Screen Doors: Part Two by Brandon Taper

August Wilson Center

I like to consider myself a cultured man.  Not because I wear spats or eat caviar, but because I’m most at home while exploring culture: at the museum, on the theatre stage, in a concert hall, or really any space that spins life into art. 

However, the quick closure of these places feels like a closure of a part of myself.  I can’t help but imagine Life as an angry usher, tightly locking the entrance door or lowering the curtain in a huff, and leaving only a hand-written sign reading “Until Next Time.”   (I admit to a penchant for the theatrical.)  

And yet, fear not.  

These same cultural sites have found a way to break free of their physical spaces and open up to us while still closed to us.  Your phones, computers, and televisions can now provide you with a cultural experience just as rich and fulfilling.  Until we can visit again in person, the “screen doors” of our devices will open up to reveal art and history and beauty.
Here are a few more ways I’ve reconnected with the cultural side of Pittsburgh:

by L. Kasimu Harris

The August Wilson African American Cultural Center
In his ten “Pittsburgh Cycle” plays, August Wilson married the colloquial and the canonical, showing us the hard-won successes of his everyday characters in unexpectedly graceful ways.  It’s fitting that the cultural center named after him dedicates itself to offering an equally rich mixture of performances and pieces.  These works, ranging from dance and performance art to music concerts and theatre, may otherwise find themselves left out of the narrower-than-expected blocks of Broadway.
Right now, AWAACC offers virtual tours of its current exhibitions.  

One is a poignant collection of works by New Orleans-based photographer L. Kasimu Harris.  In his photographs, he documents the vanishing bars and lounges of his hometown, as well as the good times and good talk that made them breathe.

The Heinz History Center:
More than our city’s love-song to its favorite brand of condiment, the Heinz History Center pours out (get it?) great cultural events throughout the year.  

A personal note: I remember several elementary school field trips to the Heinz.  Alas, these were usually met with something less than excitement on my part; I am admittedly more of a mustard man.  In fact, I would even smuggle a book into the museum by sliding a paperback down my pants.  I share these bitter Heinz memories with you because it’s best not to leave things bottled up.  (See what I did there?) 

In better news, I no longer associate the Heinz History Center with ketchup-flavored boredom or books in my boxers.  It is instead a repository of great local history whose website now has on display a number of its past exhibitions.  One favorite is a collection of childhood toys over the decades.  If you’re of a certain age, you may even remember seeing this exhibit with the library as part of one of our bus trips: Toys of the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s: Virtual Tour

Screen Doors: Part One by Brandon Taper

I like to consider myself a cultured man.  Not because I wear spats or eat caviar, but because I’m most at home while exploring culture: at the museum, on the theatre stage, in a concert hall, or really any space that spins life into art. 

However, the quick closure of these places feels like a closure of a part of myself.  I can’t help but imagine Life as an angry usher, tightly locking the entrance door or lowering the curtain in a huff, and leaving only a hand-written sign reading “Until Next Time.”   (I admit to a penchant for the theatrical.)  

And yet, fear not.  

These same cultural sites have found a way to break free of their physical spaces and open up to us while still closed to us.  Your phones, computers, and televisions can now provide you with a cultural experience just as rich and fulfilling.  Until we can visit again in person, the “screen doors” of our devices can best open up to reveal art and history and beauty.

Here are a few ways I’ve reconnected with the cultural side of Pittsburgh:

The Frick Pittsburgh:
Often referred to as a hidden gem in the city’s East End, the Frick Pittsburgh is one of my most cherished of cultural destinations.  Nestled in the greenery of the park with the shared namesake, the Frick is part museum, part historic home, and ode to the Gilded Age.

A personal note: The middle school which I attended is located across the street from this museum.  I recall temporarily disembarking from school grounds (or ditching class, if you must) in order to wander the Frick’s grounds for a glimpse of art and quiet freedom.  And you thought Sheldon was a nerd! Here’s a virtual tour of what my truant eyes saw on those visits. 

The Carnegie Museum of Art:
Next to the library, there are few places I’d rather be than the hushed hallways of an art museum.  Our city boasts a good number of such sancta sanctorum for its size.  However, the Carnegie Museum of Art holds a large piece of my heart in its rooms.

Here it was that I saw my first Van Gogh.  Here it was that I first looked upon a Picasso.  And here it was that I first saw the photographs of Pittsburgh’s own Teenie Harris.  

Fancy a cup of tea?  Here is a fun lesson on the history of tea drinking through art: Tea for Two, a History of Tea Drinking Through Art