Maxo Vanka
Photo: Rob Long, Clear Story.

St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church
March 4
6:30 p.m.

Cocktails, conservation and Croatian heritage will make for one culturally rich this Friday night in Millvale. At the third annual Cocktails & Conservation event at St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church, fans of local history and public art will gather to help preserve the future of one of Pittsburgh’s top hidden treasures.

Photo credit: Rob Long, Clear Story.
Photo credit: Rob Long, Clear Story.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the church is home to Maxo Vanka’s breathtaking Gift to America murals, created in 1937 and 1941 by the Croatian immigrant as part of a groundbreaking commission. On Friday, you can help celebrate this significant masterpiece, and support the landmark’s much-needed preservation, at a unique fundraiser hosted by local historian, filmmaker and WQED producer, Rick Sebak.

Attendees will have the rare opportunity to watch firsthand as Clear Story‘s unveils its dazzling and innovative lighting for Vanka’s Justice, Injustice, Prudence and Mati, a tool which will greatly enhance visitor experience and docent-led tours at the site.

The dramatic lighting “reveal” will be accompanied by four poems written by Dr. Charlie McCollester and read by actors Sam Turich and Julianne Avolio. The event will also feature remarks by fine art conservationist Rikke Foulke, who will update patrons about the latest restoration milestones.

A dessert reception catered by chef Chaz Smith boasts creative twists on the night’s theme, with live Croatian Tamburitzan music by Mikey Dee Trio, “Widows Might” libations specially crafted by Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails and Croatian Karlovacko beer. Oh, and also a staggering selection of 2,000 homemade desserts donated by congregation members.

Photo credit: Rob Long, Clear Story.
Photo credit: Rob Long, Clear Story.

Don’t miss bidding on one-of-a-kind mementos in the auction, such as a 1941 Murals Lightbox created by Mark Panza, a first edition of Thomas Bell’s seminal book, Out of This Furnace, a Bach Choir performance at Carrie Furnace and more.

Proceeds from the night, which also includes a VIP reception, will support the restoration of Vanka’s Battlefield Scenes, which are located under the church’s choir loft, and have been identified as an urgent priority. Last year, the night raised $21,000 to support the ambitious conservation project.

This year also marks the 75th anniversary of Vanka’s remarkable 1941 Murals Series, which explores powerful subjects ranging from war and social justice, to labor issues and the immigrant experience in America.

Last year’s event was sold-out and space is limited, so grab tickets today.

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.