Pitt Arts decorates student life with culture and class


For Pitt student Stephanie Liang, one of her most memorable experiences at Pitt Arts was watching a 4D play. As an audience member, she and other students got up on stage and  followed the actors of “Tamara” at Quantum Theater while they watched scenes unfold.

“It showed me how far people can push the limits of art and what a play is,” Liang said. “It was the most unconventional thing I’ve ever seen and the best play I’ve ever experienced — probably since I got to be a part of it, in some way.”

Hosting more than 110 organized activities per year, Pitt Arts guides students through discounted or free art adventures within Pittsburgh with programs such as “Art Encounters,” “Free Museums” and “Cheap Seats.” Approaching its 20th anniversary, Pitt Arts is busy preparing for another year of events and activities to help students broaden their horizons in Pittsburgh.

With Pittsburgh’s budding art scene, students need to take advantage of the cultural opportunities going on in the city around them.

Annabelle Clippinger, director of Pitt Arts, said that it’s important to connect students to the local culture.

“The University believes it’s . . . important to gain knowledge and appreciation for the vibrant, historic and modern city identity that makes Pittsburgh unique,” Clippinger said.

Since the program began in 1997 with 3,632 participants, just shy of 50,000 students and faculty members had taken advantage of Pitt Arts opportunities by the 2009-2010 academic year. Last year alone, students enjoyed a performance of “Macbeth” at the PICT Classic Theatre in the fall, and tours of the Frick Art & Historical Museum in the spring. With free catering from restaurants like The Porch and gourmet boxed lunches from Girasole, there’s no such thing as being a starving artist.

Similar to Pitt Arts programs, the conservatory at Point Park University combines real-world experience and training that connects its students with the urban art atmosphere that covers programs of dance, cinema arts and theater arts. A comprehensive art program on an urban campus is crucial to helping students become a part of the city.

“Art Encounters,” one of the most popular programs, allows undergraduate students at Pitt to attend concerts, plays, symphony orchestra and other cultural events for free.

The “Free Museums” program grants students free access to museums and art exhibits in Pittsburgh, including the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Andy Warhol Museum, the Mattress Factory Art Museum and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Students can simply sign up at the “Get Involved” tab on Pitt Arts’ website to start receiving weekly emails.

The “Cheap Seats” program is a student’s ultimate coupon book of luxurious art events. The program slashes an expensive show ticket in half or more — for example, instead of paying $40 for a ticket, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s the Sound of Modern Symphony costs students $5.

The program’s “Artful Wednesdays” also help students celebrate the local art scene.

Every Wednesday from 12 to 1 p.m. at Nordy’s Place in the William Pitt Union, Pitt Arts puts on a free show for students. Past performances have included jazz bands, dancing, multicultural shows and more. Students can enjoy a break between classes and a free lunch, too.

“We do it all,” Clippinger said.

Pitt Arts doesn’t exclusively cater to art students, Liang said.

“Even if you don’t like art or you think you don’t like art, all of these events are free to students, so you have nothing to lose.” Liang said. “I’m really happy that I get to go out and enjoy all of these cool shows here in Pittsburgh. It’s such a great hub for artists.”

Students who participate in the events in the programs often become an important part of them, through interactive elements or acting as a Pitt Arts host.

“Once the lights go off, curtain goes up, our student leaders enjoy the show just as much,” Clippinger said. “It’s an environment students can connect with their fellow peers who have similar interests and appreciation for art.”

Jonathan Kenneson, a Pitt Arts student host, has hosted over a dozen events in the past year, from “Bugs Bunny” at Heinz Hall to a pumpkin glass blowing event at Pittsburgh Glass Center.

“I love Pitt Arts because their events always provide a relaxing, enjoyable experience. Being able to wind down after a long week of classes or work with a free dinner and a nice show is a great start to the weekend.” Kenneson said. “And [for the] fellas, it’s a great date opportunity!”