‘A Pittsburgh Tradition’: Three Rivers Arts Festival brings art and live music to Fort Duquesne Boulevard


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Attendees at the Three Rivers Arts Festival at Point State Park on June 9, 2021.

By Adrienne Cahillane, Staff Writer

Melody Reynolds, an incoming first year chemistry major, Pittsburgh resident and avid Arts Festival attendee, described the annual Three Rivers Arts Festival as a “Pittsburgh tradition.”

“There is so much to see and experience. I’m glad it’s here, and it’s a summer highlight for sure,” Reynolds said.

Ever since the first Three Rivers Arts Festival in 1960, thousands of visitors have gathered downtown to view and shop for art, listen to live music and more. This year, it ran from June 2-11.

The Festival was held on Fort Duquesne Boulevard instead of Point State Park like in years past. Reynolds said she saw the change in venue as a positive decision.

“I liked it a lot,” Reynolds said. “Being right by the bridges was a really nice setting. As much as I love the point, this feels like you were more in the city, and I think it works really well for the Arts Festival.”

Billy Cramer, a local potter who sold his work at the Three Rivers Arts Festival this year, particularly enjoyed the live music.

“I personally really enjoy the fact that they have live music going on,” Cramer said. “I can leave my art booth and walk down and hear live music at the end of the evening. That was a really cool advantage.”

The Festival featured performances from many local artists, as well as some bigger artists including Corinne Bailey Rae and KT Tunstall. Reynolds, who attended the festival on the day Corinne Bailey Rae, an English singer-songwriter, performed, said the performance was “epic.”

“She’s a big name,” Reynolds said. “That was so lovely, to have a free concert in the streets of Pittsburgh from her.”

Alisa Tran, who owns and operates Davis Mae Jewelry, enjoyed the Three Rivers Arts Festival because of the people she got to meet and talk to.

“I like interacting with people,” Tran said. “I like the people watching. This one’s great with all the volunteers that have helped me. I think [the Festival] is wonderful. It gives people a chance to get out and shop for, you know, unique products and speak to the artists directly.”

Cramer mentioned that the Festival would not be possible without all of the hard work from the volunteers that occurs behind the scenes.

“This particular festival has a wonderful group of volunteers that will come and watch your booth for upwards of 30 minutes at a time,” Cramer said. “Not only do you get to take proper breaks, but you can also take the time to walk around, see other people’s work and talk to other artists.”

Cramer said the Festival has a significant following and artists from all over the United States have attended in hopes of seeing the artwork and hearing the music featured.

“I know there were close to 300 artists there over the course of 10 days,” Cramer said. “I saw artists from San Diego and Colorado, so it definitely has a big drawing.”

Cramer believes that the Festival is beneficial for artists and said he personally had a successful weekend. 

“I had a wonderful five days being part of the Arts Festival,” Cramer said. “I fired kilns every day during the festival and brought fresh pottery to my booth every morning.” 

As a Pittsburgh resident, Reynolds thinks that events like the Three Rivers Arts Festival positively impact the community.

“I think it’s an awesome event for everyone involved,” Reynolds said. “It gives tons of local businesses and artists attention. The music and demonstrations are really cool things to have for free to the community. I went three times in one week, which is way more often than I normally go downtown.”

Cramer hopes to return in the future.

“I definitely plan on applying every year,” Cramer said. “I hope that I will get accepted again. I am fortunate that I live a mile and a half away from that location. Being able to zip up my booth and walk home was a lovely set of circumstances.” 

Cramer also believes that events like this create a sense of community.

“Getting out and being around each other is a great thing for society,” Cramer said. “These types of events create community and interaction.”