Jazz Poetry Concert. Photo by Renee Rosensteel.

Jazz Poetry Concert. Photo by Renee Rosensteel.

4. City of Asylum Pittsburgh’s Jazz Poetry Concert in West Park: September 12

On a magical September evening, one of Pittsburgh’s most distinct and diverse outdoor happenings will usher in a new decade—and welcome a string of firsts. Setting up shop in scenic West Park—to accommodate its expanding audiences—City of Asylum‘s Jazz Poetry Concert turns 11 with some new twists on its signature annual event.

This is a night when music fans know they will hear exceptional jazz and compelling poetry, while exploring a melding of the two art forms. But this time around—for the first time anywhere—three MacArthur Genius Grant winners will be featured in the same performance. Dubbed “MacArthurs in the Park” (cue flowery 1968 Jimmy Webb song), the event will showcase poet Terrance Hayes (2014), Grammy-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer (2013) and poet Heather McHugh (2009). Iyer, who was voted “Jazz Artist of the Year” in the 2015 Downbeat Critics Poll, will also perform with his own acclaimed trio, which features 21-year-old drummer Marcus Gilmore and Grammy-nominated bassist Stephan Crump. During the collaborative segment—always a highlight and always developed in Pittsburgh before the concert—Iyer will be joined by legendary jazz saxophonist, flutist and composer Oliver Lake, co-founder of the World Saxophone Quartet.

Also participating are Pakistani poet Harris Khalique and Belgian graphic novelist Shamisa Delaunay. Emcees will be international columnists from City of Asylum’s online magazine participating by video, including Tarik Gunseril (Turkey), Dina Meza (Honduras), Tienchi Martin Liao (Germany) and Chalachew Tadesse (Ethiopia).

The event is free but reservations are suggested. Can’t make the concert? Watch the live stream.

5. Johnny Cash Day at the Allegheny Elks Lodge: September 12

Johnny Cash Day design by Colin Miller.

Johnny Cash Day design by Colin Miller.

Whether you know him as the original punk rocker, grew up listening to his music on your grandparents’ car stereo or consider “I Walk the Line” to be your go-to Karaoke song, you’re going to want to get yourself on down to Johnny Cash Day’s 11th annual installment. And if you’re anything like us you, you’re stewing in regret for not buying tickets when they went on sale August 12th (the event sold-out in three days). Still, that won’t stop us from calling this one of the coolest events in Pittsburgh. Ever. And partially because it’s labor of love organizers keep it 100% cozy, spirited and authentic.

What’s in store for this year’s ring of fire? Four featured bands—The Beagle Brothers, Chester, Dan Getkin and the Masters of American Music and The Neighborhood—will perform impassioned versions of songs composed, inspired or performed by the country music icon. Expect plenty of bourbon, baritone ballads and Cash-themed surprises marking that dark day in 2003 when the inimitable singer-songwriter left the physical world behind. Cash’s flock will also enjoy down-home food, door prizes, raffles and drink specials—sponsored by Makers Mark and PBR, natch—and will peruse merchandise designed by Colin Miller. The homespun tribute falls fresh on the heels of news that a public art trail celebrating Cash’s landmark 1968 concerts at Folsom Prison has been approved. It’s a bash with benefits, because proceeds support Elks Lodge charities. Read our article to learn more about the history of Johnny Cash Day.

Michael Janis, Echoes at Society for Contemporary Craft.

Michael Janis, Echoes at Society for Contemporary Craft.

6. Opening weekend celebration for Mindful at Society for Contemporary Craft: September 18 

Ready to #craftyourmind? The healing power of art—and the tastes of homemade baked goods—are coming together to raise awareness about mental health. Running through March 12th at Society for Contemporary Craft, Mindful: Exploring Mental Health Through Art pairs work by 14 contemporary artists with innovative community programs. Don’t miss the free opening weekend celebration which includes a reception, artist talks, gallery performances and more.

The show’s 33 works explore mental illness’ impact on society, and how art-making and handcrafted objects can encourage positive self-expression, communicate emotion and inspire meaningful dialogue. The pioneering exhibit also examines creative responses to mental health conditions by featuring artists who have been diagnosed with or affected by mental illness.

From Brooklyn-based visual artist and printmaker Swoon to internationally acclaimed glass maker Michael Janis, Mindful highlights traditional craft materials and techniques alongside works that explore relationships between painting, sculpture, installation and conceptual art.

With a tasty and clever twist on these important themes, SCC will also unveil the Pittsburgh premiere of the Depressed Cake Shop—an international pop-up bake sale that’s raising awareness about mental health “one grey, sweet treat at a time.” Visitors are invited to “craft their minds” at a variety of thoughtfully curated programs, including lectures, artist demos, information sessions with community groups, gallery tours, hands-on workshops and resource materials.