Three Rivers Arts Festival: A timeline


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1960: About 20,000 people visit the first festival, a four-day showcase of juried work set at the Point with performances by the American Wind Symphony barge. It closes when a violent storm blows 10 paintings into the river and damages 50 more.

1961: The festival expands with curated visual arts exhibitions in Downtown buildings. More than 100,000 attend to see the work of 420 regional artists.

1964: Festival grows from eight to 10 days. Children's art is included. It draws 150,000 people, and 3,000 entries from 700 artists.

1965: It rains nine times in 10 days. Forty artists protest 17 others who were chosen without jury process.

1967: TRAF introduces a mural painted by festival visitors. For 25 cents, they're given paint and a brush to make their mark.

1970: Banner competitions become a highlight of the festival and continue for many years. The festival opens with the Pittsburgh Savoyards performing "Pirates of Penzance."

1971: The Artists Market appears in its earliest incarnation as the "Open Show." Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.) reads poetry and Pittsburgh Playhouse actors do "Guys and Dolls."

1974: The "Children's Activity Center" is introduced, paving the way for a variety of family-centered activities. Nationally known artist Robert Breer exhibits his large, moving sculptures.

1976: The first sky sculpture, designed by Pittsburgher Cindy Snodgrass, appears at the festival, soaring high above the ground. The featured group is the Mendelssohn Choir.

1977: The Sculpturescape exhibition leaves a permanent mark on Downtown: Clement Meadmore's "Up and Away" is still on display in PNC Bank Plaza; Kenneth Snelson's "Forest Devil" now resides in Mellon Square; and "Pittsburgh" by John Henry is in Frank Curto Park on Bigelow Boulevard.

1979: New executive director John Jay ends the festival with a disco party for more than 3,000 on the Boulevard of the Allies. The festival also introduces the "Festival Fringe" program, offering local performers the chance to audition to perform on the Main Stage.

1980: An aerial balloon race, fabric sculptor Anne Healy and musician Steve Reich are featured.

1981: The festival grows to six sites, with poetry by Allen Ginsberg and John Ciardi and dance pieces by Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane. Jody Pinto constructs her "Project for the Origin of the Ohio," a 10-foot-wide boardwalk, in the park.

1982: Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald arrives as the first big national music headliner. The Three Rivers Film Festival is added to the event and the featured artist is muralist Richard Haas.

1983: Director Jay resigns after an offhand comment he makes to the gay publication Out magazine about "beefy construction crews" comes to light. He is replaced by John Brice. Fitzgerald returns to the main stage with an expanded lineup including the Four Freshmen, Tito Puente and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company.

1984: Headliners include Roberta Flack, Koko Taylor and Philip Glass. Minneapolis artist Debra Frasier creates "Wind Walk," made of colorful nylon fabric, in the park.

1985: Thinking the subway would be finished, the festival expands to Grant Street with five buildings presenting "Illumination: the Quality of Light." Musical performers include The Four Tops, Sergio Mendes, Stanley Turrentine and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

1986: An estimated 70,000 people turn out to see Smokey Robinson. Vicky A. Clark curates a Tom Otterness sculpture show. Festival chairman Jim Roddey, caving in to PPG pressure, has a peephole artwork in a crate moved to a South Side gallery.

1987: Local artists are represented in "Pittsburgh Now: 8 Artists." The main concert, by Ray Charles, is rained out, but there are performances by Steve Earle, Kronos Quartet and Huey Lewis.

1988: "Sculpture at The Point" features unusual installations by nine national artists, including Californian Nancy Rubins' stacks of worn-out household equipment lashed on to trees and Ping Chong's stuffed white-tail deer bodies on the Fort Duquesne Bridge pier. Performers include the Neville Brothers and Buckwheat Zydeco, plus an "Inside the Edge" series focused on performance art.

1989: Jeanne L. Pearlman replaces Brice. In her first year, "Contemporary American Landscape Painting" includes an atmospheric work by April Gornik. Performers include Judy Collins and Chuck Mangione.

1990: Controversy swirls around the 15-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture "Hunky Steel Worker" by artist Luis Jimenez at The Point. The offending adjective is ground off and the piece sent to Station Square. Philip Glass performs again.

1991: Performance artist and actor Spalding Gray enriches his monologue by interviewing four people from the audience.

1992: For his work "Heap of Birds," Hachivi Edgar places 24 identical metal signs in Point State Park to raise the question: Who owns history?

1993: The Film Festival breaks away from TRAF. Suzanne Lacy's sober installation in the park contains 180 brass plates with the names of Pennsylvania women murdered in domestic violence.

1994: Local artist Adrienne Heinrich collaborates with African American women who recall events of their lives for a sound installation.

1995: Heavy rains damage booths, washing out the first two days and two weekends. A photography show of Arnie Zane, who died of AIDS in 1988, is a highlight.

1996: The festival reaches out to the community with six neighborhood projects called "Points of Entry," which later became a hardbound book. A George Benson concert attracts approximately 40,000 people.

1997: The installation "Mother Tongue/The Name of Land" blends conceptualism and fun in Point Park, while another Japanese artist, Masami Teraoke, is inspired by old ribald prints and advertising at Wood Street.

1998: Large sculptures by the late Louise Nevelson and Keith Haring are displayed. Performers include Anthony Braxton and Al Jarreau.

1999: Performers include Judy Collins, the Skyliners and David Murray Tentet.

2000: Detroit artist Tyree Guyton re-creates his Heidelburg Project in Point State Park, and Hannah Wilke shows her lymphoma-invaded self-portraits.

2001: Elizabeth Reiss succeeds the departing Pearlman. Iconic sculptor and video artist Nam June Paik exhibits his work; Lucinda Williams performs.

2003: The Juried Visual Arts Exhibition morphs into the Annual Exhibition, showcasing Pittsburgh artists. Sonic Youth, Wilco and Maceo Parker perform. Patrick Dougherty creates one of his spectacular sapling sculptures, "Bivouac," in Point State Park.

2004: Steven Siegel makes sculpture out of recyclables at the Point. Wilco returns, along with Patti Smith.

2005: Stacy Levy's "River Eyelash" flows into the waters off the Point. Drive-By Truckers and Aimee Mann perform.

2006: Following in the footsteps of "Inside the Edge," the 4th River Project presents cutting-edge work from emerging local theater and performance artists. Tom Verlaine, The Eels and the English Beat perform.

2007: TRAF vacates Point State Park during renovation and moves into Stanwix Triangle, where Avett Brothers and Black Moth Super Rainbow perform. Brett Yasko creates public art in Market Square.

2008: Huge shipping containers of art make Market Square look like a construction zone. The New York Dolls play in Stanwix Triangle.

2009: The festival returns to Point State Park under the new direction of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Source: Post-Gazette and TRAF archives.



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