Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Background and History 

Once known as “hell with its lid off,” for decades Pittsburgh was far from synonymous with cultural diversity. Downtown theaters boasted marquees and posters advertising with XXX and Adults Only, not with Live Music and Broadway. The city wasn’t a destination — at least not for the crowds H.J. “Jack” Heinz II thought it should attract.

So in 1984, he decided to change Pittsburgh’s narrative.

Heinz — the grandson of condiment magnate Henry John Heinz and a former CEO of the company bearing his name — thought Pittsburgh could act as an example. He wanted to show how the arts could serve as a catalyst for economic, commercial, and residential development, all while enriching the quality of life for residents and visitors alike. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust emerged from that goal.

Instead of abandoning the blighted downtown area like many cities had and would continue to do, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust set its sights on transforming and revitalizing the historically-significant elements already there. The result is Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, an authentic destination that draws millions of visitors, arts lovers, students, and residents to thousands of events each year.

While other cities confine their cultural programming to one facility, Pittsburgh’s 14-square-block Cultural District was holistically developed with the creation of multiple theaters, art galleries, public art projects, urban parks, and riverfront recreation spaces. In fact, the District is one of the country’s largest land masses “curated” by a single nonprofit arts organization. On its own, the Cultural Trust manages more than one million square feet of property within the District.

The Cultural Trust’s work doesn’t stop with the mere upkeep of world-class theaters. One of the defining pillars of the Trust’s mission is a commitment to diverse performing and visual arts programming. From elaborate Broadway productions to free, family-oriented festivals, the Trust aims to provide rich arts opportunities for all.

All of this work — along with many, many more Cultural Trust initiatives — is made possible thanks to the support of foundations, corporations, government agencies, and thousands of private citizens. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust stands as a national example of urban redevelopment through the arts and a unique model of how public-private partnerships can reinvent a city with authenticity, innovation, and creativity.