National arts convention picks Pittsburgh for '13
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Once again, Pittsburgh has snagged a big one.
Americans for the Arts, the nation's largest nonprofit organization promoting arts and arts education, announced Tuesday it will be holding its annual convention in Pittsburgh next year -- giving the city a chance to show off its varied, vibrant community of artists.
The convention won't happen until June 2013, which means plenty of time to redd up beforehand.
An estimated 1,500 artists, educators, community leaders and business supporters are expected to attend the convention, said officials from Americans for the Arts at a meeting at Highmark headquarters at Fifth Avenue Place with business and foundation leaders.
Pittsburgh beat out Boston, Minneapolis and Chicago, among other cities, said Mitch Swain, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, which helped put together the city's winning bid.
"There was an advance team that came here, and two of them had never been to Pittsburgh before. They had a 30-year-old view of the old Pittsburgh -- smoky, polluted. They were shocked to see how untrue that was," said Mr. Swain, whose group represents the region's arts, artists and cultural organizations.
The visitors were given personal tours by leaders including Lynn Zelevansky, director of Carnegie Museum of Art; Kevin McMahon, who heads the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; Eric Shiner of the Andy Warhol Museum; Andre Kimo Stone Guess, CEO of the August Wilson Center; and Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk of the Mattress Factory.
The advance team "was really interested in how the city used arts and culture as an economic engine to redevelop neighborhoods, both Downtown and beyond," Mr. Swain said.
But businesses have to keep fueling that engine, officials noted.
"We believe that investing in the arts is an investing in community, and it makes sense for business," said Katherine Gibney, vice president of development at Americans for the Arts. Last year the arts industry generated more than 5 million full-time jobs and $160 billion in economic impact for the country as a whole, she said.
Her organization and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council will be reaching out to local businesses, foundations and individuals to raise the necessary $350,000 to help host the event, which is budgeted at about $700,000.
Some companies already have signed on to support the convention, including Highmark, PNC Bank and Dollar Bank -- which is sponsoring the city's annual Three Rivers Art Festival Downtown, scheduled for the same week as the Americans for the Arts convention.
It's hoped that convention-goers will get out of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center as much as possible to see artists working in their communities, including possible visits to the Pittsburgh Glass Center, the Mattress Factory, studio tours, the Hill District and other cultural offerings in local neighborhoods.
All of that is still in the planning stages, and any suggestions are welcome, Ms. Gibney said.
Americans for the Arts, which was founded in 1960, has more than 150,000 members, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., and an office in New York.
This year's convention is in San Antonio from June 8-11.
First Published April 25, 2012 12:00 am