Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival: What to see, what to eat, who not to miss
This year's 59th Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival June 1-10 in downtown Pittsburgh isn't only an annual free celebration of visual and performing arts by nationally known artists; it's a showcase of the many talents of people who live and work in and around the city.
Sarah Aziz, festival director, says this year's 10-day festival that stretches through Point State Park, Gateway Plaza and the Cultural District focuses on the diversity and creativity of visual and performing artists that make Pittsburgh proud.
She points out that, over the years, much of the city's most recognizable public art made its debut at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, a production of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
“Our philosophy is that everyone belongs here,” Aziz says, “and art is accessible and approachable and should not be intimidating. Pittsburgh is a very artful city.”
With so much to see and do, a game plan for experiencing all the festival fun is a good idea; so is a brochure with highlights of everything around town and where to find it, available at traf.trustarts.org .
5 new things
For her first solo cultural institution exhibition, “Communal Future,” Naomi Chambers creates a series of new paintings and assemblages that examine society's messages of love and devotion through bright colors, playful materials and everyday objects. Her exhibition is in the August Wilson Center/African American Cultural Center.
“Lest We Forget” explores the depictions of African Americans — both honorable and shiftless imagery, and in high and low art forms — in European American popular culture from the past 150 years. The selection of art objects and artwork from the collection of James Kidd is on display for the first time at the August Wilson Center/African American Cultural Center.
“Rethink Vets” is an exhibit displaying the work of artist-veterans who are members of the U.S. Veterans' Artist Alliance. It promotes dialogue about the role of military veterans in the Pittsburgh region. Located in Gateway Center, the exhibit will include engagement activities in partnership with local veteran and artist organizations.
The annual Three Rivers Film Festival will reconnect with the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival this year, featuring more than 30 international independent films. Special events will be centered at the downtown Harris Theater, with nightly screenings at the Harris Theater, the Melwood Screening Room in Oakland and the Regent Square Theater in Edgewood. Film schedules are at cinema.pfpca.org .
The arts festival features an assortment of new and returning artists and craftsmen, both local and out-of-town, in the Artist Market. Exhibit booths are located in Point State Park and Gateway Center.
5 visual artists not to miss
Dee Briggs of Wilkinsburg will present “Six Plates for Annabelle and Maggie,” a sculpture based on the concept of chirality, the operation of symmetry and mirror images in geometric shapes. This piece will be installed at the Gateway T station and will be on view through May 2019.
Janette Beckman, a British-born photographer from New York, will involve students from the North Side in a photography workshop as part of her “Faces of Pittsburgh” public art project. They then will go into their neighborhood to take portraits of people that live there. The images will be displayed in Gateway Center.
Tony Tasset's “Magnolias for Pittsburgh” is a public art exhibit of two bronze hand-casted magnolia trees, showcasing 800 hand-sculpted flowers each, set in a garden at Penn and Seventh avenues in the Cultural District.
Artist Heather Hopson's photo essay and video series, “Single Mom Defined,” is an interactive exhibit about single black motherhood with positive images of more than 50 moms in the Pittsburgh region, aiming to help combat cultural bias and stereotypes. Hopson is an Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh honoree by The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.
The Haas Mural by American muralist Richard Haas pays homage to Pittsburgh's steel industry. Haas is best known for architectural murals and his use of the Trompe l'oeil style, a technique involving realistic imagery creating the optical illusion that depicted objects appear in 3-D. The mural is painted on the Fort Duquesne Boulevard facade of the Byham Theater.
5 performance artists
Gospel-soul legend Mavis Staples will be the festival's opening-day headliner June 1 with a 7:30 p.m. performance in Point State Park. She has performed with Bob Dylan, Booker T., Ray Charles and the Band, and had music written for her by artists from Prince and Nick Cave to Neko Case. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame.
The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh will present Steve Hackman's new arrangement of choral work in “The Times They Are A-Changin': Words and Music of Bob Dylan” on June 5. Conducted by Robert Page Music Director Matthew Mehaffey, The Mendelssohn Choir, known for singing classical choral works, will sing Hackman's arrangements of Bob Dylan favorites.
Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real features Willie Nelson's son — a singer, songwriter and guitarist — and his rock group based in California, performing on the Arts Festival stage June 6.
Singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Valerie June, from Memphis, Tenn., encompasses a mixture of folk, blues, gospel, soul, country, Appalachian and bluegrass. She performs June 8.
Pioneering British group Everything Everything, touring in support of their fourth album, “A Fever Dream,” performs June 2 at 7:30 p.m. Their sound is defined as “a musical bucking bronco, their albums maximalist, frenetic, art-pop juxtapositions of R'n'B and melancholia and Afrobeat, of synths, guitars, falsetto.”
5 foods not to miss
Food courts offer a daily wide assortment of familiar festival fare in two locations: Point State Park main lawn, near Dollar Bank Stage, and Gateway Center's Main Entrance, just off of Penn Avenue Extension. In addition, a variety of some of the best mobile food vendors from the Pittsburgh area will sell their specialties on Food Truck Days — Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the festival.
Here are some recommendations from Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival regulars:
• Don't miss the Mediterranean booth for fresh homemade items including multiple vegetarian options.
• There are four kinds of strudel to sample in the Point Cafe.
• Lobster burgers are a big hit in Gateway Center.
• Check out the food trucks, including Oh My Grill, serving grilled cheese sandwiches on freshly baked bread with a homemade dipping sauce, and seasonal sides such as parmesan spinach balls, spicy pasta salad and tabbouleh salad.
And you can't pass up fried Oreos in the funnel cake booth or all of the chocolate-covered treats in the ice cream booth in Gateway Center.
The festival also will include creative arts activities and demonstrations for all ages at the Giant Eagle Creativity Zone in Point State Park in local partnerships with variety of organizations. More than 500,000 people are expected to visit the festival from June 1-10.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.