To the Point: Three Rivers Arts Festival gives students a taste of the artistic side of Pittsburgh


Next month, Downtown Pittsburgh will transform from a bustling metropolis into a world-class festival and celebration of the arts.

Sponsored by Dollar Bank and produced by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the Three Rivers Arts Festival will take place downtown at Point State Park, Gateway Center and in the Cultural District from June 5 to 14. Founded in 1960 by the Women’s Committee of the Carnegie Museum of Art, the festival has grown from a small art show into a world-recognized mammoth of creative expression and entertainment. The festival showcases and celebrates a multitude of different art and artists, and will be free and open to the public daily from 12 to 8 p.m.

The festival contains a broad and diverse lineup of artists from many backgrounds and disciplines, including performing artists, like musicians and dancers, large, life-size art installations and other exhibitions. The festival also hosts an artists’ market, where festival-goers can interact with local artists, and admire art from almost any medium, including sculptures, photography, paintings, jewelry and more.

Musicians performing this year include singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis, Canadian pop band Alvvays and guitarist/singer Benjamin Booker.

Also at the festival this year is the induction ceremony of the “Black Rock Negative Energy Absorber,” a sculpture series by the New York City-based artist Rudy Shepherd, designed to “remove the negative energy from the people of Pittsburgh so that they can function from the higher aspects of their personalities,” according to the festival’s website.

The sculptures are large, dark, stationary, outdoor monuments coupled with performers decked out in black spandex full-body suits and rock-like headgear. They will be on display at the Cityside Lawn during the whole festival, from 12 to 9 p.m., even though the festival ends at 8 p.m. An Induction Ceremony will take place on June 5 at 5 p.m., where Shepherd and musical collaborator Elias Einhorn will accompany a performance with live music.

The festival will also feature a public art walking tour which will highlight many pieces of public art around Pittsburgh, including Agnes R. Katz Plaza, Allegheny Riverfront Park and Memento Mori, which is a series of billboards behind the Benedum Center reminding viewers about their mortality.

Veronica Corpuz, the director of festivals and special projects for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, said the festival is designed to present a broad range of performances and exhibitions for the city.

“We seek to present an inclusive and diverse lineup that resonates with all individuals of all backgrounds,” Corpuz said.

She added that a programming team made up of several jurors and curators at the Cultural Trust discusses the full lineup of artist, from the music to the visual art.

The Three Rivers Arts Festival has hosted numerous visual and performing artists throughout its 54-year history. Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Allen Ginsberg and many other historical artists have graced the festival, as well as contemporary artists such as Nora Jones, Wilco, the Avett Brothers and the Black Keys.

Not only will there be visual and performing art, but as Pittsburgh becomes more of a food town, culinary art will also grace the festival. A food court specifically curated for this event will serve up standard festival fare like funnel cake and lemonade. Food trucks, the names of which have not been released yet, will grace the festival on June 5 and 12, on “Food Truck Fridays.” A specialty dinner will also be available at Eddie Merlot’s, a fine dining restaurant in Gateway Center that serves beef and seafood.

Many Pitt students say that they love the festival, and attend it every year.

Pitt student Theo McCauley, a rising senior studying nonfiction writing, said the Three Rivers Arts Festival is one of the most distinctive art festivals in the country.

“It’s a point of pride for Pittsburgh. The festival showcases the talents of many Pittsburghers,” McCauley said.

Pitt student Megan Raymond, a rising junior studying chemistry and both global and urban studies, added that it provides students a great opportunity to explore a new area of Pittsburgh.

“It really opens up Point State Park, the Cultural District and Downtown to students,” Raymond said.

The Three Rivers Arts Festival is a fun and exciting event for any Pitt student looking to broaden his or her horizons and discover the world of art just minutes from campus. The festival allows attendees to support many local artists and get an exclusive and intimate look at many different works of art.

“To see the work in person, to talk to the artist and to learn about their process: you can’t get that on the Internet or at the mall,” Corpuz said. “This is real-time personal engagement learning the stories of the artists and the beautiful work they have created.”