Your Guide to Three Rivers Arts Festival

Each year, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust puts together a 10-day showcase of the thriving arts and culture scene of Pittsburgh. At the Three Rivers Arts Festival, sponsored by Dollar Bank, community members can embrace art of all types, from paintings and sculptures to music and dance performances, all for free. This year will be the 64th annual festival (running from May 31 and June 9) and the event is slated to be bigger and better than ever. 

The Three Rivers Arts Festival began in 1960 by the Women’s Committee of the Carnegie Museum of Art. In 2009, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust took over the celebration and expanded its reach. They’ve now helped feature over 10,000 visual and performing artists over the years. 

The Artist Market

One of the largest draws of the festival is the Artist Market, stretching along the streets of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. It contains more than 300 artists from around the nation who make handmade crafts, drawings, photographs, gifts, and much more. Though if you want to catch every vendor you’ll have to attend the festival multiple days as artists change out over the course of the 10 days. 

Family Friendly Activities

Besides shopping for handmade creativity, express your own with family activities, gallery viewings, and live artistic performances. The Giant Eagle Foundation Backyard is home to the Giant Eagle Creativity Zone, giving all ages a chance to show off their artistic talents for free. Many organizations throughout the city will have hands-on crafts to make and take home. Plus, the Backyard Stage is nearby to keep you entertained with more than 15 performances by regional musicians. 

You can even look up into the trees of the Cultural District and spot sculpted kites as a part of A Sudden Gust of Wind, a commissioned public art project by Pittsburgh-based and internationally renowned artists Lenka Clayton and Phillip Andrew Lewis. On certain days, the festival will hand out free kites to take part in Community Flying Days along the exhibit. 

Exploring Downtown Galleries

If you’re looking to take in more artistic exhibitions, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s gallery spaces are opening up their doors from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. daily. Some of the featured shows include 40 Years Later: Revisiting the 1984 Three Rivers Arts Festival, Life is Nice but Odd and Strange at the Same Time, and Wavy Wednesday: Where Did Your Christ Come From?

Another one of the exhibits, Anthropology of Motherhood, explores the culture of care within motherhood. It’s inside the Byham Theater so families with young children can take a break away from the crowds. 

At SPACE Gallery on Liberty Avenue you’ll find a special selection of artists hand-picked by a guest panel in the Juried Visual Art Exhibition. Here you’ll find new art from regional artists who follow this year’s theme of Furry Friends, celebrating the way that humans and animals (real or mythical) connect and bond together. 

Live Performances

If you’re craving live entertainment, you’ll want to explore the star-studded lineup at the Dollar Bank Main Stage. Headlining this year’s festival across its many evenings are Pokey Lafarge, Los Lonely Boys, Martha Redbone, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Nicole Zuraitis, Ozomatli, Say She She, Doom Flamingo, Sugarhill Gang & The Furious Five, and Ben Folds. Throughout the festival you can catch other musicians and performers like Cirque Kikasse, an acrobatic circus show or The TRAF Dance Battle, so you won’t go a moment without excitement and inspiration! 

There is a lot more to explore at the festival, so we recommend reviewing the Three Rivers Arts Festival website for a full list of entertainers, artists, and other features. You can even sign up to volunteer at the largest, free, community event of the summer.

Story by Kylie Thomas

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