Photo by Justin Criado
Poet Jeff Oaks reads his latest work during a City of Asylum Alphabet City Summer Festival event Wednesday night at 318 Sampsonia Way in Central Northside.
By Justin Criado
The Alphabet City Summer Festival program continued Wednesday night with performances by three local artists under the Alphabet City tent on Sampsonia Way.
“The whole idea behind the Alphabet City tent is next year we hope to open a brick and mortar, multi-purpose venue,” programs associate Jason Fate said.
Central Northside’s Sampsonia Way is unlike any other roadway in Northside.
The street art leading up to the wonderfully colored houses create a fantasy like illusion where creativity reigns.
The City of Asylum Pittsburgh calls the street home, and fosters a community where all artists are welcomed.
The program mainly serves as a sanctuary for artists who are oppressed, especially those from other countries, but collaboration and new ideas are abundant.
“There’s a lot of intrigue with this street and what we’re doing now,” Fate said. “You’re starting to see that now and how it translates in to the events.”
Pittsburgh artists Jenny Johnson, Jeff Oaks and Paul Zelevansky all took the stage to perform their original works.
For Johnson and Oaks it was their first time performing in a City of Asylum event.
“I had a wonderful time reading with Paul and Jeff under this beautiful tent,” Johnson said. “I love to read my work in front of a welcoming audience.”
The attentive crowd was treated first to Oaks as he has a new chapbook out called Mistakes with Strangers.
“This is a great event,” Oaks said afterwards. “I love events like this that mix poetry and karaoke and visual arts.”
Johnson followed up with an equally emotionally impactful reading of her poetry, which has appeared in Best American Poetry 2012 and New England Review, among others.
To cap off the night, City of Asylum veteran Zelevansky intrigued everyone with his karaoke, video, visual art performance while wearing his trademark Groucho Marx glasses and nose.
“I’ve been going to many events here for several years now and they open up the space for different kinds of artists and writers,” Zelevansky said. “It encourages this kind of openness to be creative, perform and engage different audiences.”
The latest event isn’t the last, though, as City of Asylum has a slate full of poetry readings, concerts and workshops for the upcoming months.
The City of Asylum Pittsburgh will launch a mobile app called Digital Sanctuaries Thursday, Aug. 7 in conjunction with New York jazz musicians and composers Susie Ibarra and Roberto Roderiguez, who will be in Pittsburgh from Aug. 7-9 to lead tours. The smartphone app will take users on a self-guided tour on the City of Asylum’s “Garden to Garden” trail in Central Northside.
Digital sanctuaries combines original music by Ibarra and Rodriguez’s group, Electric Kulintang, with poetry and short texts.
Ibarra and Rodriguez will lead 90-minute tours everyday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tours will leave from the Alphabet City tent on 318 Sampsonia Way except for the 11 a.m. tour on Saturday, Aug. 9. That particular tour will start at the Aviary.
To learn more about City of Asylum and check out more events visit the website.
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