Pittsburgh to Prague: Artists and activists connect

Written by Ced Kurtz on .



Prague program


Local photographers were in Prague in December to complete an exhibition of twin shows, co-curated by Pittsburgh's Jen Saffron and Eva Heyd of the Prague House of Photography. "Connecting Pittsburgh" opened at Galerie Deset (above) in Prague, following an April exhibit, "CZECH IT" at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's SPACE Gallery.


The show has since traveled in the Czech Republic, to the Frantisek Drtikol Gallery in Pribram.

"Connecting Pittsburgh" presents images by 15 artists: Sue Abramson, Charles "Teenie" Harris, Clyde Hare, Elizabeth Heisey, Deborah Hosking, Scott Goldsmith, Tim Kaulen, Ross Mantle, Heather Mull, Don Orkoskey, Michael Picarsic III, Renee Rosensteel, Kevin Sweeney, the PG's Bill Wade and Lorraine Vullo. It's the first international show of work by Teenie Harris, the legendary African-American photojournalist whose work is archived by the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Saffron has been chronicling the international exchange for

Read her posts from Prague and contributions by other traveling Pittsburgh photographers here, with the most recent first:

Dec. 14: Prague Castle

The palace on high in Mala Strana; the place of medieval plots and princesses.  Intriguing, yet we kept putting it off until this, our last day in Prague, when sightseeing ensued. It started with Deb, Lorraine and I rising early this morning, high-tailing it down to the Old Town Square to climb the Tower. Approaching the Tower, I noticed a distinct difference from the last time entered this Gothic structure, in 1995 - the back of the edifice, once a crumbling, sore reminder of World War II Axis bombing, had since been replaced with a contemporary glass wall.  Appealing to tourists?

Outdoors seemed so unnaturally cold. Only later did we realize that it was -13 degrees.  The quick portrait of Deborah, high in the Tower's windy, narrow parapet reveals the weather's pitch and the week's toll of walking through godforsaken temperatures and rain.  Throughout our days, the combo of hot coffee, hot wine, Emergen-C and tea seemed to take the affect down a notch, but not too much.

After the Tower, we regrouped and Lorraine, Renee and I scampered across the Charles Bridge from Wenceslas Square, stopping on the bridge to select pins and barrettes from the artisans' displays. Across from the metalsmiths plying their wares, one busker's shabby marionette lip-synched "Old Time Rock and Roll."

Climbing the hill to the National Palace was not unlike a hike up the South Side Slopes, only we gripped small cups of hot wine to ward off the cold, walking past marionette shops and a tavern that claimed establishment in the late 1300s.  We kept walking - up.

The hilltop offered a strong survey of the Vltava River and its valley - Prague city central and the graded hills radiating outwards from various town squares.  After posing with the stoic guards (in an orange ski cap with a rhinestone snowflake decoupage) we entered the National Palace gates to experience a mix of church and state - rectilinear government buildings, a collection of former fortress buildings, the medieval castle and the undeniable, looming and dark St. Vitus cathedral.  

We decided to get ONE audio tour, taking turns to narrate St. Vitus's architecture, tombs and decorative art. There were no less than a couple dozen stations to narrate, and in the middle of the basilica, we removed our boots, changed our toe warmers and were immediately in a better mood.  By the end of the tour, I had my full-on "teacher voice" and a gaggle of tourists trailed our trio, listening in.

We were freezing, exhausted, and realized the person who sold us the audio tour fed us a line of bull when our ticket did NOT grant us entrance to the castle - that was another $17, and by the time we tried to figure it out, it just seemed too late - not enough time to deal with the problem, not enough time to really take in the castle, and massive crabbiness took over. A serious bummer and fallout of the days of breakneck speed through exhibitions, parties, Christmas markets - we were just simply done.

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