Your family guide to 10 days of free fun at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival
Photo: STREB Extreme Action, by Jamie Kraus, courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow.
This year, the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, running June 3-12, is taking on the spirit of a giant block party within the footprint of the Cultural District. The festival has evolved and changed over its 63 years, running as a virtual festival in 2020 and a hybrid model last year.
This year’s 10-day Arts Festival, produced by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, will fill the space from Sixth Street to Ninth Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard to Liberty Avenue (see the map below) with pop-up parks, performance stages, art installations and food vendors. The diverse musical lineup is sure to please and the Artist Market will offer plenty of browsing and shopping opportunities.
But keeping those little ones engaged and happy takes a fair amount of creative planning, too. Here are the highlights of the best kid-focused activities to plan around. And they’re all free!
STREB Extreme Action
This wild performance, a special season presentation from the Pittsburgh Dance Council, will wow the entire family. MacArthur Award-winning choreographer Elizabeth Streb returns to Pittsburgh for the first time in over a decade. Her STREB Extreme Action revisits the company’s roots with a retrospective of her classic solos from the ‘70s and ‘80s and early equipment experimentations from the ‘90s. Expect jaw-dropping athleticism with large-scale “action machines,” too.
Catch the excitement at 5 p.m. on June 3, and at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on June 4, and 5 p.m. on June 5 at The Backyard on 8th Street.
Giant Eagle Creativity Zone
Kids will love an extended stop under the big white tent of the Giant Eagle Creativity Zone. They’ll have a blast with the wide variety of hands-on activities offered by Pittsburgh arts and community organizations. Expect big fun from the likes of Steel City LEGO Users Group, The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, Pittsburgh Glass Center, Sweetwater Center for the Arts and Sunburst Music.
The Giant Eagle Creativity Zone operates from noon-6 p.m. June 3-12 at Trust Oasis at 7th Street.
Magic Dot Painting with Emily McMahon
Browsing through art is cool, but making your own masterpiece is even better. Kids from ages 3 to adult can join artist Emily McMahon for a lesson in Magic Dot Painting. Basic materials will be supplied, but feel free to bring along any extra special painting supplies you like.
Step Up Your Moves, Find Your Groove with Taylor Couch
Escape the heat (or rain) at this family dance workshop. Step Up Your Moves, Find Your Groove, will explore dance as an art form under the guidance of Taylor Couch. Kids and their grownups can participate together, learning the basic elements of dance, then create a piece of choreography that exemplifies their personal style. The session finishes with a full-body cool down that will leave participants feeling relaxed and groovy.
DJ Inception mixes the music and beats for the seventh-annual Arts Festival Dance Battle. This year, the competition includes brackets for both 1v1 Breaking and 1v1 All Styles. Open registration allows all ages to test their skills against some of the best breakdancers in the region. It’s an exciting show to watch and might inspire your kids to plan to join the competition next year.
Breaking Battle runs from noon-6 p.m. June 11 at The Backyard at 8th Street.
WYEP Reimagination Artists
Over the past eight years, the WYEP Reimagination Project has worked with more than 240 talented teen musicians to hone their skills, learn about the music industry and get ready to launch their music careers. This year’s class will be playing sessions onstage at the Arts Festival. The performances might give your musical prodigy the idea to apply for next year’s Reimagination Project.
Elliana, Elena Bishop, and Bad Judgement will take the stage from 1-2 p.m. June 4. Ajonia and AndMore follow from 3-4 p.m. June 4. CJ Johnson, Ashley Marina, and Marii 2X give it their all from 1-2 p.m. June 11. Louisa C, 412Shxm, and The Glass Passenger perform from 3-4 p.m. June 11. All performances take place on the Acoustic Stage in EQT Plaza on Liberty Avenue.
The Anthropology of Motherhood
Mamas with babies will appreciate this space that doubles as an art installation and as a practical amenity. The air-conditioned Anthropology of Motherhood offers a semi-private area for feeding babies, diaper changing tables, plus a play space for brothers and sisters. You’ll find a sink for washing bottles and breast pump equipment, as well as a water cooler to mix formula, thaw frozen milk and hydrate. Volunteers will be on hand from the Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank, La Leche League, Black Breastfeeding Circle and The Midwife Center. Relax in this safe, comfortable space and enjoy the art display, curated by Fran Flaherty and Amy Bowman-McElhone, with pieces that were chosen from local artists.
The Anthropology of Motherhood is open from noon-8 p.m. June 3-12 at the Encore, 100 7th St., with an entrance on Duquesne Boulevard.
You won’t need to look far to find delicious snacks and meals throughout the Cultural District. The festival’s Food Court will have vendors at three locations daily:
- The 7th Street and Fort Duquesne lot,
- the Backyard at 8th Street and Penn Avenue,
- and the intersection of 9th Street and Penn Avenue.
Food trucks will bring their special brand of food and beverage options on weekends at Penn Avenue and 7th Street, near the Agnes R. Katz Plaza.
And don’t forget your favorite Downtown restaurants. If you need dining suggestions, check out the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s list. Be sure to make reservations during these busy festival days.
Portable restrooms are located along Maddock Place, between the Trust Oasis and the pedestrian pass-through to 8th Street.