7 ways kids will have a blast at Three Rivers Arts Festival

At the grown-up age of 60, the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival remains as fresh and youthful as ever. The 10-day celebration of visual and performing arts, running June 7-16, welcomes visitors with a terrific lineup of diverse music, dance and photography, along with intriguing 2-D and 3-D works. Kids are a big part of the excitement. Here are 7 ways kids will get the most out of the experience:

1. Get creative

Rain or shine, the big tent holding the Giant Eagle Creativity Zone operates every day of the Arts Festival. Hands-on activities and demonstrations will keep kids busy and engaged in a variety of subjects from many Pittsburgh organizations. You’re likely to find new diversions on multiple visits.

The folks at Fort Pitt Museum will involve kids in 18th-century crafts while learning about the importance of our three rivers and the settlement at the Point. Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse lives up to its name with a full-scale Reuse-a-Palooza with lots of reclaimed materials to be remade into ingenious contraptions and sculptures.

Kids can make ceramic flowers from clay with the Union Project. The blossoms are kiln-fired, given a stem, then “planted” in a community art garden where they will be enjoyed all summer long. Those more appreciative of real flowers can make seed bombs to take home and plant.

Kids can get an intro to the upcoming 50th season of the Citizens Bank Children’s Theater Series, as well as the EQT Bridge Theater Series, with crafts and other creative play related to the shows.

There’s lots more. Click here to see the schedule.

2. Spin, spin, spin!

Kids can literally immerse themselves in larger-than-life-size, 3-D sculptures that spin like tops. Each Los Trompos construction is made from bright, colorful fabric, woven by Mexican artisans who follow a traditional pattern. The interaction of the sculptures and viewers makes the art experience complete, say artists Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena.

The partners began the project intending to weave connections and emotions while celebrating the skills and culture of Mexico. Kids can spin the giant tops and jump inside for a dizzy ride.

“Los Trompos is based on an approach of traditional toys, their colorful expression, and the way they are constructed,” Esrawe says. “We wanted to talk about the traditions and skills of the craftsmen in Mexico, as an inheritance of our culture. We like the idea of translating these techniques into new symbols.”

And it’s a ton of fun, too!

3. Shapeshifting

The gravity-defying, acrobatic performance of Compagnie Furinkaï’s “Origami” comes all the way from France, co-presented by Pittsburgh Dance Council. The work was inspired by origami, the art of paper-folding. In this case, the folding is super-sized in a 40-foot shipping container with pieces that shift its shape while a nimble dancer swings and moves in an athletic interchange.

The international collaboration of French/Japanese dancer/choreographer Satchie Noro and French designer Silvain Ohl brings this amazing, monumental performance. The US premiere of “Origami” runs June 14-16. Find the schedule here.

4. Flip the Flop

These colorful elephants will give kids some fun ideas for craft projects as well as a visual lesson in recycling and conservation. Ocean Sole Africa creates these Flip the Flop sculptures out of upcycled flip-flops to inspire others to make art and help save the world. Their mission includes a practical aspect, too, by providing jobs in their country where unemployment averages about 40 percent.

5. Clowning around

Keep your eyes out for silly brother and sister, Beep and Bop, from Tut’Zanni Theatre Company. These clowns will work the crowd throughout the festival all day on June 7 and 8. With a focus on mischief, adventure and heart, Beep and Bop interact with kids (and their grownups) to take them on a zany adventure.

6. Listen to a story (or two or three)

The best storytellers include kids in the story with movement, music and silliness. The daily lineup of StoryCorners engages kids with the best teaching artists who engage kids in some of their favorite stories.

Amber Fantini brings “Taco Party” to life with its tale of a picky dragon. Betty Dell and her puppet pals involve kids with “Crocodile Beat” and an animal parade. Kids will love dancing to the Afro-Caribbean music of “Kitchen Dance” with dancer Celeste Hickman. The fun doesn’t stop there. Check the schedule for the complete lineup.

7. Record your own history

The Pittsburgh Time Capsule could be a fun conversation starter with kids about what Pittsburgh people might be interested to know about 100 years from now. We think kids would be perfect participants with this project. Artist Toby Atticus Fraley will record and collect the 1-minute messages, which will be stored in time capsules. Leave your video-message for the future between noon and 9 p.m. daily throughout the festival.