Your family guide to the Three Rivers Arts Festival: 10 days of free fun begin May 31

Photo above: Kids can explore hands-on music making at the Musical Instrument Petting Zoo. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival celebrates its 65th birthday this year with 10 days of family fun, May 31 through June 9.

Generations of Pittsburghers share wonderful memories of great music, fascinating public art installations and special take-home treasures from the marketplace. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s effort this year continues the tradition with a range of fun for all ages.

Here’s what’s planned: 

Grownups will appreciate the musical lineup at the main stage, located at the intersection of Fort Duquesne Boulevard and 9th Street, with performances by Los Lonely Boys, Doom Flamingo, Ben Folds and more. (Here’s the complete Main Stage lineup.) Vendors at the Artist Market will set up shop on the Rachel Carson Bridge and along Fort Duquesne Boulevard. (Scroll to the map below to see the full festival layout.)

The Cultural Trust’s art galleries will also welcome visitors with exhibitions. You will find “Furry Friends: An Artistic Celebration of Animal-Human Friendships,” which is the 2024 juried art exhibit, at SPACE Gallery. You can also check out “40 Years Later: Revisiting the 1984 Three Rivers Arts Festival” for a blast from the past at 707 Penn Gallery. VaultArt Studio’s artists with disabilities present “Life is Nice but Odd and Strange at the Same Time” at 820 Liberty Gallery. And “Wavy Wednesday: Where Did Your Christ Come From?” is on view at 937 Liberty Gallery.

But let’s not forget about the little ones. The Three Rivers Arts Festival has plenty of entertaining activities geared especially to kids. Let the memories begin!

Giant Eagle Creativity Zone:

The Giant Eagle Foundation Backyard will host a wide array of organizations offering family-friendly activities at the corner of 8th Street and Penn Avenue. The Creativity Zone presents glass-blowing and wheel-throwing demonstrations. Kids can try their hand at clay molding, flower arranging and water-based sensory play. They can also improve their chess skills, try out musical instruments and show off their LEGO-building talent. With organizations’ booths changing during the festival, it’s well worth several visits. And watch for food trucks with tasty goods on the weekends.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Fun at the Creativity Zone includes:

May 31: Splash and Sculpt: Creative Fun on the Riverfront. Riverlife hosts activities that combine art and play. Sculpt a piece to be displayed on riverfront trails or try some sensory play on the water table while learning about the importance of Pittsburgh’s rivers.

May 31: Musical Instrument Petting Zoo with Unisound. Families can discover offerings from local music programs while trying a hands-on approach to musical instruments. Expert teachers will guide kids to play brass and string instruments.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

May 31-June 2: Acetate Collage with the Andy Warhol Museum. Educators from the Andy Warhol Museum will guide kids in creating a multimedia collage project inspired by the later career of Andy Warhol.

May 31-June 9: The Enormous Bead Tree Community Sculpture. Artist Hannah Goforth from Go Explore Create Art Studio, the Center for Creative Reuse and the Maple Unified Student Academy are collaborating to create a one-of-a-kind community sculpture. Based on the children’s book “The Little Bead Tree” by Eric Rovin, kids will use paper scraps, beads, corks, game pieces and wood scraps to decorate a community-made tree.

June 1-2 and 8; Let’s Learn Chess! Queen’s Gambit hosts kids looking to improve chess skills with a variety of chess-themed activities and games. Beginners and advanced players will pick up tips to take their chess skills to the next level.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

June 1-2: Hot Glass Demonstrations with Pittsburgh Glass Center. Pittsburgh Glass Center brings its mobile glassblowing studio to offer a showcase of this display of art and science. Watch artists in live demonstrations and interactive experiences.

June 1-2: Wheel Mobile with Union Project. Watch teaching artists demonstrate wheel-throwing demonstrations and try your hand it inspired wheel-throwing yourself. (Learn more about the Wheel Mobile right here.)

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

June 2-4: Games for Everyone with Playful Pittsburgh. Play with oversized versions of favorite family games, including Connect 4, Cornhole, Jenga, and LEGO blocks.

June 2: Hands in Clay! with Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media. Teaching artists will guide kids through different types of clay bodies and show them how to manipulate the clay into art. The multi-sensory experience teaches how to wedge, squeeze, roll, twist, pinch and hand-mold wet clay.

June 2-3: Can You Build It? with Steel City LEGO User Group. Steel City LUG, Pittsburgh’s area Adult LEGO User Group, offers challenges to kids to showcase their skills and ideas.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

June 5-6: Pittsburgh Bike People. Learn all about how to enjoy cycling on our city streets and beyond with Pittsburgh Bike People, a collaboration between BikePGH and POGOH, with the goal of sharing resources and services. Pick up a Pittsburgh Bike Map, get information about how to sign up for Pittsburgh Bike Share (POGOH), play giant Jenga, and create a take-home craft.

June 7-8: Send a Message to the Moon! Moonshot Museum offers kids the chance to write or draw a message to send to the moon, view 3-D images of the lunar surface and learn how the moon has inspired artwork over the years.

June 8: Flower Arranging with PA Floral Academy. Florist experts will teach all ages the art of flower arranging in a hands-on mini lesson. All materials are provided, and you’ll take home a one-of-a-kind arrangement.

June 9: Pittsburgh Poetry Collective Blackout Poetry Workshop. Award-winning poets from Steel City Slam will lead participants in erasure poetry. In this form of found poetry, the poet erases, blacks out or obscures a portion of an existing text to create a new work from what remains.

Backyard Stage

The Backyard includes a stage where local and regional acts will perform throughout the festival. Performances will be ongoing from noon-8 p.m. daily. There are a couple of knockout performances planned that you won’t want to miss.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

June 8-9: “Sante!” by Cirque Kikasse. In “Sante!” (translation: Cheers!), Cirque Kikasse presents a dynamic circus show with high-level acrobatics, contagious energy and breathtaking balances — all on Kikasse’s unusual food truck. The troupe’s mission is to prepare the Terrace for service by arranging furniture that turns into a balancing tower 30 feet off the ground, playfully cleaning the truck and trampoline, and overflowing the popcorn machine.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

June 8: TRAF Dance Battle 10. This year’s 10th annual TRAF Dance Battle will include an All-Styles battle with cash prizes and trophies for the finalists. DJ Inception will spin music for this high-energy event.

Throughout the Cultural District

May 31-June 9: “A Sudden Gust of Wind.” Look up! Trees throughout the Cultural District are decorated with kites caught in their branches. The commissioned public art project, “A Sudden Gust of Wind,” was created by Pittsburgh-based and internationally renowned artists Lenka Clayton and Phillip Andrew Lewis. This large-scale public artwork includes a sequence of 200 sculptures installed within the branches of more than 80 trees. Look for Community Flying Days from May 30-June 9 with kites provided free of charge. Full details to be announced.

May 31-June 9: Anthropology of Motherhood at the Byham Theater. The Culture of Care exhibition explores motherhood in a space that is equal parts an art gallery and a calm place where families with young children can take advantage of the quiet for a bit of a break.

The Map: