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River of Words inaugurates City of Asylum's Garden-to-Garden Artway

City of Asylum, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit that seeks to provide safe haven for writers who are endangered in their own countries, is unfurling their latest community project The Garden to Garden Artway with the help of a trio Venezuelan visitors: writer Israel Centeno, artist Gisela Romero, and graphic designer Carolina Arnal. Centeno, Romero and Arnal are exhibiting the multi-disciplinary work, A River of Words, with the support of the North Side community by presenting temporary artwork and texts on the actual homes of residents. And by stitching itself together across the North Side neighborhood, which involved the participation of over 40 residents, the piece concerns itself with the idea of "connection" and the ways in which people connect with one another through conversation, through a community, or through art.

"We started with the idea of comparing the function of the brain with the relationships between neighbors," wrote the three artists in a joint email. "The neurons are the imaginary lines between people´s homes and the synapse is the word in each house. There are different ways of connecting, through the meanings of the words but also through forms, colors, sizes and materials.  At the project's end, in a map, you will see the network; the link between streets, people, ideas and emotions."

A River of Words is the first of five commissioned temporary art pieces that will be installed along with Garden to Garden Artway, which connects Alphabet Reading Garden on the 1400 block of Monterey Street to its new Alphabet City Literary Center on the Garden Theater block. The .7 mile walk that is the Artway aims to be a hub of permanent and temporary art, free public music and dance performances, and community workshops that can be aided by a smart-phone led tour. For Centeno, Romero, and Arnal, A River of Words was their way of exploring the city that received them, and their art, with open arms.

"Pittsburgh is a beautiful city, and the Northside is full of surprises, each street is different," they wrote. "The people have been very receptive--we have met wonderful and diverse women, men and children who have been enthusiastic and supportive of our project, opening their houses for us.As artists we have made Pittsburgh our own city and we have learned new ways of presenting and share our work."

A free opening reception for A River of Words will be held on Friday, July 25 at 6:00 PM at the Alphabet City Tent located at 318 Sampsonia Way. For more information about the event and the Garden to Garden Artway, visit City of Asylum's website. (318 Sampsonia Way, North Side, City of Asylum)

Jenny Lewis comes to Mr. Small's

July 27, 8PM
For the past eight years or so, Jenny Lewis has been stuck in an Americana daydream that has produced some middling Rilo Kiley records, a fantastic solo debut with Acid Tounge in 2009, and 2010's I'm Having Fun Now, a collaborative album in which she completely outclassed her current boyfriend Jonathan Rice on a performance level.

For the charismatic lead singer of now defunct Rilo Kiley, a band that encapsulated early-to-mid-aughts indie rock so perfectly their 2002 album An Execution of All Things should be filed away in the Library of Congress, her immerison in dusty, country-tinged guitar rock and wispy folk grew to define her musical persona for a whole new generation of fans. The country rock-influnces also allowed some grit and grime to invade her usually slick production, culling some of the fiery energy of her stage perfomances and injecting it into worn-in vocal parts that made Acid Tounge so thrilling. 

Now Lewis returns with her second solo album Voyager (out July 29), and, with the help of producer Ryan Adams, has turned her twangy Americana into melodic, easy-riding, Laurel Canyon soft-rock. The piece has allowed her literate lyricism to carry the throughline of her past work while unpacking the death of her estranged father and The Rilo Kiley break up.

The new So-Cal-centric sound seems appropriate for the former child actress who grew up in Los Angeles. It manages to recall the gorgeous, melodramatic emotional waves of Fleetwood Mac while hitting a little harder with her usual whip-smart songwriting. The confident, classic rock strut of "Just One of the Guys" might be a little too messy for Lindsay Buckingham, but strikes the perfect note of condscending insouciance, and too-cool-to-care kiss off:  "I'm not gonna break for you/ I'm not gonna pray for you / I'm not gonna pay for you / that's not what ladies do."

The catchy, 70s FM rocker "Head Underwater" breathlessly elaborates on Lewis' emotional breakdown without being too on the nose, while the lazy guitar crescendos and loping vocal melodies of "Slippery Slopes" seem perfectly sunbaked and frayed.

WithVoyager, Lewis wraps her trauma in the smoggy sunshine of Los Angeles, something that's both beautiful and deadly to live with. (400 Lincoln Ave, Milvale, Mr. Small's)

When Universes Collide: The Ultimate Superhero Smackdown at Toonseum

If you take a minute to evaluate the cultural swath of Pittsburgh’s art scene—namely the artists, galleries and exhibitions that call Pittsburgh home or visit from time to time—a couple things stand out. One, national recognition of the city’s art community continues unabated. Two, the different types of art exhibited and the niche galleries that house them only continue to grow and thrive.

For instance, similar to the specificity of the installation-art only Matress Factory, or the blown glass wonders of the Pittsburgh Glass Center, Downtown mainstay Toonseum celebrates the comic and cartoon arts, focusing on popular illustration in all its forms. Since 2007, Toonseum has added a particularly unique aesthetic to Pittsburgh’s constellation of galleries, elevating supposed low-art, like, say, the visages of comic book superheroes, to pieces worthy of exhibition, criticism, and celebration.

With superheroes in mind, this Thursday, Toonseum opens a new exhibition titled When Universes Collide: The Ultimate Superhero Smackdown, featuring original art work from comic book legends including Jim Steranko, Jack Kirby, Adam Hughes and Darwyn Cooke. The exhibit aims to spark debate and answer that classic comic book store question about which costumed heroes would win battles against their own kind.

During each of the six weeks of the exhibtion’s run, attendees will be able to vote for their favorite heroes on their smartphones, and on Toonseum’s Facebook page, with the winners announced weekly. Toonseum also worked with local artist Shawn Atkins to produce a limited run of prints depicting superhero matchups with only 50 sets of five prints available for purchase.

An opening reception will occur Thursday, July 24, at 7PM with the exhibit running through September 29. Tickets for the opening party are available now at Toonseum’s website. (945 Liberty Avenue, Downtown, Toonseum)

The Kelly Strayhorn Theater presents Gabrielle Revlock and Nicole Bindler's “I made this for you”

As a performance space, East Liberty’s Kelly Strayhorn Theater has become a bit of an island since The Shadow Lounge closed its doors in the spring of 2013, and VIA’s 6119 space closed just a few months later. Both venues were victims of the growing tides of rising rent and gentrification. But that hasn’t stopped Kelly Strayhorn, the lone arts space in the small Penn Avenue business district, from generating a rich, eclectic slate of quality programming. The past two months alone have seen KST host a David Mamet play, a dance performance celebrating the life of white abolitionist John Brown, and a concert from a classical music quartet that takes more cues from rock shows than Mozart.

Opening this week is yet another piece of provocative, socially relevant art as choreographers Gabrielle Revlock and Nicole Bindler unleash their modern, multidisciplinary dance performance I made this for you, a feminist leaning piece that seeks to explore the competitive nature that seems to thrive within the performing arts.

Also, Revolock and Binlder have sought out local performers to engage the community in the production of the show. According to their press materials, they are looking for folks with experience in disciplines like—okay, deep breath: “African dance, hip hop, tap, classical indian, tango, burlesque, and break dancing,” as well as “trapeze, stilt walking, baton twirling, juggling, roller derby, body building, and acrobatics.”

The performance takes place on Fri., July 25 at 8PM, with a pay-what-you-can model for ticket purchase. (5941 Penn Avenue, East Liberty, The Kelly Strayhorn Theater)
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Society for Contemporary Craft

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