Mitch Swain2_750


Since 2006, Mitch Swain has worked as CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council—the voice of Pittsburgh’s vast arts and cultural community which has grown to serve more than 250 members, including both nonprofits and individual artists. As Chair of Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania, Mitch currently spearheads advocacy efforts for national and state funding and policy, resulting in a statewide coalition and a first-ever bicameral Arts & Cultural Legislative Caucus. In 2011, Mitch worked with the Pittsburgh Foundation and Heinz Endowments to establish the Arts Day of Giving campaign—raising nearly $1.9 million in 24 hours for arts and culture organizations in the region.

Monday, June 22

After traveling to Harrisburg last week to advocate for state funding for the arts and perhaps a few too many recent graduation parties, this week looks like an opportunity to stick closer to home.

On Monday, after I see my daughter off to Wyoming for a University of Pittsburgh summer course, I’ll head into our offices in the Cultural District for a day that looks deceptively open—considering that most of my days are filled with meetings, I’m hoping for a little catch up time. At some point during the day, Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania will host a conference call and I am looking forward to continuing some of our recent work in Harrisburg with our statewide partners during budget season.

After hashing out arts policy and funding asks, I will zip around the corner to a spot next to the Benedum Center, Sal’s City Deli, for my “go to” (as a colleague described it)—a Pittsburgh steak salad. On days when I feel I have more time or when I have a lunch meeting with someone from our board or a colleague, I’ll head down Penn Avenue to Sienna Mercato—I really like the two-meatball panini.

On Monday night, my goal is to get out of work on time to ditch the suit and burn off the workday at Fit 4 Boxing Club in Allison Park. I find hitting a punching bag three times a week to be a great stress reliever.

Tuesday, June 23

Tuesday morning (and every morning) my day begins with a half hour of stretching at home (I’ll need that, after boxing) and a quick email review before I make the trip to get downtown from our home in the North Hills. Tuesday’s highlight is the YWCA Center for Race and Gender Equity luncheon, where I will be a white man with a lot to learn about an important topic.

Mitch (far left) with his band SpinCycle.

Tuesday night, I’ll spend an hour or so rehearsing on my drum set for weekly band rehearsal. In my former life, I was the manager of both a jazz orchestra and a retail drum store and spent most of my days immersed in music. Now I play in a local classic rock band called SpinCycle; we’re also having a blast rehearsing original music by our keyboardist, Dave Seaman, and recording together at Audible Images recording studios on Babcock Boulevard.

Thursday, June 26

During the later part of my work week, I am actually not working, at all—I’m taking some time off to be with my wife, Tracey. We just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary! We enjoy relaxing with really great sushi from K Asian Bistro, a glass of wine and watching a TV miniseries together—right now we’re catching up with House of Cards. While TV isn’t exactly high art, I do have to say that recently, I went to a performance at Heinz Hall of our city’s fantastic Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and it rekindled my love of classical music. We’re lucky to have great venues like Heinz Hall.

Editor’s note: Also not-to-miss at Heinz Hall is the groundbreaking new series, FUSE@PSO, launching on Wednesday, June 24 featuring a unique mashup of two masterpieces separated by more than 100 years —Brahms’ First Symphony and Radiohead’s OK Computer—conducted by Steve Hackman.

Saturday, June 28

So this Saturday, I’ll be getting my classical music fix with Tracey at the PSO’s Celebrate Pittsburgh performance, which will be a blend of classical and popular music. While the show is open to everyone, it’s a special opportunity because it’s the PSO’s very first time offering a sensory-friendly performance, which means that people with sensory disabilities like autism spectrum disorder or other sensory sensitivities are free to explore symphonic music in a family-friendly concert tailored to be most inclusive of everyone’s needs and abilities. There will be a kinesthetic room and people are welcome to try out different instruments before the performance. I think the accessibility work that’s taking place in Pittsburgh is among the most gratifying things to witness in our arts community.

I try to get to as many performances as I can, and often stop by a gallery or a new exhibit on my way to a performance. This time it will likely be the new Very Eric Carle exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. That place appeals to young and old, and I’m still a kid at heart.

After the performance, Tracey and I will catch an early dinner at Nola on the Square (hoping for an outdoor table) and, enjoying the transformed urban atmosphere of Market Square. Pittsburgh’s definitely not the same place as when I moved here 15 years ago.

Jennifer Baron

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...