Wilkinsburg: Sacred Space Tour

Sacred Space Tour 20192nd Annual Sacred Space Tour

Saturday October 12, 2019, 11:00am – 5:00pm


Preservation Pittsburgh’s Religious Architectural Heritage Committee (RAH) is organizing the Second Annual Sacred Spaces Historic Tour taking place on October 12th, 2019, in Wilkinsburg, PA, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The tour will be free to attend and open to the public.
The tour will serve as an ‘open house’ for local religious properties. Residents of Wilkinsburg will have a chance to view the interiors and exteriors of participating worship spaces. Attendees will learn about the histories of these religious structures and experience Wilkinsburg’s reputation as ‘The City of Churches’ from their congregations.
St. James Roman Catholic, St. Mark AME, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Covenant Fellowship Reformed Presbyterian, and St. Stephen’s Episcopal are among the twelve religious properties confirmed on the tour.
Properties converted to or from spaces of worship, such as the Pittsburgh Urban Christian School (PUCS) and Gethsemane Holiness Church, will also be featured.
Open houses will feature a number of activities, including artistic performances/exhibitions, craft workshops and classes, and discussions about church history and architecture.
A conversational reception with light hors d’oeuvres will follow the tour in The Sleeping Octopus at 1300 Wood St. in Wilkinsburg (formerly the Yingling Mansion).
The tour will highlight the communal value and historic significance of sacred spaces in Wilkinsburg’s continuing development. RAH aims to foster constructive dialog between borough residents and cultivate healthy community relationships across religious denominations.
This tour is funded by Neighborhood Allies and Preservation Pittsburgh.
Questions regarding tour information, participating religious properties, and Preservation Pittsburgh’s Religious Architectural Heritage committee may be directed to the committee by emailing sacredspacestours@gmail.com or calling 412-889-5283.



“Come Over, Come Eat, Come Play” was a community art project that includes pop up events around the Borough of Wilkinsburg in 2017 and 2018: food events, domino games, dance parties, workshops and park programs. The events are to build connections within the community and to engage residents about what is beautiful in Wilkinsburg: diversity, historical architecture, and a small community rebuilding trust. Jennifer Chenoweth is documenting the historical architecture in Wilkinsburg through drawings, photos, and events.

On Saturday October 13, 2018 the project culminated in a “Sacred Space Tour” of churches, mosques, and historic buildings with arts programming. Activities are free and open to all ages.

There were over 25 stops open for the tour, most hosted a visual or performing artist.

This event was presented by the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation, the Wilkinsburg Arts Council, the Office of Public Art, Neighborhood Allies, in partnership with Preservation Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, Wilkinsburg Historical Society, Pittsburgh Urban Christian School, and the Rotary Club of Wilkinsburg/Rotary Square.


Follow us on Facebook to see more photos of the project.

“Come Over, Come Eat, Come Play” by Jennifer Chenoweth in collaboration with the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation and the Wilkinsburg Community Art and Civic Design Commission with sponsorship by the Temporary Public Art and Placemaking Program of Neighborhood Allies and the Office of Public Art of Pittsburgh.

How did this come to be? In 2016, The Office of Public Art of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council announced a call for artists to be artists in residence within a community. A series of six temporary works of public art were created in these Neighborhood Allies’ target neighborhoods: the Hill District, Homewood, Larimer, Millvale, Wilkinsburg, and the Southern Hilltops (Allentown-Beltzhoover-Knoxville).

This program was supported by generous funding from the Hillman Foundation and The Heinz Endowments. THANK YOU!

2018 Locations Hosting Visual Artists or Performing Artists:

Wilkinsburg Train Station Hay St @ Ross Ave Poetry by Ken Chute 11:00a
Mifflin Avenue United Methodist 905 Mifflin Ave Eli Alfieri and Friends Music 11:30a
Second United Presbyterian 300 Hay St David Westfall Organist 12:00p
St. James Catholic 718 Franklin Ave Michael Kearney Organist 12:30p
Christian Church of Wilkinsburg 748 Wallace Ave Artist’s talk by Frank Hightower 1:00p
Mulberry Community Church 601 Wallace Ave Godfrey McCray Jr Music 1:30p
Covenant Fellowship Reformed Presbyterian 1300 E Swissvale A cappella psalm singing 2:00p
St Mark AME 1409 Montier St Original Play about Story of Job 2:30p
Community Forge 1256 Franklin Ave Barrels to Beethoven repeats 3p-5p
South Ave United Methodist 733 South Ave CMU Creative Expression/Mayor Marita Garrett 3:30p
St. Stephen’s Episcopal 600 Pitt St Neighborhood Youth Outreach Project 4:30p
St. Mark AME Zion 807 Ross Ave Music 5:00p
Pittsburgh Urban Christian School 809 Center St PUCS student art; Gershon Mitchel speaking on Human Dignity 5:30p
Christian Church of Wilkinsburg 748 Wallace Ave Frank Hightower Visual Art; 10,000 Villages Shop; prints by Artist, George E. Miller ll 11a-5p
Sleeping Octopus (Yingling Mansion) 1300 Wood Street Zoe Welsh, John Shook, Sarah Jacobs, Amy Fisher, Aubrie Milich, Adam Linn, Nicole Santella, and Enso33 11a-5p
First Spiritualist Church 1318 Singer Place Art and furniture collection, photography 11a-5p
A Peace of Mind 620 Wood St Natiq Jalil Artist 11a-5p
Landmarks Preservation Center 744 Rebecca Ave James Shipman Sculpture 11a-5p
Gethsemane Holiness Church of God in Christ 744 Ross Ave Flowerhouse Visual Art 11a-5p
Pittsburgh Urban Christian School (PUCS) 809 Center St DJ Gusmuvee 6-8p

About the 2018 artists:

Flowerhouse is a community art studio and art center that responds to the needs of the black community and families of Wilkinsburg and the Greater Pittsburgh area by providing a space to create, learn and gather.  Flowerhouse is run by a collective of artists led by Naomi and Darnell Chambers from their space at 766 Penn Avenue. https://www.facebook.com/FlowerHousePgh/

Natiq Jalil is a self-taught visual artist who paints and draws brightly colored and graphically strong figurative works. He is the current artist in residence at A Peace of Mind and will display his work there. https://artofnatiq.com/

James Shipman is a native of Wilkinsburg who grew up attending St. James Church. James Shipman is a life-long sculptor who combines found objects with hand-made ceramic elements that he builds and fires. He is the resident atlantic drugstore artist at the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation’s Resource Center, and has a sacred sculpture garden on site, where he will be exhibiting his 40 year retrospective for the tour. http://www.jamesshipmansculpture.com/JamesShipman/JamesShipman.html

Frank Hightower is an award winning photographer, a playwright, and a stained glass artist. He is a member of the Christian Church of Wilkinsburg where he will display his work. https://www.ffhphotographyarts.com/ 

Amy Fisher is a photographer who documents notable architecture in Pittsburgh, people, and her other favorite subject, dogs. Amy Fisher is a director of Preservation Pittsburgh, and a member of PP’s Religious Architectural Heritage Committee. She has been helping document the historic architecture of Wilkinsburg’s churches, and helped with the Captured::Pittsburgh walking photography tour of Wilkinsburg in 2017. www.pawsburgh.com

Ken Chute is a longtime Wilkinsburg resident, who attended Wilkinsburg High School. He worked in book publishing and design. He writes poetry and documents his experiences through photography. He will be reading some of his poetry for the event.

Gershon Mitchel is a teacher and human rights advocate on the subject of human dignity. He was born in Wilkinsburg, and after a life of teaching and adventure, has returned to Wilkinsburg. He will share his thoughts on the importance of how treating each other with dignity is the foundation of our society.

Barrels to Beethoven is an organization focused on the preservation, education, and innovation of the steelpan. Founded by Leigh Solomon Pugliano, Barrels to Beethoven utilizes the steelpan, an afro-Caribbean instrument, as the tool for our educational programming. They will perform at the Community Forge, formerly the Johnston School building, where they teach. https://barrelstobeethoven.com/

Sarah Gracie Jackson, aka “DJ GSmuvee” and “Tha Elixir,” was born and raised in Wilkinsburg and attended Wilkinsburg High School. Sarah is an advocate and mentor for youth, the protege of Tony Jackson at NYOP, a teaching artist at the Legacy Arts Project, and Program Director for the PRIMETIME STEAM Program through the consortium for public education at Woodland Hills Jr/Sr High School. Sarah Jackson is a spoken word artist, poet (Black Ink Monk), photographer (R@REV!zU@lz), mentor, lyricist, and DJ. @rarevizualzmultimedia

Neighborhood Youth Outreach Program “NYOP” youth arts program held in the gymnasium of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. NYOP is committed to provide arts-based program opportunities for children in the Wilkinsburg and surrounding areas through its organizational values which include dignity, respect, and empowering young people through the arts and mentoring to help them reach their full potential. Students will perform a musical arts program for the tour directed by notable musician and program leader Tony Jackson. http://www.nyopkids.org/

The Creative Expression students at Carnegie Mellon University’s Music Preparatory School, led by Jennie Dorris, teaches talented young musicians how to compose original works inspired by their community. For their Sacred Spaces performance, the group will be performing original works inspired by the life story of Mayor Marita Garrett’s journey into leadership. https://www.jenniedorris.com/blog/creative-expression-music-community-collaborations-young-people

St. Mark A.M.E. Church, like many of Wilkinsburg’s churches, has a congregation of talented, disciplined, and dedicated people. Just a few years ago, several members of the church formed a Cultural and Drama Ministry for the expressed purpose of utilizing member’s talents to bring to life many Bible stories and spiritual lessons.  Original costumed presentations have been given at Christmas time, New Year’s Eve, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. This year, as part of the Sacred Spaces Tour, a short play has been written based on the Biblical book of Job. To find out more about the The Cultural and Drama Ministry’s efforts, to directly participate in them—or to otherwise loan support, you may contact the playwright, Clifton McGill. Clifton is long-time resident of Wilkinsburg, and is also a Wilkinsburg community block watch leader, and a member of Preservation Pittsburgh’s Religious Architectural Heritage committee.

Michael R. Kearney (BA, Geneva College, 2017) is a resident of Wilkinsburg and a pianist, organist and composer with international performing experience. Most recently, he accompanied The Genevans, student choir of Geneva College, on their three-week tour to Northern Ireland, Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic, where the choir performed his anthem on Psalm 115:1. A native of Long Island, NY, Michael has a passion for seeing the Psalms set to beautiful music to reach the hearts of God’s people. He is a member of Covenant Fellowship Reformed Presbyterian Church on E Swissvale Avenue and is pursuing graduate work in the Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies at Duquesne University. For the tour he will perform organ music at the St. James Catholic Church and sing Psalms alongside other members of Covenant Fellowship. https://urcpsalmody.wordpress.com/about-mrk/

Godfrey McCray Jr. is a member of the Mulberry Community Church and co founder of the organization Y.B.C.: Youth for a Brighter Community. He performs in Wilkinsburg and the greater Pittsburgh area. He has been in leadership through arts, and mentoring, and being a voice for the community. Godfrey is a proud alumni of Wilkinsburg High School. Godfrey is a poet, and a motivational/inspirational speaker. https://www.facebook.com/YouthforaBrighterCommunity/

David Westfall is the organist of the Second United Presbyterian Church. He will play the pipe organ as the resident musician.

Eli Alfieri, a member at Mifflin Avenue United Methodist Church, is a young musician from Woodland Hills High School who is currently doing a jazz internship with Tony Campbell. He will be playing some jazz music as well as some of his own music.

Mallenwood Manor is a historic gothic home formerly known as the John F. Singer Mansion. This stop on the tour displays the interior design and art collection of Steven Saling. https://www.facebook.com/WilkinsburgLandmark/