More than 1,000 artists and art advocates from throughout the country have arrived in the middle of the Three Rivers Arts Festival for the annual Americans for Art convention, which began with pre-conference tours on Thursday and ends Sunday.
The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and its Office of Public Art organized events with a goal of getting visitors out of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and into the city's many neighborhoods, said Jen Saffron, the council's director of communications.
Robert Lynch, Americans For Art's CEO, said Pittsburgh is "the perfect place to gather local arts agencies from across the country because you can literally see the positive impact the arts can make in transforming a city."
Tours on Saturday will include visits to individual artists' studios and institutions including the Pittsburgh Glass Center, Phipps Conservatory and the August Wilson Center.
"Our goal is to get people out and have our artists show what arts can do, not just for Downtown but for our neighborhoods," she said, citing an example: "Look at what the creative community has done for Lawrenceville."
Early conferees from the Public Art Network toured sites Thursday on foot and by bus to see how art is managed and collected; to learn how public-private partnerships work to promote art contracts, conservation and education; and to see art as an ingredient in neighborhood transformation, from Gist Street, Uptown, to Sampsonia Way in the Central Northside to the Love Front Porch in Homewood.
Mitch Swain, the council's CEO, said this is Americans for Art's first visit to Pittsburgh.
"When we made our pitch, we suggested this particular weekend [during the Three Rivers Arts Festival] because we wanted national attendees to see us at our best. There are so many people who still have a 30-year-old view of Pittsburgh."
Conference-goers Saturday will board buses for visits to art venues, including personal studios in the Hill District, East Liberty, the North Side, "all over the city, to see what affect they have on our neighborhoods." Mr. Swain said.
Besides large cultural entities, he said, "we have a burgeoning arts scene happening in neighborhoods, coming from people who have a lot of energy in developing new projects" that are nontraditional, youth-driven in many cases and directed by social media and word of mouth.
The third edition of Pittsburgh Art in Public Places, a public art guide book, has just been published by the Office for Public Art -- which is a partnership of the arts council and the city's planning department. The guide expands from Downtown to include North Side sites. It is free and available at VisitPittsburgh kiosks, public libraries, the arts council offices at 810 Penn Ave., the Allegheny County Courthouse visitors' center and at arts institutions. It can also be downloaded at publicartpittsburgh.org.