Headed to Arts Fest? Here’s your must-see list
For 57 years the Three Rivers Arts Festival has been the gateway to summer in Western Pennsylvania. The 2017 version, sponsored by Dollar Bank and hosted by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, again features 10 days of art, music and, of course, funnel cakes and other epicurean delights, from June 2 to 11.
Founded in 1960 by the Women’s Committee of the Carnegie Museum of Art, the organizers’ original goals were modest.
“All anyone really wanted was a little outdoor art show near Carnegie Institute, some paintings perhaps, scattered along the mall among the trees outside Carnegie Library (in Oakland),” said Adolph Schmidt, the festival’s first chairman.
That little outdoor art show has grown into a world-class event. Artists including Keith Haring and Nam June Paik have exhibited their work. Spalding Gray and Allen Ginsburg spoke at the festival, and musical acts ranging from Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald to Wilco and Sonic Youth have performed.
In honor of the 10 days of the Three Rivers Arts Festival, here are 10 things not to miss, in no particular order.
BLUE LAPIS LIGHT
9-9:30 p.m. June 2 and 3, Fifth Avenue Place
They literally dance on the air. Blue Lapis Light bills itself as an aerial dance team and their performance will be unique, as it’s designed specifically for Fifth Avenue Place.
PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
7:30 p.m. June 5, Dollar Bank Main Stage, Point State Park
For 120 years the Pittsburgh Symphony has been one of the country’s finest orchestras. Their annual appearance is one of the highlights of the arts festival.
ONE HUMAN BAND
Noon-4 p.m. June 3, Stanwix Stage, Gateway Center
The musicians hail from Atlanta, New York, Texas, Ontario and Mexico. What they produce as performers with One Human Band International is more than the sum of their talents. Each one-person band creates unique sounds by way of guitars, loops, horns and other assorted musical wizardry. Hosted by Pittsburgh musician Mike Why.
7:30 p.m. June 9, Dollar Bank Main Stage, Point State Park
Don’t let the title of Dawes’ new album, “We’re All Gonna Die,” fool you: the music is far from morbid. The Los Angeles-based band once was regarded as a folk-rock ensemble, but the new upbeat songs are more soulful and keyboard oriented. Opening act is Accidentals, Billboard’s breakout band at SXSW 2015
‘THE LIGHT PRINCESS’
1 and 3:30 p.m. June 3-4, Trust Arts Education Center, Cultural District
Featuring puppets and special effects, “The Light Princess” is a multi-sensory experience created by the Jumping Jack Theater for audiences on the autism spectrum. Adapted from the fairy tale by George McDonald about a young girl who floats through her days, the production is suitable for all audiences. The event is free, but reservations are requested at traf.trustarts.org/events/1437
JURIED VISUAL ART EXHIBITION
Noon-8 p.m. June 2-11, Trust Arts Education Center, Cultural District
With so many enticing distractions, it’s easy to forget that the Three Rivers Arts Festival was created to showcase artists. This year again features regional artists from a variety of disciplines showcasing their work.
Noon-8 p.m. June 2-11, Wood Street Galleries, Cultural District
Who says technology and religion are strange bedfellows? An industrial robot created by robotlab, a trio of German artists, will write the bible on scrolls of paper, drawing precise, calligraphic lines. Called “(bios) bible,” the installation explores the gulf between religion and scientific rationalism.
UMBRELLA SKY PROJECT
Noon-9 p.m. June 2-11, Gateway Center
Fairly or not, the arts festival is often equated with the arrival of the rainy season in Western Pennsylvania. Whether by design or coincidence, the Umbrella Sky Project injects a bit of meteorological whimsy. Originally created in 2012, in Agueda, Portugal, the raft of colorful bumbershoots also can be viewed as accidental tribute to Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly and his opus, “Singing in the Rain.”
Noon-8 p.m. June 2-11, Point State Park and Gateway Center.
Of course, there will be funnel cakes and sundry varieties of fried foods. But the food offerings at the arts festival have become more diverse (and healthier) in recent years. Expect items such as lobster burgers and tabbouleh, plus food trucks parked throughout the Cultural District.
Noon-8 p.m. June 2-11
More than 150 artisans will be set up on the Gateway Center plazas, along the walkways in Point State Park and along the Liberty and Penn Avenue extensions, which will be closed to traffic. Ware range from the small jewelry to the large paintings and heavy wooden furniture. The vendors are different on the two weekends of the festival, so if you don’t see what you like the first week, stop back the next weekend.
Lending a beat to the Three Rivers Arts Festival this year are a variety of bands and genres. The headliners go on at 7:30 p.m. each day, unless otherwise noted:
June 2: Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band; local group Jimbo & the Soupbones will open.
June 3: Minneapolis’ Hippo Campus, an indie-rock band of 21-year-olds who’ve found national success with a couple of EPs and are promoting their debut album, “Landmark.”
June 4: Las Cafeteras, an East Los Angeles band that blends Afro-Mexican sounds, and local band Meeting of Important People
June 5: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
June 6: Michael Kiwanuka, British singer-songwriter
June 7: Birds of Chicago (starting at 8:15), a soulful singing/songwriting duo, with opening act Sean Rowe, an alternative folk singer-songwriter.
June 8: Beats + Bars (starting at 7 p.m.), featuring a diverse group of Pittsburgh hip-hop stars, including Choo Jackson, HollyHood, Billy Pilgrim, Pirate Gang, Track Meet, Hubbs, DJ Selecta.
June 9: Dawes, a folk band from Los Angeles touring in support of its fifth album, “We’re All Gonna Die.” Opening act is Accidentals, Billboard’s breakout band at SXSW 2015
June 10: Bluegrass Day with headliner Sarah Jarosz, a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist who won a 2017 Grammy for best folk album, proceeded by Fruition, a Portland, Oregon-based quintet that plays soul, blues and British Invasion era pop. Several Pittsburgh-area groups will take the stage throughout the day.
June 11: St. Paul and the Broken Bones, a six-piece soul band based in Birmingham, Ala., with local soul band The Commonheart opening.
FOR THE KIDS
Children have always had their own special places and shows at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, and this year is no different. Here are just a couple of the activities that kids will enjoy.
• Giant Eagle Creativity Zones: This year, there will be two locations where arts organizations will help kids be creative — the original site just after the portal bridge in Point State Park and a new location in Gateway Center. They’re both open from noon-6 p.m. daily
â¢Take a Seat!: This interactive installation allows visitors to move 25 lightweight chairs throughout Point State Park and under the Fort Duquesne Bridge. GPS locators will record their locations and movements, as part of the Riverlife Task Forces’ ‘to be determined’ series. Noon-9 p.m. daily