The Three Rivers Arts Festival opens Friday Downtown with a new director, Veronica Corpuz, who is enthusiastic about its future and its possibilities.
The 54th annual festival of visual and performing arts, sponsored by Dollar Bank, continues through June 16 in Point State Park, Gateway Center and the Cultural District. Admission is free to the more than 100 planned events and activities featuring more than 500 artists in 20 venues.
The festival takes place during an unusually busy time in the city. The revamped fountain in Point State Park will send plumes of water into the air Friday for the first time since 2009, accompanied by temporary lighting installations commissioned for the event. The completion of the Homestead section of the Great Allegheny Passage biking and hiking trail and terminus marker at the park will be celebrated. The Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival, presenting 240 musicians in 72 hours, will be held during the first weekend, and PRIDEFest events during the festival's final weekend.
Such dynamism is exactly what Ms. Corpuz envisions as becoming commonplace, a goal her appointment as the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's director of festival management and special projects gives her authority to pursue.
Once an isolated event under separate management, the arts festival is evolving under the umbrella of the trust as a component of a yearlong continuum of big outdoor festivals, each of which will complement and build upon the other. The events include First Night, Gallery Crawls and the occasional country-themed festivals organized by the trust. Next year, the Pittsburgh International Children's Festival will move Downtown from Oakland.
The sum of the parts, Ms. Corpuz said, "will permeate more, not only in individual experiences but in the collective zeitgeist of the city."
The festival is evolving and as such it's "reflective of how the city itself is transforming as new people and different industries move here," she said. "How do we imagine the festival? How do we imagine the region? This is a big opportunity to think and dream big."
Ms. Corpuz, 39, is well qualified to help shape and guide this direction. She had been with the Cultural Trust since 2003, first as consultant and then as director of public relations, and as such became familiar with all of its activities and venues. A Pittsburgh native, she studied at Brown University and Naropa University in Colorado, and lived in New York City before returning to Pittsburgh in 2002.
She has attended the arts festival since she was 3 years old. "I'd watch my brothers perform on the jazz stage and buy art with my mother. Because of that early introduction, I've had a lifelong love of the arts. Now I bring my own son."
She and son Nico, who will turn 5 next week, began a tradition of their own when she held his birthday party at the festival last year. "I invited all of his friends, staked out a picnic table, we had cake, and they dispersed to the Creativity Zone to have their faces painted or watch a balloon animal being made. It's free form but celebratory, which is the whole spirit of the arts festival."
The festival is evolving, but traditional favorites are also returning. The Artists Market will have a daily presence in Point State Park and four stages will feature musicians and other performers including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The Juried Visual Art Exhibition will be back as will the Giant Eagle Creativity Zone with activities for artists of all ages, the ever-popular Food Court, and the continued emphasis on remaining a "green" event.
Public art will have a larger presence than in recent years, and Ms. Corpuz, who is also a poet, hopes some of those works will contribute to larger goals like bringing more diversity to the festival and encouraging more engagement by visitors.
The trust is also committed to keeping all events free to the public, and she acknowledges the generous corporate and foundation sponsorship it continues to receive. But she also encourages visitors to become members either of the Cultural Trust or the festival (at information booths or www.3RiversArtsFest.org).
She can't imagine a better site to shepherd in summer.
"I love that it's in Downtown Pittsburgh with the beautiful unique urban amenity of Point State Park, which is a historical landmark. You sit and listen to music, you see the skyline, you see the sunset, and all of these thousands of people looking at art.
Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: email@example.com or 412-263-1925. First Published June 2, 2013 4:00 AM