Point State Park, Gateway Center, Cultural District

Through June 15
Various times

June in Pittsburgh has long been synonymous with the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

An iconic annual event that fills Downtown’s Point State Park, Gateway Center and Cultural District with world-class, multi-disciplinary arts programming and teems with visitors from near and far, the 55th Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival (TRAF) runs June 6th through June 15th.

Completely free and all within walking distance, TRAF features 10 days packed with music, theater, dance, public art, gallery exhibitions, a signature visual artist market, hands-on cultural activities, and of course, plenty of festival food. Produced by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, this year’s edition is inspired by the concepts of aesthetic creativity and environmental sustainability. Representing a microcosm of arts activity that takes place throughout the Burgh’s neighborhoods all year long, TRAF transforms Downtown into a summer cultural destination for all ages, with many highlights for kids and families.

And the stats are impressive: with 67 performance groups, 750-plus artists, 11 public art installations and 338 artist market vendors, TRAF is one of the largest and most celebrated festivals of its kind on the planet. Beyond the numbers, what helps to make the festival truly distinct is its balanced mix of homegrown, international, quirky and universal arts attractions.

Always highly anticipated is TRAF’s diverse roster of musical acts. This year’s multiple stages feature everything from international alt-country rock stars Jeff Tweedy and Lucinda Williams and post-punk UK band Keiser Chiefs, to soul singer Curtis Harding and a special Bluegrass Day featuring Grammy Award-winning mandolin player Sam Bush. Included along with these international performers are numerous local, regional and emerging talents spanning a wide range of musical styles and genres.

TRAF also brings ambitious performing arts premieres to Pittsburgh, with several must-see shows for 2014, including Squonk’s wild new outdoor work, Pneumatica, a spectacle of wind powered turbines, tentacles and whirling inflatables. Also premiering during TRAF is Bricolage’s latest immersive theater experience entitled OJO, which has already generated so much buzz that all performances are sold-out.

What if you could turn your complaints about the Burgh into a song? Anything’s possible at TRAF, which will premiere the Complaints n’at Choir. During these unique limited-edition performances, multimedia artist Christiane D will present Pittsburgh’s inaugural Complaint Choir, part of an international project called Complaint Choirs of the World, where the rants and grumblings of our fair city’s residents will be presented as a song for all to sing in a choir.

Lovers of contemporary dance should check out Boomerang, a physical and poetic performance project featuring Kora Radella, Matty Davis and Adrian Galvin. Dubbed the “punk Mozarts of dance,” the group will blend the art of dance with movements associated with rollerblading, soccer, snowboarding, tennis, hockey, ultimate Frisbee and long-distance running.

Exploring the perception of time, Shana Simmons Dance and The Eclectic Laboratory Chamber Orchestra will present, We Sing the Body Eclectic, a new collaboration featuring four dancers and 14 musicians, along with orchestral and electronic instruments, words and movement. Enjoy the art of Flamenco with Alba Flamenca, and take a journey with Reed Dance during an ensemble celebration of the music of Stevie Wonder.

Public art has long been at the core of TRAF, and highlights from this year’s curated lineup include: Before I Die, an interactive global art project created by artist, designer and urban planner Candy Chang that invites citizens to reflect on their lives and share personal aspirations in a public space; a 20-foot sculptural installation entitled No Limits, by Cuban-born artist Alexandre Arrechea; and Edith Abeyta’s People’s Clothing Archive and Library Initiative No 1: o:ne:ka’, a large-scale construction of donated t-shirts and wood that forms the Seneca word for water.

This year’s artist market, a longtime festival attraction and anchor, features artists from 30 different states selling work in 18 various mediums. Included are eight emerging artists and three galleries. The festival received a record number of applications this year, with 686 artists submitting work.

TRAF’s annual Juried Visual Art Exhibition, held at the Trust Arts Education Center, features some of the most compelling new visual art being created right here in Pittsburgh. Representing the city’s vibrant creative community, this year’s show features 59 works by 52 artists. Viewers can even join the panel of jurors by voting for the best work on-site using mobile devices. Selected works may be available for purchase. The juried show is one of eight visual art exhibitions that will be on view.

Born more than five decades ago as the “little outdoor art show” at Carnegie Institute, TRAF is now the region’s largest multidisciplinary showcase of art. Since its inception, TRAF has featured more than 12,000 artists and welcomed an annual crowd of some 400,000 patrons. Kevin McMahon, President & CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust says that the Festival generates over $23 million dollars and serves as an important economic stimulus to the region.

Be sure to check back in with NEXT Events to read more about activities and events taking place during the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

View a complete schedule of events, activities and performances at Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Jennifer BaronArts & Entertainment / Jobs Editor

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...