PITT ARTS enters 20th year of affordable access to the arts


An accordion player participates in Pitt Arts Artful Wednesdays in Nordi’s Place. (TPN File Photo)

Occupying the penthouse floor of the William Pitt Union, the PITT ARTS office is ready for another year of Pittsburgh culture and entertainment. Freshly printed neon flyers are scattered on the coffee table and the lineup for the upcoming school year is pencilled on the calendar.

A division of Student Affairs, PITT ARTS offers Pitt students a chance for discounted tickets and exclusive access to planned events both on and off campus, such as jazz performances and excursions to the Pittsburgh Glass Center.

Arts Encounters — the main program PITT ARTS runs — consists of student hosts accompanying about 40 Pitt students to free programs and events, and includes tickets, food and a chance to meet the cast.

In addition to the Arts Encounters program, PITT ARTS offers Pitt faculty and students free admission to major museums in the Pittsburgh area, including the Andy Warhol Museum, the Mattress Factory and the recently added Carnegie Science Center.

PITT ARTS also organizes Artful Wednesdays, where students can enjoy live music and free food weekly at Nordy’s Place in the William Pitt Union. Ten events are offered each semester.

Annabelle Clippinger has served as director since 2001, with the program beginning a few years prior in 1997. Since 2001, Clippinger has seen the program grow not only in event numbers, but also in student participation.

“In years past, there is a student fanbase for certain types of programs,” Clippinger said, adding that she’s recently seen a following for jazz and ballet. “And that changes with every cohort. It’s really interesting to me.”

Clippinger handles scheduling with participating art organizations, and works alongside Assistant Director Linnea Glick — who orchestrates marketing — and Programs Assistant Diane Cromo.

Along with scheduling, Clippinger oversees the training of student hosts. These hosts, who are paid as student employees or offered work study, accompany participating students to Arts Encounter events.

“The Arts Encounters are really the jewel in the crown of what we do at PITT ARTS,” Clippinger said.

Pitt Arts gives students the opportunity to attend performances and visit museums throughout the year. (TPN File Photo)


Julie Kenneson, a junior majoring in applied developmental psychology, will serve as co-president of the Student Arts Advisory Board for the upcoming semester and is one of the students who accompany participating students.

“The [PITT ARTS staff] run the show,” Kenneson said. “But we [student hosts] get to experience the show.”

Kenneson discovered these shows after her older brother encouraged her to attend events her freshman year. Events from this past year included performances by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Opera and Broadway adaptations such as “Mamma Mia!” and “The Book of Mormon.”  Upcoming shows for the 2017-2018 season include “Rent,” “Waitress” and “Wicked.”

The student board — unlike PITT ARTS — is completely student-run and is entering its second full year on campus. The student board focuses on promoting arts events throughout campus and handling fundraisers and promotions for future activities.

Kenneson’s colleague Ogechukwu Opaigbeogu, a senior neuroscience major, is also entering her second year as a student host. She has had the opportunity to attend multiple musical events as a host, including “Drumline Live!” which debuted downtown at the Benedum Center.

“It was basically a celebration of the drumline stepping scene at historically black colleges,” Opaigbeogu said. “They wanted audience participation — it was very high energy and a very cool event.”

Both students have learned to handle problems large and small, along with major scheduling challenges such as last year’s Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra strike. The orchestra is one of PITT ARTS’s longest partnerships, offering tickets to their holiday show and performances of major composers such as John Williams.

The list of events offered by the PITT ARTS program is diverse and includes a balance between contemporary and classics — like this October’s “Dracula” and February’s “Swan Lake” performed by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and shows from the Pittsburgh Opera.

“The Opera is doing things like ‘Tosca,’ which is classic,” said Clippinger, “But also they’re doing a contemporary opera, ‘Moby Dick,’ based on the novel. We think that’s going to be really exciting.”

After being on an event hiatus over the summer, PITT ARTS will begin offering events for the fall semester, allowing students to sign up online for Arts Encounters trips, purchase Cheap Seats tickets and visit museums.

“What I like about [PITT ARTS] is that it changes every year,” Clippinger said. “It’s another slate.”