Forward Thinking: Sewickley's cultural venues have big plans for next year

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The coming year in Sewickley could bring with it an even more culturally enriched region, including more live theater, film events, art exhibits and classes.

Village Theater Company

Vice President Susan Kaminski said negotiations are ongoing with Sewickley officials over the nonprofit, multiscreen theater the group plans to build on a borough-owned, vacant 11,000-square-foot lot on Walnut Street, across from Safran's Supermarket.

Although she admits it's somewhat of an ambitious goal, she said the group hopes to have most of the construction done by the end of 2014.

“But, we don't want to wait until the theater is done before we start having events,” she said.

Throughout the year, the group plans to sponsor film-related events at other locations, such as the Sewickley Valley YMCA, and work with groups such as Robert Morris University, local schools, the Sweetwater Center for the Arts, and Pittsburgh Filmmakers to plan other events.

Once the theater is built, it will be available for conferences, lectures and fundraisers, and for local and national film festivals. It will offer first-run American independent films, foreign films, classic films, live streaming of events, children's programming and second-run films at a discounted price after their widespread release.

Kaminski said the group is modeling its goals after activities offered by Bryn Mawr Film Institute. The group not only wants to show films but have other educational activities.

So far, $1.3 million has been pledged or already donated, and it always has been a goal to start construction when $1.5 million has been raised. Although Kaminski said it is hard to tell how much more will be needed without construction bids, the last architect's estimate was $2.2 million. Kaminski said the group wants to add a “buffer” to that amount and attempt to raise $2.5 million.

Once the theater is open, Kaminski said, the group will continue to do some fundraising and perhaps search for a grant to support more activities.

For more information, visit

Sewickley Area Theatre Company

President David Ford said plans for its inaugural season in 2014 include a small, cabaret-style production in the spring and full-length musicals in the summer and fall. Productions, dates, times and venues will be announced later.

Ford said the company has several locations in mind, including Sewickley Academy, Quaker Valley Middle School and Robert Morris University.

The company is looking for more volunteers to help, not only with funding, but with production, costumes, sets, publicity, stage management and house management.

Ford said the company intends to provide educational programs for children and adults and workshops and outreach opportunities as a way to give back to the community.

Members will be singing Christmas carols from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday at Wolcott Park as part of the Yuletide in the Village lineup.

To find out more about donating, auditions, updates on shows andactivities, or get on the mailing list, call 412-879-0355 or visit

Sweewater Center for the Arts

Artistic Director Elysia Cecchetti said a new exhibit, “POP EXPLOSION: the Artist and Popular Culture,” will be held Jan. 18 through March 29 at the center, 200 Broad St. In April, British artist Filthy Luker will build a roof installation consisting of green octopus tentacles coming out of Sweetwater's windows to remain for three to four months. In conjunction with the installation, a separate exhibition, “Wild Things,” will be juried by Sweetwater instructor and artist Cynthia Shaffer.

Education Director Kari Zuzack said expanded acting classes will be offered to people of all ages; a musical theater class will be held in the winter session; and new instructor Jamie Mason of Gibsonia will teach fiber arts and various dyeing techniques.

Sewickley Arts Initiative

Exhibitions will be presented in April and September, during gallery walks; and in March, October and December.

But director Tim Hadfield said the nonprofit might need help this year finding new venues for its exhibition — usually held in vacant storefronts — which draw the attention of potential renters to the spaces.

“The last year has been the most difficult since we formed, as we lost our two most productive exhibition spaces for the best of reasons — that they were let (leased),” he said.

Hadfield said SAI members might be looking at new ways to exhibit, such as installation art, outdoor sculpture, projections or performance art.

The organization intends to continue its educational and community mission by working with schools and other nonprofit organizations that wish to display art. SAI helped find exhibition space during Light-Up-Night for students involved in Studio Life — the Quaker Valley School District's after-school program — and plans to present an exhibition to benefit Friends of Sewickley Public Library, of which Hadfield is a member.

International Images

Director David Biernesser said the gallery, 514 Beaver St., wants to “get back to our roots” by finding a balance between international and local art.

“One way in which the gallery is accomplishing that goal is by representing international artists who have immigrated to the local area, such as Wen Gao, hailing from China — whose work was shown this year — and Yelena Lamm from Russia — who will exhibit work this spring,” Biernesser said.

A secondary goal is to become a larger part of the Sewickley community.

“It is astounding to me how many people come into our building and say that they have lived in Sewickley their whole lives and never knew that we were a gallery. It is my mission to change this,” he said.

For more information, call 412-741-3036, or visit

Sewickley Studio

Owner Brandy Bock-Tott of Sewickley Heights said she would like to offer more children's and adult art classes as a group, for a “fun” night out or one on one at the facility at 507 Beaver St.

She will continue to display and sell her art in the studio and do commission work, specializing in portraits.

Sewickley Gallery & Frame Shop

Owner Mark Rengers said his focus will be two-fold.

“We want to start to focus more on the digital world. The art world is changing because of all the technology. We scan more artwork and old photos to make framed memory boards for clients,” he said of the 549 Beaver St. space.

He wants to focus more on original, one-of-a-kind digital and fine artwork, especially from his three “in-house” framers, who are artists, too.

He wants to help them “get their art out there” both in the digital and fine art worlds.

“Young artists are so versatile now. They have a lot of digital tools we didn't have years ago. We live in a good time as far as art is concerned,” he said.

He plans to have in-house exhibits up for the Sewickley gallery walks and for small Saturday openings when the artists will display and talk about their work.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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