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January 8, 2016
The murals in the United States Post Office and Courthouse on Grant Street are pretty hard to get to. There’s security, now, unlike when the Department of Treasury’s Section of Painting and Sculpture commissioned the three works in 1934. Two of the octogenerian paintings survive on the 8 th floor; one disappeared. That’s the thing about murals, said Sylvia Rhor, associate professor of art history at Carlow University. They’re large, but they’re not immune to time’s vagaries. They can go missing,
January 1, 2016
At the Carpenter’s Training Center just outside the City of Pittsburgh on the Parkway West, a class of nine learns how to build a level floor. Forty years ago, getting into the center’s apprenticeship program would have been a feat for a person of color or a woman. “Those days were, you know, the status quo,” said Harold McDonald, a representative for the Keystone+Mountain+Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters. In the 1960s, just two percent of the skilled trades and craft unions’ members were
December 28, 2015
From one of the file folders arrayed on her kitchen table, retired Spanish professor María de los Ángeles Stiteler pulls out a lyrics sheet.
December 18, 2015
“There’s Florence and London and Paris and Prague and Brussels.” Lina Insana, chair of the department of French and Italian at the University of Pittsburgh, points to a spread from the Kaufmann's department store’s in-house magazine, Storagram, which proclaims the 30th anniversary of the “Foreign Office.” “They used these foreign offices as proof of the quality of their merchandise—how up to date that merchandise was, how up to the minute the styles were,” Insana said. At the time, many
December 11, 2015
Walking down Penn Avenue in Garfield, people likely don’t see Jason Forck through the window two stories up as he balances a near-molten glass tumbler at the end of a steel rod.
December 4, 2015
The main building on Carrie Furnace’s 80-acre site in Braddock looks like a giant has just scattered its playthings and stomped off, not too far away, to eat a few goats. Inside the blowing engine house a 48-inch universal plate mill lies in 40- and 50-ton pieces on the concrete floor. A sign hanging at the south end lists the safety guidelines (“6. Be aware of crane movements”). Bill Sharkey sits on a few benches meant for visitors. Sharkey isn’t a visitor, really. He worked as a foreman at
November 27, 2015
A black and yellow helmet sits on the floor of Janet Hoover’s kitchen. It’s perched on top of a pair of boots and an old miner’s lamp. The helmet label reads, “Fasloc : Keeps the Roof Over Your Head.”
November 20, 2015
Don Zeiler stands on a wall in the middle of the Monongahela River. In work boots and a bright orange jacket, the lockmaster at Braddock Locks & Dam is dressed for dance. “When you’re dancing with your partner you take a step, they need to know where to go: when I’m doing this, then you do that, then I’ll do this, then you do that. So that’s basically what locking is,” he explained. Rivers are finicky. They twist, they turn, and their water levels vary, so “locking” (not to be confused with
November 13, 2015
The love Steelers fans have for their team is the stuff of legend: hordes of faithful waving Terrible Towels, wearing logo-emblazoned pajama pants, cheering in one of the nation’s more than 700 Steelers bars. So I figured the best way to learn the back-story of the logo was to go right to the source: Heinz Field, on a Sunday, an hour before kickoff.
November 6, 2015
Anchored at the corner of Fifth Avenue and McKee Place in Oakland, Hieber’s Pharmacy sports a glass block window that reads, “We Create Medicine For Your Family.” Inside, white cabinets hold powdered chemicals and a rainbow assortment of empty capsules waiting to be filled. Hieber's is a compounding pharmacy.
October 30, 2015
It would be easy to breeze past the mountain goats on their sliver of vertical cliff in the Hall of North American Wildlife or to step around the black rhino milling about in the hallway. But these are not just any animals: they’re animals remade by humans.
October 23, 2015
It’s hard to miss the four brick stacks of the Liberty Tunnel Fan House towering over the houses on Secane Avenue in Mount Washington. “There are two exhaust shafts,” said Bill Lester, Assistant Director of Construction for PennDOT’s District 11, pointing them out. “And there are two intake shafts where we draw fresh air in from up here. We push it down into the tunnel and then we turn around and we drag the bad air back out.” The fan house is the beating heart of the Liberty Tunnel: that
October 16, 2015
Let’s get this out of the way: The stuff you put in the recycling bin does get recycled. “Yes, we do. We recycle. That’s the name of the game,” said Robert Johns, plant manager of a single-stream material recovery facility, MRF , owned by Waste Management. From the main office on the site’s eight-acre campus on Neville Island, located in the middle of the Ohio River, Johns sits surrounded by posters about what can and can’t be recycled, bright yellow safety belts and hard hats. The MRF hosts
October 9, 2015
Georgie Kovacosky leaned on the fence surrounding a sunny enclosure on her 230-acre farm in New Bethlehem, about 60 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
October 2, 2015
It was October 1916. The Brooklyn Robins, later the Dodgers, played the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, making it possible to forget, for a little while, that summer was over and Europe was at war. Pittsburgh newspapers posted the scores in their office windows and so many people crowded the streets to keep tabs that City Council supposedly passed an ordinance prohibiting the papers from doing so. “The suffragettes saw this as an opportunity. They went to a gentleman who owned an arcade
September 25, 2015
Michael Joyce started working at Homewood Cemetery in 1978, cutting grass. “I live real close to here so it was just a summer job,” said Joyce, now the tie-wearing superintendent of the more than 200-acre spread. He’s responsible for everything that happens outside.
September 11, 2015
After a long day of moving goats around the city, Doug Placais stood – sweaty, covered in dirt – a mile from Downtown Pittsburgh at Arlington Acres, the one-tenth of an acre urban farm he owns and operates with Carrie Pavlik . “Well, UPS is funny because, you know, they ask you what’s in there. So the first time I said, ‘goat blood,’ and he actually didn’t blink, to his credit. I don’t know how he held a straight face.”
September 4, 2015
Richard Williams glances at the request sheet from behind a chest-high counter and gives the book in front of him a quarter turn. With a pair of pliers, he latches onto a metal wire and pulls, flopping open its spine stacked high with crinkly, worn pages. “What I find fascinating, especially in these handwritten ones, is the lack of errors,” Williams said. He regards the long page covered in careful, legible script as he steps toward the copier, deed in hand.
August 28, 2015
Stephanie Wellons sings as easily as most people talk. As though it were a parenthetical statement, Wellons changes from speech to song, climbing the first hill of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
August 21, 2015
More than 3,000 bikes line the floors and walls at Bicycle Heaven in Chateau. Just inside the entrance hangs a bike made entirely of wood. “It’s called a boneshaker bicycle,” said owner Craig Morrow. Past the gleaming Schwinns and Raleighs and the spot usually home to Pee-wee Herman’s iconic ride (it’s being repaired right now), Morrow points out two bikes from the turn of the 19 th century, both with “lights” suspended from the cross bars.
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