Welcome Back: PITT ARTS develops lasting bond with Pittsburgh’s art scene

By John Lavanga / A&E Editor

When Maggie Wayne, a senior at Pitt majoring in business, started attending Pitt Arts events, her reaction to the program’s offerings was one that has become fairly standard.

“I honestly can’t believe that we have it here at Pitt,” Wayne said, expressing her surprise at a program she sometimes feels is too good to be true. As a student with a love of theater, the prospect of attending shows for free was too good to pass up.

Whether it’s because of the free meals, the tickets to local arts events or the convenient transportation, Pitt Arts has been an unsurprisingly popular program among Pitt students since its inception. As it turns out, however, the program isn’t only beloved by the students raking in all the perks.

According to Michael Bielski, the senior vice president and chief operating officer of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, PITT Arts is more than just a boon for students looking to get off campus. 

“It’s a relationship that has developed between all of Pitt and the cultural district,” Bielski said. During his tenure at the PSO, Bielski has worked closely with Pitt Arts, fostering this relationship.

Bielski has been especially pleased with the way Pitt Arts brings a diverse crowd to PSO performances. Though orchestras often have a reputation for drawing an older, more affluent crowd, according to Bielski, “so many different types of students end up coming to [the] concerts.” He added that because of the turnout, he’s “beginning to believe that there’s not a prejudice out there” about arts events such as the orchestra.

The only complaint Bielski has with Pitt Arts, it seems, is that other universities in the region won’t adopt a similar program. The fact that the organization allows cultural groups to work with a single office at the University of Pittsburgh simplifies communications and allows for far better relationships than the departmental patchwork that can develop elsewhere.

That direct line of communication has allowed for a number of special programs to be organized within the cultural district, including the PSO’s creation of a Pitt Night, catering specifically to Pitt Students, on October 4.

Though Pitt Arts offers more than a hundred arts events on an annual basis, this year presents a number of distinct opportunities for students looking to engage in Pittsburgh’s now-thriving arts scene.  

The Carnegie Museum of Arts’ 2013 Carnegie International exhibition will feature work from artists around the world, as well as lectures from a handful of the artists themselves. According to Pitt Arts director Annabelle Clippinger, Pitt students will have the opportunity to attend these artist talks and get involved.  

In addition, Pitt Arts has opted to extend its Artful Wednesdays program, which includes a performance and free lunch during the fall semester, into a full-year program and will debut a Pitt Arts festival this fall.  Expanding the program has been a goal for some time, and Pitt Arts’ recent move from the Office of the Provost to the Division of Student Affairs allowed them to achieve this aspiration.“People love Artful Wednesdays so much,” Clippinger said.

The Pitt Arts festival, which will run from noon to 5:30 p.m. on September 6, will be held on the porch of the William Pitt Union and will include live music from local artists as well as activities such as a photo booth. Clippinger views the festival as a way to introduce students to the program in a way that is more accessible than simply tabling in one of the campus buildings.

While this year’s crop of Pitt Arts attendees will likely see the events as a way to unwind, Bielski believes that the interest in the arts that these students exhibit will give them more than just a way to relax.

“I think that’s a part of education that you can’t teach,” he said.