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Squonk Opera's air-powered show highlights arts festival's second weekend

| Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 9:06 p.m.

Squonk Opera plans to pump some fresh air into the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival this weekend with its latest outdoor extravaganza, “Pneumatica.”

The world-premiere performance is just part of the second weekend of the 10-day festival. Music highlights include the Smithereens and Lucinda Williams. There are art exhibits in galleries throughout the Cultural District, along with some big public art installations to check out.

And don't forget to get the kids involved in hands-on activities at the Giant Eagle Creativity Zone in Point State Park.

Squonk Opera

The theme of Squonk's 30-minute show of sights and sounds is air, wind and breath, says Steve O'Hearn, who shares the Squonk artistic director title with Jackie Dempsey.

“We always set ourselves a new creative challenge. It seems very current to honor wind power because of global warming. It's a very current, important issue,” O'Hearn says. “But we don't preach. We just do funny things outdoors.”

Incorporating elements of street theater, pop-up art installation and solstice celebration responding to site, weather, audience and neighborhood, “Pneumatica “ embraces new materials and technologies with a wind-powered concert enlivened by shapes and objects that inflate, sway, sag, expand and contract.

Biomorphic shapes will grow, powered by blowers and vortex fans, a star costume will inflate like a blowfish, and head tubes will pulsate in concert with guitar and bass riffs.

The center attraction for “Pneumatica” is a 40-foot-tall big blue lady sporting a spinning wind turbine atop her head.

Live, original music is as essential to Squonk as visual puns and spectacle. Squonk will incorporate the swoops and eddies of air while employing traditional and imaginative musical instruments.

Look for O'Hearn on the electronic bagpipes and Dempsey on the lungcordion, a vertical accordion that plays like a piano, while Lady Pneumatica's lungs rise and fall as she breathes.

“Pneumatica” will be performed at 7 p.m. June 13; noon, 2:30 and 7 p.m. June 14; and noon and 2:30 p.m. June 15 on the Creativity Stage in Point State Park.

Details: www.squonkopera.org

— Alice T. Carter

The Smithereens

The Smithereens hit a groove when its album, “Especially for You,” was released in 1986. “Behind the Wall of Sleep” and “Blood and Roses” were lean, hummable songs that sounded great on the radio or MTV. It didn't matter that the New Jersey-based band wasn't as photogenic as other Garden State icons such as Jon Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen; they looked like four ordinary guys who practiced every day in a garage and found some level of musical magic.

Almost 30 years later, nothing has changed. The Smithereens will perform at 7:30 p.m. June 12 on the Dollar Bank Stage in Point State Park. Pittsburgh's own Meeting of Important People opens at 6:30 p.m.

Curtis Harding

A little bit of diversity, sonic or otherwise, is probably overdue for the Arts Festival — though more Curtis Harding is probably good in any context. The Atlanta-based soul singer and guitarist is a throwback to the sounds of the late '60s and early '70s, with touches of funk, gospel and blues, delivered with a live-band sound devoid of studio trickery. He's not entirely immune to current influences — he's collaborated with fellow Atlantans Cee-Lo Green and garage-punkers The Black Lips.

Curtis Harding performs at 7:30 p.m. June 13 on the Dollar Bank Stage. Pittsburgh rock ‘n' roll band Coronado opens at 6:30 p.m.

Lucinda Williams

It seems like she's playing a free show outdoors in Pittsburgh every summer, but who's going to complain about seeing Lucinda Williams again? The Louisiana-born singer-songwriter has penned more great songs than can be found in entire Nashville ZIP codes, though often for others to sing. Her road-weary voice may not translate to a lot of mainstream country success, but her passionate following among folkies and roots-music fans keeps her schedule busy.

Lucinda Williams performs at 7:30 p.m. June 14 on the Dollar Bank Stage. Outlaw-country group the Kenneth Brian Band opens at 6 p.m.

Jake Bugg

Rare is the rock musician who emerges fully formed with a sound of his or her own. But that's just what Jake Bugg has done. The 20-year-old Brit has drawn attention for looking like the musicians who spearheaded the British Invasion 50 years ago. But that mop-topped look is deceiving. Bugg's music has a visceral leanness with edgy acoustic guitar and slacker vocals, the epitome of The Who's maxim, “The Kid's Are All Right.”

He performs at 7:30 p.m. June 15 on the Dollar Bank Stage to close out the musical portion of Three Rivers Arts Festival. Trixie Whitley, the Belgian-born lead singer of Black Dub, opens at 6 p.m.

Alba Flamenca

A special flavor of Spanish culture comes to the festival on July 17, when Alba Flamenca will give two performances combining flamenco dance, guitar and song.

Its performance style has been described by threeweeks.co.uk, a guide to a cultural festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, as “A little slice of sizzling Spain that bristles with authenticity and visceral power, delivered with fiery conviction and breathless passion.”

The group is devoted to making flamenco accessible to all and offers an extensive range of dance and music classes at home in Scotland.

Performances start at 2 and 5 p.m. June 14 at Peirce Studio, 805 Liberty Ave., Downtown.

IQ Kids Radio

WQED and iQ Kids Radio are hosting a variety of events geared toward kids from noon to 5:45 p.m. June 14 and 15 at the festival's Giant Eagle Creativity Zone. All activities take place both days. Highlights include:

• Pittsburgh Puppet Works will be putting on a puppet play inspired by winning entries from the WQED “Write on Kids” contest, with authors ranging from kindergarten to third grade. The goofy stories include fart jokes with a gassy walrus, spacy tomatoes, flying pizza pies and more. The zany 45-minute show happens at noon in the Giant Eagle Creativity Zone.

• Move, shake, dance and sing with Alastair Moock, who was nominated this year for the best children's album Grammy for “Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World's Bravest Kids.” He'll perform from 2 to 2:45 p.m. and then stay for a meet and greet.

• Surf's Up for the iQ Kids Radio Sand and Surf Dance Party at 4 p.m.

CREATIVE ACTIVITIES

There will be plenty going on at the Giant Eagle Creativity Zone in Point State Park this weekend. The participatory activities go on from noon to 7 p.m. June 14 and 15.

My Tree of Life: Originating in Mexico, the Tree of Life has been used for generations to visually represent families and their personal journeys. Inspired by this traditional craft, Gateway to the Arts teaching artist Veronica Lopez works with participants at their own pace to create a family tree that tells their unique story, using a variety of special papers and techniques.

Color Me Pittsburgh: Conceived by Include: Pittsburgh coordinators Lisa Brown and Anu Jain, the piece invites participants to collectively create a visual reflection of the “color” of Pittsburgh. Participants will mark their home neighborhoods with distinct stickers on an oversized free-standing map of Pittsburgh, designed by local artist and high-school student Senque Little-Poole. On the back of the map, participants will describe their neighborhoods, answering questions such as “What do you like most about your neighborhood?” Finally, participants will be encouraged to take “selfie” photographs and share them on social media using the hashtag #colorMEpgh. The selfies will be digitally displayed by the organizers, then printed and affixed to the map to document racial diversity in the city and what residents think it means to live in a particular place.

Planting the Seeds of Change: MGR Youth Empowerment will be doing relief printing. This printing makes use of readily available Styrofoam meat and vegetable trays, recycling them by sketching an image or message onto the tray and then using paint and paper to cover the Styrofoam and make it a print. Guests will be able to make a print of a “seeds of change” template to take with them.

Create Lab's Lemonade Project: Sponsored by the Sprout Fund, it's mission is to enlighten and empower youth through the tools of science and art.

The South Fayette Township School District will help children learn about plants and gardening through a fact-finding scavenger hunt as they move from station to station using mobile devices to scan codes and gather fun facts about plants.

— JoAnne Klimovich Harrop

Three Rivers Arts Festival

When: Through June 15; Artist Market open from noon to 8 p.m. daily

Admission: Free

Where: Downtown Cultural District, Point State Park and Gateway Center Plaza

Details: www.3riversartsfest.org

June 12

Noon-1 p.m.: Wreck Loose, Dollar Bank Stage

5-6 p.m.: Noble Hunter, Second Stage at Gateway Center

6-6:15 p.m.: Complaints n'at Choir, Market Square

6:30-7:15 p.m.: Meeting of Important People, Dollar Bank Stage

6:30-7:50 p.m.: “Sign Painters,” Harris Theater

7:30-9 p.m.: The Smithereens, Dollar Bank Stage

June 13

Noon-1 p.m.: Kaleigh Leith, Dollar Bank Stage

4-4:45 p.m.: Yemaya Pittsburgh, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

5-5:45 p.m.: Hope Academy Teen Theater Company, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

5-6 p.m.: Bridgette Perdue, Second Stage at Gateway Center

6-6:15 p.m.: Complaints n'at Choir, Dollar Bank Stage

6:30-7:15 p.m.: Coronado, Dollar Bank Stage

7-7:30 p.m.: Squonk Opera's “Pneumatica,” Point State Park

7-8:30 p.m.: “Antonio Gaudi,” Harris Theater

7:30-9 p.m.: Curtis Harding, Dollar Bank Stage

8-9:30 p.m.: “Cutie and the Boxer,” Harris Theater

June 14

Noon-12:30 p.m.: Squonk Opera's “Pneumatica,” Point State Park

Noon-12:45 p.m.: WQED'S Pittsburgh Puppet Works, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

1-1:45 p.m.: WQED's Musical Kids, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

1-2 p.m.: Squirrel Hillbillies, Second Stage at Gateway Center

2 p.m.: Alba Flamenca, Trust Arts Education Center

2-2:45 p.m.: Alastair Moock: A Concert for Families, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

2:30-3 p.m.: Squonk Opera's “Pneumatica,” Point State Park

3-3:45 p.m.: Alastair Moock: Meet and Greet, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

3-4 p.m.: Nameless in August, Second Stage at Gateway Center

3-5 p.m.: “Open City of Amereida,” Harris Theater

4-4:45 p.m.: iQ Kids Radio Sand and Surf Dance Party, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

4-5:20 p.m.: “Margo Lovelace and the Magic of Puppetry / Thaddeus Mosley: Sculptor,” Harris Theater

5 p.m.: Alba Flamenca, Trust Arts Education Center

5-5:45 p.m.: PMT's Extreme Teen Broadway presented by iQ Kids Radio, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

5-6 p.m.: Joel Lindsey Trio, Second Stage at Gateway Center

5:30-7 p.m.: “In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life With Saul Leiter,” Harris Theater

6-6:15 p.m.: Complaints n'at Choir, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

6-7 p.m.: The Kenneth Brian Band, Dollar Bank Stage

7-7:30 p.m.: Squonk Opera's “Pneumatica,” Point State Park

7:30-9 p.m.: Lucinda Williams, Dollar Bank Stage

7:30-9:15 p.m.: “Indie Game: The Movie,” Harris Theater

8:30-10:45 p.m.: “Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation,” Harris Theater

June 15

Noon-12:30 p.m.: Squonk Opera's “Pneumatica,” Point State Park

Noon-12:45 p.m.: WQED'S Pittsburgh Puppet Works, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

1-1:45 p.m.: WQED's Musical Kids, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

1-2:30 p.m.: River City Brass, Dollar Bank Stage

1-4 p.m.: Pride Week Short Films, Harris Theater

1-5 p.m.: AcoustiCafe, Second Stage at Gateway Center

2 p.m.: Reed Dance, Trust Arts Education Center

2-2:45 p.m.: Alastair Moock: A Concert for Families, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

2:30-3 p.m.: Squonk's “Pneumatica,” Point State Park

3-3:45 p.m.: Alastair Moock: Meet and Greet, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

4-4:45 p.m.: iQ Kids Radio Sand and Surf Dance Party, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

5 p.m.: Reed Dance, Trust Arts Education Center

5-5:45 p.m.: PMT's Extreme Teen Broadway presented by iQ Kids Radio, Giant Eagle Creativity Zone

6-6:15 p.m.: Complaints n'at Choir, Point State Park

6-7 p.m.: Trixie Whitley, Dollar Bank Stage

7-7:30 p.m.: Squonk Opera's “Pneumatica,” Point State Park

7:30-9 p.m.: Jake Bugg, Dollar Bank Stage

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