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Pittsburgh's arts festival is relocating from Point State Park to the Cultural District

The arts festival's main stage is relocating from Point State Park to Eighth and Penn avenues.
The arts festival's main stage is relocating from Point State Park to Eighth and Penn avenues.

After decades in Point State Park, the Three Rivers Arts Festival is moving to the Cultural District, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust announced today.

The move is due to rule changes by the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The festival will relocate to a portion of Downtown centered on a pop-up park and stage at Eighth and Penn avenues.

The 10-day festival draws a half-million visitors or more Downtown each summer, according to Trust estimates. On any given night, it attracts thousands — many with picnic blankets and lawn chairs — for its headliner music shows, in recent years held on the big Point State Park lawn between Commonwealth Place and the Interstate 279 underpass.

A DCNR spokesperson clarified the rule changes. The new rules limit the length of events held in the park and various spans of days between events, depending on their size. The rules are meant to permit better maintenance of the park, said DCNR spokesperson Wesley Robinson.

“We recognize the park was sort of worse for wear after having that many events back to back,” he said. “We want people to be enjoying the park all the time, not just when we’re having events,” he said.

Under the new rules, multi-day events are limited to seven days, and if the park hosts a seven-day event, five days must elapse before the next event takes place, Robinson said. Weekend-long events would generally require three days before the next event, and single-day events would require giving the park one or two “days off,” depending on the size of the event, as measured in both attendance and how much of the park’s footprint was impacted.

While the arts festival is the only event of longer than seven days regularly held at Point State Park, Robinson said the rule changes were the result of stakeholder input and are not meant to target the festival.

Shorter events, such as the annual Juneteenth celebration, should not be affected by the new rules.

Robinson said that after any event, park staff must clean up and repair any damage, including damage to the turf and vandalism. He said that even if private contractors are doing such work, park personnel must be available to supervise them.

“We want to make sure the park is operating at its optimum level for every park visitor,” he said.

This year's festival will begin June 3 and will remain free and open to the public, as it has every year since 1960. In 2020, the pandemic forced the event to go virtual. Last year, the festival spread out by expanding its footprint into the Cultural District, though the mainstage and many artist vendors and food vendors remained in Point State Park.

This year’s festival will still have a nightly mainstage music headliner; an artist market with more than 300 vendors; and signature public artworks, according to a Trust press release. Music headliners will be announced April 20.

Dollar Bank will continue as the longtime main sponsor of the festival, according to the Trust.

More information is here.

Updated: March 15, 2022 at 3:43 PM EDT
This story was updated to include an explanation from the Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources about the rule change.
Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: