Kelly Strayhorn Theater
MLK Day at the Kelly Strayhorn. Photo by Mark Simpson.

Multiple locations
January 18
Various times

There are countless ways to celebrate MLK Day in Pittsburgh as a family on Monday, January 18th. Whether your family prefers a public celebration or more personal experiences, we have some great suggestions (five among many) for honoring the life, legacy and spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. together all around town—from the Northside to Garfield.

Photo courtesy of the Mattress Factory.
Photo courtesy of the Mattress Factory.

Fill your day with art at the Mattress Factory, which invites families to ponder the timeless question, “what’s missing in the world?” Participate in an interactive embroidery project led by artist William Chambers, make a dream collage and magnet and add your own flair to a celebratory birthday crown. Next, craft a personal thank you honoring someone who inspires you, and discover the museum’s latest exhibitions of room-sized, multi sensory installation art. After all of the DIY making, dance the afternoon away to global sounds provided by DJ Pandemic Pete and enjoy a delicious slice of MLK birthday cake. Noon to 4 p.m. Admission is “give what you can” donations.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Glass Center.
Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Glass Center.

For some heat-defying acts of art, head to the Pittsburgh Glass Center for a “Family Fun Day” packed with hands-on art and writing projects for all ages. Led by Pittsburgh artists Tina Williams Brewer and Mary Martin, participants will create beaded packets made from colorful African fabrics that contain their hand-written prayers, wishes, hopes and dreams. Participants will learn to embellish their “Dream Pouches” with ornate glass beads, colored threads and stitching techniques, and will explore Sonya Clark’s Beaded Prayer Project as inspiration. Attendees will also be treated to glass blowing demos and will tour the PGC’s Indagare exhibition, which features colorful works by pioneering sculptor, glass artist and painter Therman Statom, who will be on hand to meet with families. Free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Let Freedom Sing!
Photo by Robert Bailey.

Don’t miss East Liberty Celebrates MLK Day at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, which is part of a weekend-long series of events. For its seventh annual installment, the celebration is based on the theme of “With Audacious Faith in Our Future—East Liberty Looking Forward”—which takes inspiration from Dr. King’s powerful words. Attendees will enjoy hands-on activities and community dialogues, as well as diverse performances by Dreams of Hope, Trevor C. Dance Co., Soundwaves, Hope Academy, Afro-American Music Institute, Alumni Theater Co., Anthony Williams and Tameka Cage Conley. Noon to 4 p.m. Admission is “Pay What Makes You Happy.”

Courtesy of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.
Photo by Larry Rippel.

Lift your voice, celebrate the legacy of MLK and work to end injustice at the ninth annual Let Freedom Sing! Concerts. The two-concert series of inspiring music and oratory features more than a dozen musical selections along with performances by award-winning artist Vanessa German, renowned jazz vocalist Etta Cox and the MLK Festival Choir. Concerts take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, January 16th at Ebenezer Baptist Church in the Hill District and on Monday, January 18th at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville. Admission is free. Donations are requested to benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Westmoreland County Food Bank.

Over at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, there are many ways to celebrate the significant legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Visit the museum’s “On Freedom Corner Studio” to create collages, write your own American Dream on a picket sign and pose in front of a mural honoring the historic symbol of the Civil Rights Movement in Pittsburgh. Make clay birds that symbolize your hopes for the world, enjoy performances by Pittsburgh native Leslie Ezra Smith and step up to the mic to read the inspiring words of Dr. King at SLB Radio‘s annual “King for a Day” program. Activities running from January 11th through January 18th.

Looking for more free family fun on MLK Day? Check out the Carnegie Science Center’s free Duquesne Light Conservation Day which offers programming for all ages on Monday, January 18th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., or the Union Project’s 14th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration from 3 to 7 p.m.

Looking for more events? Read our 10 Pittsburgh events not to miss in January feature.

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.