Monday, February 01, 2010

Real Pittsburgher Test #1: This is a not a rich person’s work of art

The other day I was reading a piece by Mike Madison at Pittsblog in which he critiqued the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s recent feature story on “iconic” Pittsburghers. Though Madison said a couple of local bloggers should’ve made the list (I disagree), I do agree with him that certain Pittsburghers shouldn’t have made the list.
Usually I think such lists are silly, about as meaningful as the “40 beautiful Pittsburghers under 40” and stupid popularity contest stuff like that. These contests, though, usually are dictated by the editors and writers at the publication listing the “beautiful,” or “up and coming” Pittsburghers. Ballots are not counted because there usually are none, and old favorites are shoe-ins for the list.
Madison seems to disagree with who gets to say who is truly Pittsburgh in his or her character, and he also seems to disagree with what constitutes Pittsburghness.
By the P-G’s “iconic” story measure, you need to have lived here decades and followed he minor and major figures in local politics to really “get” what is Pittsburgh, and to know these Pittsburgh “icons.” But I beg to differ, though I do know who Jeep DePasquale was and what Lynn Cullen did.
You need to know and understand the connection between the people and the places in Pittsburgh if you expect to be a true Pittsburgher, whether or not you live in the South Hills or other suburbs or in the city.
So Madison gave me a nice idea, without even knowing it. Why not run a regular Barnestormin feature mentioning tests you must complete to be a “real” Pittsburgher? After all, my opinion is as right (or as wrong) as the P-G’s or as Madison’s opinion, I believe.
So here’s your first test, wannabe hardcore Pittsburghers: Visit St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church in Millvale and behold the proletarian-inspired murals of Croatian socialist painter Maxo Vanka. I guarantee they will blow your mind and you will be a lot more proud about being a Pittsburgher after you see them. Then make a small donation if you can afford it, please.
You can read more about the murals in this piece I wrote for Pittsburgh Quarterly:
http://www.pittsburghquarterly.com/pages/library/2008spring/2008spring_082ofthewall.pdf
And here is one of several pieces I wrote on the murals for Barnestormin:
http://barnestormin.blogspot.com/2008/05/gift-to-america.html
I'm letting folks know about this as the first of several pieces in advance of the next production of "Gift To America," which will happen in May.
Please support this truly Pittsburgh treasure, created by an outcast for people who were new to this country and on its lowest rung and treated as grist in the mills, flattened to dust in the mines and killed on the battlefields. This is part of America's story, and it is a testament to some of the "true" Pittsburghers who came long before us and helped to pave the way to a better life for all Americans.
To learn more about the murals or to contribute, write to 151 Stonegate Drive, Leechburg, 15656; or call Diane Novosel at 724-845-2907. http://www.vankamurals.org/