognized for spiritual imagery that challenges conventional gender and ethnic depictions. Her works were included in three Catholic Arts Competitions, and she has twice been awarded prizes. He also curated an exhibition of pinhole photography by Saint Vincent alumnus Scott Speck, and the free public reception for that show will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 11.

In 2002, Brother Nathan, a history buff with a wide scope of interests, curated for the gallery the exhibition “Karl I: The Peace Emperor, The Last Habsburg Emperor of Austria-Hungary.” Two years later he was special secretary for the beatification of Emperor Karl in Vatican City and as such coordinated and organized beatification celebrations and wrote, edited and oversaw distribution of publications and press releases. In 2007, he was a contributor and on-camera expert for a documentary produced by George Lucas, “Karl: The Last Habsburg Emperor,” to accompany the DVD release of “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones.”

Brother Nathan received the Signum Memoriae Civilian Medal of Honor from Otto von Habsburg, archduke and crown prince of Austria and king of Hungary, the first time the medal had been bestowed since 1898. Maria-Anna Galitzine, archduchess of Austria, was among many who attended Brother Nathan’s funeral Aug. 2 in the Archabbey Basilica.

The college has a formidable task ahead to find someone with Brother Nathan’s passion, experience and perspicacity to replace him on the faculty. His unique and welcoming persona -- a humble intelligence, open-minded inquisitiveness, droll sense of humor, appreciation for both the gift of and necessity of the humanities -- will never be replaced.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Benedictine Health and Welfare Fund, or to the Art Conservation and Restoration Fund, Saint Vincent Archabbey, 300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA 15650.

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


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