Officials at venues welcome chance to gain international spotlight
August 4, 2009 4:00 AM
Pittsburgh CAPA students work on choreography.
By James O'Toole Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Official guests at Pittsburgh's G-20 summit will dine amid the flowers of Phipps Conservatory, the art of The Andy Warhol Museum and the sprawling vistas surrounding the Fox Chapel farm of philanthropist Teresa Heinz.
While the world leaders deliberate in the nearby David L. Lawrence Convention Center, first lady Michelle Obama will lead a tour and witness a performance at the Pittsburgh High School for Creative and Performing Arts.
Officials of the venues welcomed the prospect of an international spotlight.
Richard Piacentini, Phipps' executive director, said he looked forward to hosting the heads of state and other officials in "one of the greenest gardens in the world."
"We're very pleased," said Thomas Sokolowski, director of The Warhol. "We, like many institutions, cultural institutions, in Pittsburgh wanted to show off our wares and our locations."
Mr. Sokolowski pointed out that art from The Warhol had formed parts of traveling exhibitions in 15 of the G-20 nations.
The White House announced those events yesterday as planning for the late September gathering continued. The locations were selected from among a variety of Pittsburgh sites that had expressed an interest in lending their hospitality to the summit. Mr. Piacentini said White House staffers made an inspection tour of the Schenley Park institution several weeks ago.
The administration and international advance teams will be in town again today working through the logistics of the sessions, which will take place on Sept. 24 and 25.
President Barack Obama and the first lady will host a welcoming session at Phipps on Sept. 24. Mr. Obama and his counterparts will remain for a working dinner to kick off the work of the summit. While that closed meeting goes on, Mrs. Obama and the participants' spouses will head to Fox Chapel for a private dinner at Rosemont, the working farm owned by the wife of the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry.
The next day, while the national leaders confer in the nearby David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Mrs. Obama will be across the river, hosting a lunch for the spouses and other guests at the North Shore's Warhol Museum. The first lady also will join the group on a tour of the Pittsburgh Public Schools' Creative and Performing Arts high school, where they will take in a student performance.
The international exposure will be a boost for a district that's trying to reinvent itself academically.
District spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said details about the performance, including date and time, hadn't been worked out. Mrs. Obama's visit will come early in Pittsburgh CAPA's first year as a combination middle and high school. Until June, the middle-grade magnet had its own building in Garfield.
The White House said the visit reflects its "commitment to and encouragement of arts education for young people."
Ms. Pugh said the district hasn't decided whether to close CAPA, which is just steps away from the main summit site at the convention center, or other schools because of security and traffic restrictions.
In its announcement yesterday, the White House highlighted some of the environmental features of the host venue, continuing the emphasis on the city's green advancements.
When Mr. Piacentini boasted of Phipps as one of the greenest gardens, he referred not just to its flora but to its architecture and engineering. At a news conference yesterday, he described how the Victorian landmark had been transformed into a showplace of green design. The greatly expanded facility includes the first building in a public garden to have received the Green Building Council's LEED designation. Phipps also employs a pioneering geothermal system for passive cooling and a solid-oxide fuel cell, which produces electricity from natural gas.
Similarly, the convention center was the first convention center to be awarded the highest LEED designation, gold certification.