The Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival has provided a lot of Pittsburgh history through the years. From humble beginnings in the 1960’s and after many years of shows and performances from top celebrities, artists, dancers and musicians, this festival is the gold standard in how to run a large scale event. In the past, many of it’s directors have been women and that trend is continuing. Barbara Widdoes, the former executive director who passed in 2018 was one of the original organizers and board members and now has a trust in her name. RockatNight.com got to sit down and talk to the current director, Sarah Aziz. She filled us in on how the festival is kept free, a little of the history and background. The festival is in it’s 60th year and it provides music, art and large scale art displays, drumming, creative spaces, children’s activities, food and beverage and plenty of vendors–a little something for everyone.
This festival highlights the downtown’s parks and green areas and is the highlight of early summer in the Pittsburgh metro. Three Rivers was sustainable for many years and in 2008 became a zero waste festival. This takes a lot of coordination by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust (who fundraises all year long to keep this festival free), local sponsors, vendors, the city, the parks and anyone participating or attending. Some of the ways to create a zero waste festival include: composting and way stations throughout the festival areas which eliminates collection pickup, providing water so there are no plastic drink bottles being sold or disposed of and vendors are trained on how to properly dispose of waste and recyclables. Any left over food is collected by 412 Food Rescue and distributed to other food programs in the city that have a need such as: senior centers or summer school food programs.
Many of the artists also use upcycled and recycled materials for their art such as a woman who uses the broken glass from auto accidents. Ocean Sole Africa’s Flip the Flop will be a great display to see for young and old alike! These creators are from the country of Kenya and recycle flip-flops that are washed up from the Indian Ocean, clean them and use them to sculpture animals. Another incredible visual display from France is Companie Furinkai’s Origami, a dancer on a high wire with a shipping container. The truly amazing abounds at this festival!
The festival lasts from June 7th to the 16th with daily activities, vending, large scale art displays, concerts and so much more. This year’s music includes top acts such as Grammy Award–winning India.Arie who will open the festival the first evening, indigenous and socially–conscious music by Nahko and Medicine for the People, country star Marty Stuart and the Superlatives, Tiny Desk Award winners Tank and the Bangas and the Americana (Alt Country) husband and wife act, Mandolin Orange. Don’t miss this! You can get more information, explore a timeline of the history of the festival and see the full lineup of concerts and events by visiting the official festival website at: https://traf.trustarts.org/