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Lisa Christopher

A New Face at PA&L!

By Staff

Meet Devan Murphy, our Patron Experience Associate

The team at Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures is excited to introduce you to our new staff member, Devan Murphy. Devan will be the friendly face at our events working the Box Office and the voice you’ll hear on the phone. Devan will also work with our digital communication through our email marketing and social media.

Tell us about your career so far.

I am a creative writer and illustrator from Northeast Ohio. I received my BA in English from the University of Akron and my MA in English Literature from Ohio University, where I also taught undergraduate English composition and literature for four years before coming to Pittsburgh in 2018.

Prior to joining the team at Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures, I worked as a gallery attendant at the Wood Street Galleries downtown, as a cashier at Amazing Books & Records in Squirrel Hill, and, most recently, as a staff writer and editor for wikiHow. I also do occasional freelance copyediting and volunteer work for Autumn House Press, whose books I’m a huge fan of.

Most of my spare time is spent writing and making art myself; my visual art has been shown in galleries throughout the Pittsburgh region, and my chapbook, I’m not I’m not I’m not a baby, a collection of prose poems, short memoir, and abstract comics, is forthcoming from Ethel Press.

What has attracted you to PA&L?

My love for Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures began soon after I arrived in Pittsburgh, when I saw Ilya Kaminsky read at the Carnegie Library. It was one of the first literary events I attended in Pittsburgh, and after that I just wanted to be as immersed as I could in this city’s vibrant arts and literary scenes. I try to go to readings and lectures—with PA&L and at Pittsburgh’s many other literary venues—as often as I can, and I’ve met so many amazing people through these events. I’ve long admired everything PA&L does for the literary community and the community generally, and it’s the type of work I want to be involved in myself.

What are some of your aspirations for this role?

As Patron Experience Associate, I can’t wait to get to know PA&L’s many fans—both the audience members who have been here for years and, hopefully, many new fans as well—and to help create a welcoming environment where we can all enjoy and learn from PA&L’s amazing authors and lecturers. I’m excited to help the team find new ways to expand our audience and further the organization’s mission of facilitating literary engagement and civic discourse in the Pittsburgh community.

What are some of your pastimes?

I spend a lot of time reading, of course, as well as writing and drawing: I’m currently working on a book of illustrated fairytales and a collection of self-erasure poems. Beyond that, I love going to the movies (especially the Manor in Squirrel Hill) and playing with my cat, Buddy.

Welcoming Sony Ton-Aime

By News

Photo credit Dave Munch

Dear friends,

We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Sony Ton-Aime as the new Executive Director of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures. This announcement concludes an extensive national search process led by our board to find the ideal candidate to lead our organization into the future.

In his most recent role as Michael I. Rudell Director of Literary Arts at Chautauqua Institution, Sony has spearheaded innovative programming and built partnerships to engage the community. He coordinates online and in-person lectures and workshops, supervises staff, and runs a poetry makerspace and bookstore that serve over 100,000 community members annually.

Sony has demonstrated skill in collaboration and relationship building, forging partnerships with organizations like the African American Heritage House to launch the Mirror Project Reading Circle, monthly book discussion that has since evolved to include lectures by experts and a countywide book read. Sony worked with Jamestown High School to lead student writing workshops, and he partnered with the local radio station to broadcast the writing of their students.

Through collaboration within Chautauqua, Sony has brought acclaimed authors like Matthew Desmond and Elizabeth Kolbert to speak in the 4,000-seat Amphitheater. In response to the perceived deterioration of civil discourse in our country, Sony brought together literary organizations to pilot the Forum on Democracy at Chautauqua Institution, with a lineup of speakers that includes Sayu Bhojwani, David Blight, Suzanne Nossel, and Michael Waldman.

The board of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures comments, “We welcome Sony with enthusiasm and are eager for him to join as the next Executive Director, building on his experience from Chautauqua. We know he will continue the strong legacy of Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures and be a great ambassador for literature, artists, and the City of Pittsburgh.”

Sony remarks, “the staff, led by my remarkable predecessor, Stephanie Flom, has done an amazing job to bring Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures to where it is now, and I feel lucky to be part of this legacy. I feel lucky for two reasons—first, as Executive Director I am presented with a firm foundation to build on, and second, because the city of Pittsburgh has the best and most serious readers.

“I look forward to facilitating the deep connections that authors and readers seek out when they write and read books. Our goal will be to engage our community in meaningful and critical conversations that, in time, will lead to real changes for the betterment of our city and country. Together, we will foster a place where our community can feel a deep sense of ownership and confidence in their engagement with our programs.”

Please join us in warmly welcoming Sony Ton-Aime to Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures! His start date is Monday, October 2. Sony will greet Ten Evenings subscribers from the stage of the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall at our lecture with Matthew Desmond. We hope to see you at a lecture soon.


Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Board and Staff

Executive Director Stephanie Flom Announces Retirement

By News

Dear Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures Community,

Stephanie Flom, who joined the organization in May 2014, will pass the baton in June. She will see out the exciting programming that has defined the 2022-23 season and provide a smooth transition for the next executive director. The board congratulates Flom on her retirement from the organization and thanks her for her outstanding leadership over the past decade.

Reflecting upon her tenure, Flom says, “I’ve been able to bring my full self to this role — my passion for the arts, for the community, and for the values that now reside in the organization’s mission statement. My curatorial choices, and the culture that I’ve nurtured here, embody artistic excellence, justice, equity, courage and compassion.”

Board President Kevin Lavelle comments, “The board is proud of the success of the organization under Stephanie’s leadership, and thanks her for her tireless efforts to bring world-class thought leaders and artists to engage in discourse with our community. She led us to expect consistently full-to-capacity halls for our Ten Evenings series, robust community participation through the Authors to Schools program, and new and expanded program series. Through the pandemic, she led the staff to execute high-quality virtual programs, engaging our audience and securing important funding to ensure a strong foundation amidst turbulent times.” The organization now presents close to 40 public lectures each year, having grown to five signature series: Ten Evenings, New & Noted, Made Local, Words & Pictures, and Poets Aloud.

Driven by her passion to connect the community and the arts, Flom has formed meaningful partnerships with organizations whose missions reflect the theme of visiting authors’ works. These relationships have integrated the community in various forms that include co-presenters and sponsorships, school and community visits, and awareness campaigns for nonprofit partners. Flom notes, “I am especially moved when I learn from an audience member or an educational partner that a profound, life-changing impact has occurred upon hearing the words of an author at a lecture or during a school visit.” She is most proud that author visits to schools and to community groups have become a vital component of the organization’s work. Through the Authors to Schools program, thousands of students participate in visits each year, and more than 1,500 books are provided for students at participating Title 1 schools and community organizations.

A visionary leader, Flom built her career in roles and by achievements in many positions across the Pittsburgh arts community, each notable for their valuable partnerships. As the founding director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, she led the transformation of the long-vacant Regent Theater in East Liberty into a vibrant performing arts center. During her tenure as executive director of Dance Alloy, she relocated the contemporary dance company and community school to professional studios on Penn Avenue at the crossroads of Garfield and Friendship, again developing a community cultural asset while growing the company to six full-time dancers. Later, in her role as executive director of the Cooper-Siegel Community and Sharpsburg Community Libraries, Flom led efforts to build new state-of-the-art facilities that have a full range of library services. She was especially delighted to work with community partners to save the Sharpsburg Library from an impending closure. Flom was also a Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, where she developed the Persephone Project, an environmental art project that explored gardening as an everyday art form, recasting gardeners as artists. The project resulted in the commissioning of artists to create garden installations in Frank Curto Park on Bigelow Boulevard and neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh.

As she shifts from her executive director role, Flom plans to engage in community projects related to the arts, the environment and social justice, and to spend time in her pottery studio, in her garden and with family and friends. Inspired by hearing hundreds of renowned authors speak about their creative process, she says, perhaps she will write.

“Stephanie has done an amazing job cultivating an unusually collaborative and positive staff and board culture,” Lavelle says. “We’re a dynamic team, and while she will be greatly missed, we look forward to a bright future, building on the momentum that Stephanie has helped create.” The board will undertake a national search for Flom’s replacement over the coming months.


Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Board and Staff