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The family guide to Three Rivers Arts Festival – from infants to teens

Sally Quinn
May25/ 2018

This year’s edition of the 59-year-old Three Rivers Arts Festival seems tailor-made for families.

Along with the juried art show, artist market and a lineup of music that grown-ups love, this year’s 10-day festival gives kids lots of fun ways to be creative with hands-on activities, experience interactive performances and be blown away by wild visuals.

So much to do – from June 1 to 10 – and admission is free!

Enjoy snacks and meals at the food court tents lined up along Point State Park’s main lawn, near the Dollar Bank Stage, and Gateway Center at the main entrance just off the Penn Avenue extension. Food trucks will be “windows up” every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Ice pops, chicken waffles, funnel cake and barbeque are a few of the tempting treats.

Moms with the littlest ones will appreciate The Anthropology of Motherhood: Feeding Room at the Wyndham Grand Hotel. This “functional art installation” offers air-conditioned comfort for breast- and bottle-feeding, diaper-changing tables and a play area for siblings.

If you’re looking for the bathrooms, the portable toilets are right on the other side of the portal bridge through Point State Park.  There’s even a new portable bathroom for families with toddlers.

Don’t forget your ponchos and sunscreen. Chances are, you could need both!

You can access a daily schedule online. But we’ve gathered the most kid-friendly highlights here:

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Who loves muddy hands? We do — when we play with clay!

HANDS-ON FUN

These activities take place at the Giant Eagle Creativity Zone in Point State Park except where noted.

Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts: Learn how to work with clay through squishing, rolling and molding. Staff from the Center for the Arts will demonstrate live wheel throwing by making bowls, mugs and bottles, and show how decorative techniques are applied. Noon to 6 June 1-3.

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This cool technique will be perfect for making greeting cards for family members.

Mattress Factory: Kids will learn how to create a miniature installation inside a pop-up card that moves from 2 dimensions to a 3-D space. Noon to 6 June 1 and 8.

Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse: Reuse-a-Palooza brings a huge variety of reclaimed objects so kids can create silly objects of art. It will give them a  new way of looking through the home recyclables. Noon to 6 p.m. daily.

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Kids’ handmade ceramic flowers will become part of a community garden.

Union Project: Community Blooms teaches ceramic hand-building skills to sculpt and decorate a clay flower blossom that will be fired in the Union Project kiln and “planted” in a community garden. After creating the clay flower, kids can sculpt a wildflower seed bomb to take home. Noon to 6 p.m. June 2.

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Kids can try their hand at making traditional cyanotype prints, inspired by nature’s intricate, aquatic ecosystem.

Rivers of Steel: Bio-cyanotypes mixes biology, artistry, history and technology to create cyanotype prints inspired by nature’s aquatic ecosystem. Noon to 6 p.m. June 3-5.

Carnegie Science Center: Contribute to a growing Pittsburgh-inspired LEGO mosaic masterpiece. Noon-6 p.m. June 7-10.

Warhol Museum: Artist Andy Warhol started out as in advertising as an illustrator. Kids can use his early techniques with rubber stamps, watercolors and stencils to make Warhol-inspired postcards. Noon to 6 p.m. June 9 and 10.

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Travel through Point State Park and capture the sights through a 2-hour sketching marathon.

Twilight Sketch Crawl: Kids and adults can bring a sketchpad and drawing instruments to the Portal Bridge meeting spot. Illustrator Rick Antolic will assist participants with their sketches throughout the 2-hour drawing marathon. 5 to 7 p.m. June 9.

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A handful of the storytellers include (clockwise from top) Joanna Abel, Amber Fantini, Jeff Berman and Celeta Hickman.

STORYTELLERS

Time for a story? These terrific storytellers – who double as dancers, puppeteers and musicians – will delight and entertain kids in the StoryCorner at Giant Eagle Creativity Zone.

1 p.m. June 3: “Giraffes Can Dance” with Joanna Abel. Gerald the Giraffe’s neck was so long and his legs were so thin that all the animals teased him at the Jungle Dance. But a friend helps Gerald learn to dance to his own special music.

2 p.m. June 3 and 10: “Kitchen Dance” with Celeta Hickman. Afro-Caribbean music, songs and movement help tell the story of a family who dances together in joy and love.

3 p.m. June 3: “Billy Goats Blast!” with Amber Fantini. The classic tale of “Three Billy Goats Gruff” is revisited through dramatic play, sound and pantomime.

4 p.m. June 3 and 10: “Now Things Are Worse” with Joann Kielar. Kids help create the sound effects for this funny Yiddish folktale about a man who takes advice only to find his situation becoming ridiculously worse.

1 p.m. June 10: “Max Found Two Sticks” with Jeff Berman. Are words needed to express how you feel? Percussionist Jeff Berman leads kids through the story by improvising rhythmic patterns and chants.

3 p.m. June 10: “Crocodile Beat” with Betty Dell. Puppets help guide kids on an imaginary jungle journey with interactive activities.

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Kids will perform an Afro-Caribbean masquerade with a Brazilian beat on June 1.

KIDS MAKING MUSIC

Patterns of Pride: Minadeo Elementary School kids will perform an original masquerade based on Afro-Caribbean masquerade traditions with Timbeleza, a community-oriented drum ensemble that plays Brazilian percussion. Noon June 1 at Point State Park.

Teen Showcase: Kids from ages 14-18 can register to perform in this showcase of young local talent. Performing artists in voice, music, monologue, dance and spoken word can sign up here. The showcase takes place from 6-10 p.m. June 2 at Trust Arts Education Center.

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Sloane Simon, 13, sings about life’s challenges and joys.

Sloane Simon: This 13-year-old vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist started playing guitar at age 9 when her mom was struggling against cancer. Her first song was about being brave when you’re scared. Mom’s healthy now, but Sloane continues to play and sing about her life. 5 p.m. June 1 at the Acoustic Stage in Gateway Center.

Ibeji Drum Ensemble Community Drum Circle: Kids can find their joy in the rhythm of the Ibeji Drum Ensemble in a community drum circle. All skill levels and ages are welcome. 1 and 3 p.m. June 2 and 9 on the Gateway Lawn at Gateway Center.

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Pittsburgh hip-hop artist Bird returns to Three Rivers Arts Festival this year.

Bird: This 17-year-old Pittsburgh native and hip-hop artist has been performing at major festivals and events throughout the city with great vibes, charisma and dope music. 5 p.m. June 7 at the Acoustic Stage at Gateway Center.

Elias Khouri and The EK Band: Elias is a 16-year-old Pittsburgh guitar sensation who started playing just four years ago. This WYEP Reimagination Artist is largely influenced by ‘70s rock. Noon June 8 at the Dollar Bank Main Stage in Point State Park.

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It’s a family affair for the Echo Valley band, who live on a Pennsylvania farm.

Echo Valley: This family band of siblings has been playing together for 10 years with a variety of music including bluegrass, gospel and folk. 2 p.m. June 9 at the Acoustic Stage in Gateway Center.

Lyra: A 14-year-old Pittsburgh singer and WYEP Reimagination Artist found her voice and is going solo. 2 p.m. June 10 at the Acoustic Stage in Gateway Center.

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Teens can compete in Dance Battles 3 or watch their peers in these energetic matches.

DANCE, DANCE, DANCE

TRAF Dance Battles 3: Back for the third year, TRAF Dance Battles will include two competition formats: 1v1 All Styles and 1v1 Breaking. Open cyphers and registration will take place from 2-3 p.m. First Place in each category will receive $100, plus a trophy; Second Place in each category will receive $50, plus a trophy. 2-8 p.m. June 8 at Stanwix Stage in Gateway Center.

Attack Theatre: The Leap into Action performance demonstrates the principles of weight balance and momentum with ladders, giant rings of steel and a blue monster crawling tunnel. 12:15 p.m. June 1, noon June 6 at Dollar Bank Main Stage in Point State Park. And join the dancers in the Creativity Zone to discover the creative process behind dance.

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This gospel musical begins with the story of Africans who were brought to the American colonies by force.

HISTORY

“From Chains to Gains”: Neville A Brooks: ”From Chains to Gains” is a musical production telling the story of African slave’s journey from Africa to the American colonies and how they found solace in spirituals, now celebrated as gospel music. 3:30-4:30 p.m. June 2 at Dollar Bank Main Stage in Point State Park.

Fort Pitt Museum: Kids can work on museum make-and-take crafts that deal with life at Fort Pitt in the 18th century. Noon-6 p.m. June 1, 2, 3 and 8 at Giant Eagle Creativity Zone.

“Lest We Forget,” August Wilson Center. Cultural history can be found in the most unlikely of objects. Lest We Forget looks at imagery used to depict African Americans over the past 150 years. It’s a worthwhile visit to begin discussions with tweens and teens about race and identity. The James Kidd collection of artwork is on display for the first time.

KID PHOTOGRAPHERS

“Faces of Pittsburgh”: Artist Janette Beckman’s “Faces of Pittsburgh” was a photo workshop that taught kids how to great photographs with a focus on composing and editing. She sent the group from Manchester Bidwell out with the intention of kids telling the stories of their communities. The images they produced will be on view on the Gateway Lawn in Gateway Center and displayed on walls and digital billboards around the city.

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Pittsburgh mom Heather Hopson looks to empower single mothers with her “Single Mom Defined” exhibit.

MOMS IN FOCUS

“Single Mom Defined”: Pittsburgh’s Heather Hopson created a photo essay exhibition and video series to empower single mothers to give a more accurate definition of single Black motherhood. The interactive exhibit introduces visitors of all ages to positive images of 50-plus mothers in the Pittsburgh region. It aims to change negative search results and combat cultural bias with hands-on activities for all ages. Noon to 8 p.m. daily on Gateway Lawn at Gateway Center.

Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn is an award-winning writer and editor who has been covering her favorite city for more than 20 years. She welcomes comments and story ideas for Kidsburgh.

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