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Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Background and History
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has overseen one of Pittsburgh’s most historic transformations: turning a seedy red-light district into a magnet destination for arts lovers, residents, visitors, and business owners. Founded in 1984, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a non-profit arts organization whose mission is the cultural and economic revitalization of a 14-block arts and entertainment/residential neighborhood called the Cultural District. The District is one of the country’s largest land masses “curated” by a single nonprofit arts organization. A major catalytic force in the city, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a unique model of how public-private partnerships can reinvent a city with authenticity, innovation and creativity.
Using the arts as an economic catalyst, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has holistically created a world-renowned Cultural District that is revitalizing the city, improving the regional economy and enhancing Pittsburgh’s quality of life. Thanks to the support of foundations, corporations, government agencies and thousands of private citizens, the Trust stands as a national model of urban redevelopment through the arts.
Over a period of 25 years, the Trust has restored historic theaters, constructed new performance venues, commissioned public art projects and developed unique urban parks and riverfront recreation spaces. As one of the largest Downtown Pittsburgh property owners, the Trust manages one million square feet of property, including:
- Theater Square, designed by architect Michael Graves, encompassing a parking garage, Cultural District box office, Carolyn M. Byham WQED fm89.3 studio, the restaurant Meat and Potatoes, the Backstage Bar
- The 250-seat Theater Square Cabaret
- The Benedum Center for the Performing Arts (2890 seats)
- Byham Theater (century-old vaudeville house with 1300 seats)
- O’Reilly Theater (650-seat venue designed by Michael Graves)
- Harris Theater (a foreign and contemporary film house)
- Agnes R. Katz Plaza, designed by Daniel Urban Kiley, featuring delightful “eyeball benches” and fountain by sculptor Louise Bourgeois
- Allegheny Riverfront Park, a collaboration of artist Ann Hamilton and landscape designer Michael Van Valkenburgh
- Wood Street Galleries
- SPACE, an art gallery located in a former adult bookstore
- 707-709 Penn Galleries
- Arts Education Center
- 937 Liberty Avenue
The Trust encourages and presents diverse performing and visual arts programs. Its main programming divisions include:
- PNC Broadway Across America – Pittsburgh
- Pittsburgh Dance Council
- Cohen & Grigsby Trust Presents
- Citizens Bank Children's Theater Series & EQT Bridge Theater Series
- Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival
- Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts
- Highmark First Night Pittsburgh
- BNY Mellon presents JazzLive
- Gallery Crawl
About the Cultural District
During the G-20 Pittsburgh Summit, the international focus was on the David L. Lawrence Convention Center located in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, which is a project of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. This vibrant district sets the perfect stage for the international summit on economic recovery as a unique international model of urban revitalization through the arts and a paradigm for successful public-private partnerships. Once a blighted “adults-only” neighborhood known for sex shops, prostitutes and XXX-movie theaters, the Cultural District today attracts over 2,000,000 visitors annually generating an estimated economic impact of $303 million.
Pittsburgh’s third renaissance can be traced to H.J. “Jack” Heinz II, a founder of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Mr. Heinz envisioned a colossal transformation that would turn a city once called “hell with its lid off” into a thriving hub of world-class art and entertainment, buzzing with 24/7 activity. His vision was two-pronged: the arts could serve as a catalyst for economic, commercial and residential development of Downtown Pittsburgh, while enriching the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.
When other U.S. cities abandoned their respective downtowns for strip malls and big-box stores, Pittsburgh’s Cultural District preserved its historical significance by leveraging the power of the arts to create an authentic destination that draws over two million visitors, arts lovers, students, residents and employers to over 1,500 events each year.
The District includes Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh CLO, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Pittsburgh Symphony and August Wilson Center for African American Culture, among hundreds of other arts groups and artists. The Cultural District is also home to the city’s High School for Creative and Performing Arts.
Unlike other cities that house cultural activity within a single performing arts center, Pittsburgh’s Cultural District comprises 14 blocks that were holistically developed with the creation of multiple theaters, art galleries, public art projects, urban parks and riverfront recreation spaces.