Third Annual Bad Art Sale

There are a lot of talented artists in Pittsburgh.  When I worked at CMU people would strategically watch the dumpster outside the College of Fine Arts and unabashedly dumpster dive when the students threw out their unwanted masterpieces.  This was mainly due to sheer volume and space issues.  Those art students produced a lot of work and a dorm room can only hold so much.  Plus, those large canvasses are not that easy to haul around.  I’m sure that someone has an early Andy Warhol or Burton Morris treasure squirreled away from this sought after quest.  I was never able to time it right to find anything since the artwork disappeared within minutes and I don’t doubt that people staked out spots in sleeping bags to get to the best pieces first.


The main thing is that art is subjective.  A student’s rejected failure may be the best piece of art you’ve ever seen.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure literally.  I think that is the reason that the annual Shaw Gallery  bad art sale has become such a wildly popular event.  It will take place on Friday, January 24 and Saturday, January 25 from from 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.  These are pieces that gallery owner Kurt Shaw has secretly procured and hidden away over the past eleven years.  He is adding to the booty this year by including used art books, art supplies, mats and frames.  I think he may be a bit of an obsessive compulsive buyer.  You can find him and his bounty at 805 Liberty Avenue in the heart of the cultural district.  In fact, there is a gallery crawl this weekend where you can check out lots of great places in this artistically restored downtown section.

So warm up with a bottle of wine and gaze at the new painting of the Côte d’Azur you just picked up for a steal at the bad art sale.  Build a fire and bundle up.  Great art soothes the soul.


Pittsburgh’s Best Kept Secret

The Cathedral of Learning is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and sits in the center of the University of Pittsburgh’s main campus.   This Late Gothic Revival Structure stands  535 feet with 42 stories making it the second tallest university building  in the world.  It is also the second tallest gothic-styled building in the world.  It was commissioned in 1921 and ground was broken in 1926.

A 42-story Gothic Revival skyscraper

It functions as a primary classroom and administrative center of the university but is also home to the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.  There are also many specialty spaces including a studio theater, food court, study lounges, offices, computer and language labs.  The entrance contains a cavernous half acre four-story vaulted Gothic study and event hall. Throughout the building are noted examples of stained glass, stone, wood, and iron work and is often used by the University in photographs, postcards, and other advertisements.

But one of the best kept secrets in Pittsburgh are the 29 Nationality Rooms that embody the architecture and artifacts of the different nationalities that settled here.  The first four rooms reflect the Russian, German, Swedish and Scottish heritages. The amazing aspect of the project is that each ethnic group was asked to raise the funds to complete the room. Some cost as much as $300,000 but recent additions have upped the price to $500,000.

The rooms are used as classrooms but can be toured for $3.00 per person. The period depicted in each of the rooms including cultural artifacts and architectural design elements must be prior to 1787 – the year the US Constitution was adopted. The variety of styles and ingenious design concepts displayed are truly amazing. The Polish Room is themed to the Polish Renaissance and Wawel Castle during Poland’s Golden Agew during the reign of King Sigismund the First. What makes the tour even better is the fact that visitors can also take the elevator to the top floor of the towering building and take in a panoramic view of the city.  This site is a Pittsburgh “must-see.”

Teavana Nirvana

I try to avoid the mall at all costs but am sometimes forced to go there.  A couple of years ago I wandered into an enticing tea store that had mysteriously materialized between the polyester palaces pushing over priced poorly constructed clothes.  They like to plant two employees outside their door handing out samples of a new fresh brewed blend.  Normally I am too rushed to stop and smell the hibiscus but one day my daughter asked to go in.  And what a transforming day it was.  The tea is pricey but quite unlike anything I’ve ever tried.

Teavana Retail Tea Store

I became a convert to high quality loose tea years ago but have probably never brewed a perfect cup of tea.  This shop takes the whole process to a new art and are quite obsessive about getting it right.  The wall behind the counter is lined with huge tins of exotic blends that contain large pieces of dried fruit, herbs, etc.  Just ask and the lid will be lifted from any tin you choose.  An intoxicating aroma will hit you with such force that you can start to justify the cost of pure ingredients like Madagascar vanilla and wild orange blossoms.  It took my super observant daughter to point out that you can buy a fresh brewed cup of any tea offered before committing to a larger purchase.

Featured Item: Maharaja Chai/Samurai Chai Tea BlendYouthberry Wild Orange Blossom Tea BlendStrawberry Rose Champagne/Peach Tranquility Tea BlendJavaVana Mate TeaMatéVana Herbal Tea

So far my absolute favorite is the Cranberry Singapore Sling but I really like the Monkey Picked Oolong too.  You soon develop a discerning palate and steer away from choices that aren’t right for you.  The flavor is so strong that you will know instantly.  I could not wait to try the Cocoa Caramel Sea Salt but it just ended up being too sweet and heady for me.  There are plenty to choose from so have fun taste testing.  They are broken down into categories of white, green, oolong, black, herbal and mate.

Once a year they have a 75% off sale and that time is now!  The store gets absolutely ravished withing mere days because the secret must be out.  I have only been to the Monroeville Mall location but there is a store in Ross Park Mall and South Hills Village.  You can also check out the sale online but the choices are limited.

Take a voyage into the sea of serenity with this wonderful transforming beverage.  It can work wonders toward helping you reach a relaxed and calm state.  Just what you need after an intense shopping spree.  I don’t leave the mall without a hot cup of an intoxicating brew to usher me toward the path of tranquility.

Aviary Canaries and Bats Oh My!

Canaries have played a large part in our coal mining heritage and are now being recognized by the National Aviary.  Their unique exhibit called Canary’s Call is a new venture that involves museum-style storytelling.  It features interpretive displays to enhance the stories that the birds are telling.  Canaries have been telling us about our natural world since they were first used in coal mines to detect toxic fumes.  This exhibit brings those stories to life.

It not only shows how our winged friends affect our world but also illustrates how humans have negatively impacted their world with population, pollution, habitat loss, invasive species and over consumption.  But it is not just for the birds.  This exhibit includes the amazing flying mammals known as Malayan Flying Foxes. They are giant fruit bats from Asia that are part of the mega-bat family and can reach up to 16  inches long with  six-foot wingspans.  These are the largest bats in the world and really fascinating creatures.  The aviary is known for realistic interaction so I will surprise with this one.  You just have to visit!

It is only fitting to present a such an unusual attraction to mark the 20th Anniversary of the National Aviary.  They have been doing it well for over two decades and pulled out all the stops with this exhibit.  It  also features a larger than life canary cage, a custom built tree for the bat exhibit and two touchscreen kiosks with interactive games.  The piece de resistance are the transformational back-lit LED panels that complement the live exhibits.

This is the nations largest aviary and the only independent nonprofit one.  We have a bountiful bevy of philanthropists in this city that really spoil us with such wonderful venues.  Just another shining example of why Pittsburgh is such a great place to live.

A Magical World of Glass, Light and Bloom

It looks like something out of a fairytale and will instantly transport you to an ethereal state of surreal calm.  Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has done it again.  I thought the Chihuly exhibit would be tough to beat but this is an excellent equivalent.  When you put glass and light together it has an astounding effect.  Add the back drop of a distant city skyline and it becomes astoundingly breathtaking.  Get prepared to transition to another world when you visit the Winter Light Garden and Flower Show.  You will even forget how cold it is when you gaze on this feast for the eyes.   It runs through this Sunday – January 12 and the hours are 9:30 am – 11:00 pm.  Metered parking along Schenley Drive in front of the Conservatory is free after 6 p.m. and all day on Sunday.

In 1893 Phipps Conservatory was built by Henry Phipps as a gift to the city.  He would be very proud of the current exhibit and I have a feeling he is gazing down from above.  You can definitely feel his presence in the botanical nirvana he created.

Photo: It was magical! Glad I am a member.

Add a little night music to the enchanting displays and you will be in a zen like trance that you can carry with you throughout the year.  You definitely want to include as many magical moments in 2014 as possible.  Take a night to relax and stroll through The Conservatory’s west wing to see  glass mushrooms, ferns, bromeliads and tillandsia illuminated from within as a breathtaking network of constellations transforms the ceiling overhead with twinkling stars against a soft aurora borealis-like glow.  Step outside and you will be dazzled by glowing orbs, dripping snowballs, luminous trees and a brilliant fountain of light as you follow meandering pathways through a winter wonderland.

            Photo: Great night to enjoy the wonderful displays at Phipps.

Be sure to take advantage of this sought after attraction right in your own backyard.  The TripAdvisor rates it as a must see in Pittsburgh and you can go anytime you want.  Just one more great reason to call our great city home.

Photo: A FB ready cover photo for anyone that would like to use.  Courtesy  of Mattucci Photography and Graphics.

Pennyslvania Farm Show

Pennsylvania is a state full of surprises and just happens to be the host  of the largest indoor agricultural exposition in the country.  They offer up a whopping 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibits.  It runs January 4th through 11th and is well worth the trip to Harrisburg for this annual event.  They have a website that details events, directions and places to stay.  People travel the world over just to see the famous butter sculpture.  It has a different theme every year and have focused on the dairy industry with their current milkshake exhibit.  It is made from nearly 1000 pounds of high grade butter and commemorates 60 years of milkshakes at the show.  The sculpture by Jim Victor takes its cue from the song Shake, Rattle and Roll and features a family enjoying a delicious milkshake while watching a cow couple dance.

The famous milkshakes have a faithful following at the show and represent the state’s 7,200 dairy farm families who grow Pennsylvania by driving the economy, creating jobs and supplying quality products to consumers.

They serve 140,000 of vanilla, chocolate and mixed milkshakes each year in the show’s famous Food Court and Food Court Annex.  They also serve farm fresh baked potatoes, potato donuts, and baked sweet potatoes.  The Bee Keepers Association supplies honey ice cream, honey waffles and bottles of fresh honey.  The Livestock Association serves up pork barbeque sandwiches, roast beef sandwiches, lamb stew, ham and cheese sandwiches, beef meatball sandwiches, beef sausage, Jumbo beef/pork hot dogs, Italian sausage, steak salad, ham salad, horseradish and pink lemonade.  The SHAP booth is committed to raising money for the apple and fruit tree industry and one of their major benefactors is the fruit research lab in Biglerville. They sell apple cider, fresh apples, apple dumplings with ice cream, apple butter, cider floats, caramel apples on a stick, dried apple snacks, cider slushies and apple or peach sundaes. There are over a dozen official associations serving the widest array of fresh food you are likely to find in one place for a long time.

While the food alone is reason enough to go, there are plenty of other attractions to entertain and intrigue.  Where else will you find twelve year old girls roping cattle, cooking demonstrations and Christmas tree exhibits all within easy reach of each other.  I promise you will see the largest pies and livestock you ever imagined and wonders you will talk about for ages.  There is even a fashion show.  Just think back to Home Economics 101.

               Apple Pie- Kim 339.jpg               Bred Gilt Show            Horses

There is an educational series called Farm Show Quests that teach about agriculture in a fun and engaging way.  It makes for a great family outing that is more wholesome than Disney.  Don’t even get me started on that one.   But we are lucky to have this grand event so close to home and it is something sure to surpass your wildest expectations.

Free Kid Events at Frick

The Frick Art and Historical Center is definitely one of the hidden gems of Pittsburgh.  It is tucked away on Penn Avenue with a reverent air of old world class and charm.  I am always surprised by the number of people who live in Pittsburgh and have never been to this gracious old home with such an historical past.  When I first moved to Pittsburgh Helen Clay Frick was still living in the mansion where she spent her childhood.  She decided to return to her birthplace in 1981 after living for many years in New York.  Her family had relocated there in 1905 but she always considered our city home and was excited to return.

Her long-time wish was for her home and the surrounding estate to be preserved and opened to the public.  The mansion is known as Clayton from Henry Clay Frick’s maternal side of the family. Helen had The Frick Art Museum constructed in 1970 to allow the public to enjoy  her art collection.  You can tour the art museum for free with the price of  a mansion tour which runs $12.00 for adults and $6.00 for children.  However, the Car and Carriage Museum is always open for free.  It is one of my favorite places on the estate and includes Henry Clay Frick’s 1914 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost touring car and Howard Heinz’s 1898 Panhard (reputed to be the first car in Pittsburgh).


Check the schedule for free  kids programs on the first Saturday of the month that are focused on art and history.  On January 4th you can check out the galleries for cool colors and shifty shapes.  You can then put your good ideas to work and make a calendar to help you keep track of 2014 for free.  They also have great films for free at The Frick Art Museum.  Check on The Red Badge of Courage on Friday, January 10 at 12:00 p.m.

If you can’t make it this weekend, be sure and check out one of the following.  There is no better way to spend time with the family and learn something in the process.  It is a worthy endeavor that will ensure lasting memories.

GreenKids: It’s For the Birds

Saturday, February 1

11:00–11:45 a.m.

Meet at Lexington Education Center

Even in the coldest weather, the Frick’s trees are home to birds.  Come learn about birds in winter, and make a feeder to take home for the feathery friends in your own backyard.

Free, drop-in program.

Art Kids: Mad about Mardi Gras

Saturday, March 1


Meet at the Frick Art Museum.

Liven up your Saturday morning with a festive Mardi Gras celebration.  The gallery’s fanciful shapes and vibrant colors serve as inspiration for cool and creative mask making.  The real fun begins with a spirited parade around the museum. Free, drop in program.

March Madness at the Frick for Families!

No, not basketball—it’s just the chance to get out of the house and try something new as winter turns into spring.

ArtKids: Mad about Mardi Gras

Saturday March 1


Meet at the Frick Art Museum. Free.

Family Fun Day: American Adventure

Saturday, March 15
11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.

The Frick Art Museum. Free.

Family Kite Workshop: Make It! Fly It!

Saturday, March 29

10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Ages 7 and up with an adult. Free.

CarKids: Merrily We Roll Along

Saturday, April 5

11:00–11:45 a.m.  Meet at the Car and Carriage Museum.

See what road trips in the 1890’s were like compared to family travel today as we check out the Frick family carriages and cars.  Make a travel game to take on your next journey.

Free, drop-in program.

There is no end of fun to be had in Pittsburgh.  Brave the cold and seek forth on an adventure.


Best of the Burgh 2013

It has been quite a year from a giant duck floating down the river to the Cake Boss passing out free creations downtown.  I would call it a foodie year in general with the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmerman coming to town within months of each other.  Not to mention the Barefoot Contessa making a stage appearance at the Benedum.  I dare say we are getting quite the reputation as a bustling destination for culinary pleasures.

This is the year Legume made the move from Regent Square to North Oakland.  I know this made all the intellectuals happy who are now within walking distance of this sought after restaurant.  However, a surprise to all is that their bar Butterjoint seems to have surpassed them in popularity.  It is less formal and more economical.  They serve Western PA beef burgers ground daily along with homemade pierogies, cheese and lots of pickles  from 4:30 p.m. until midnight.  It has become a place to see and be seen along with a star sighting or two. You can join the fun 214 N Craig St, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 (412) 621-2700.

Images of Butterjoint

The hottest new drink in town has to be the Smoke Stack at Industry Public House in Lawrenceville.  Bartenders give a nod to the Steel City’s working-class past with this heated bourbon drink made by placing flavored wood chips (try the apple-flavored) atop mesh covering the rim of the glass.   They then hit it with a blowtorch to heat the chips and you’re left with a smokin’ cocktail.

For a hands on approach to unique drinks check out Copper Kettle Brewing Company.  It is the microbrewery arm of Hough’s Taproom and Brewpub in Greenfield.  They walk you through the brewing process step by step from selecting a flavor to measuring grains to pouring your concoction into giant kettles.  You are in charge  working under expert guidance.   You can find them at 557 Greenfield Ave., Greenfield; 412/906-9400,

Beechview is in the spotlight again with their fusion gem called Casa Rasta which offers a Mexican-Caribbean fare complete with Jamaican jerk-chicken and chorizo burritos.  Chef Antonio Fraga is a native of Mexico City and prepares perfectly seasoned comestibles that will not break the budget.  Check it out at 2102 Broadway Ave., Beechview; 412/223-6106,

This became the year of the food truck in Pittsburgh and portable food has never been so posh.  Franktuary’s food truck offers up grass fed local hotdogs alongside vegetarian franks.  provide are staples.  Oh My Grill features natural cheese sandwiches complete with homemade dipping sauce and Saucy Mammas offers up homemade Italian cuisine.   It gives the definition of road food a whole new meaning.  They each have their own webpages and Twitter feeds but you can track them all down at

Wild Purveyors appeared on the scene in Lawrenceville to add to the impressive mix of unique storefronts.  They sell locally sourced wild edibles and organic produce.  This blended family business is run by Tom and Cavan Patterson along with stepbrother Clark.  They are genuinely nice guys with a passion for all things local and gained national attention when Andrew Zimnern paid them a visit this year.  You can catch a re-run on the Travel Channel of the Pittsburgh based episode of Bizarre Foods. 5308 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/206-WILD,

                                                     ANDREW                                                                           Storefront window with Cavan and Tom

If you want to try something new this year, check out Fukuda’s sushi-rolling class in Bloomfield.  Executive chef/co-owner Matt Kemp guides groups of 10 through the ins and outs of sushi while offering a little history along the way.  You get to use authentic tools and a Best Sushi winner is crowned in every session. 4770 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; 412/377-0916,

The list could go on but I am already over my word count and have two parties to attend.  I hope this socializing trend continues throughout 2014.