We have much to offer its residents and visitors. Our cityscape rises majestically from the point of three rivers, impressive with its glittering towers and webbing of bridges. The downtown area is filled with restaurants, shops, hotels, and public parks. The old feel of an industrial city has almost vanished. Today Pittsburgh is not only a busy corporate center and leader in high-tech industries, but the proud home of a thriving and historic Cultural District.
The Cultural District as we know it today took shape in the early 1980s. Pittsburgh was suffering from industrial decline and the downtown area was vacant. It was at that time a group of leaders joined together to transform downtown. One man that led this revitalization was the late John Heinz. He was the chairman of the H.J. Heinz Company and an art lover. Mr. Heinz had renovated Heinz Hall in 1971 and looked to expand the revitalization. In 1984 the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust was formed to further carry out his vision.
The first step taken was to restore the former Stanley Theater into the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. Development continued, including streetscaping programs, facade restorations, new cultural facilities, and public open spaces and art projects. The end result was an exciting district with over 14 facilities that include landmarks such as Heinz Hall, the Benedum Center, O’Reilly Theater, the Theater Square, August Wilson Center for African American Culture, the Byham Theater, Harris Theater, Three Rivers Arts Festival Gallery, Watercolors Gallery, American Institute of Architects Gallery, and Wood Street Galleries.
Today the Cultural District encompasses a fourteen block area in the heart of downtown that offers a wide variety of art and live entertainment. Included are classical and contemporary music, ballet, modern dance, visual art, opera, musical theater, and drama. There are approximately 1,400 performances held each year that draw millions of patrons to the area giving it a cultural variety that, at times, can be unmatched. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, a non-profit organization, is still in charge of the Cultural Districts promotion and development.
Culture and entertainment in Pittsburgh is a more varied subject than any one website can hold! We hope this list will whet your appetite for all the possibilities Pittsburgh has to offer.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Heinz Hall
The Pittsburgh Symphony is one of the oldest performing companies in the Cultural District, now entertaining audiences for over a century. This is the best place for music lovers to enjoy an evening out. In addition, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and The Pittsburgh Symphony present the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series during the fall and winter months.
Heinz Hall is home to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and is the cornerstone of the Cultural District of Pittsburgh. This concert hall is centrally located and is what helped revitalize the downtown area of Pittsburgh. It is known internationally as a showplace of grandeur and excellence.
The structure was built in 1927 as the Loew’s Penn Theater and was later renovated and dedicated as Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts in 1971 by the Howard Heinz Endowment. Events include symphony concerts and a variety of other attractions such as children’s concerts and national Broadway touring shows.
The Benedum Center for the Performing Arts
The restoration of the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, formerly known as the Stanley Theater, was the first project of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust in 1984. The Benedum Center for the Performing Arts houses the Pittsburgh Opera, the Pittsburgh CLO, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and Pittsburgh Dance Council
- Pittsburgh Opera-The Pittsburgh Opera is the eighth oldest opera company in the country and remains one of the top opera companies today. It has showcased performances by famous singers such as Birgit Nilsson, Beverly Sills, and Luciano Pavarotti.
- Pittsburgh CLO-The Civic Light Opera (CLO) announced its first season on February 20, 1946 and remains just as popular as ever. The Pittsburgh CLO is a live musical theater that offers critically acclaimed Broadway classics as well as new works throughout the summer season along with A Musical Christmas Carol that is presented at the Byham Theater each December. It has become one of the largest and most established regional musical theater organizations in the country.
- Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre-The Pittsburgh Ballet is the eighth largest ballet company in the United States. It has earned a high quality reputation from the variety of works that it performs each year. Shows range from 19th century classics to new works crafted by exciting young choreographers.
- Pittsburgh Dance Council-The Pittsburgh Dance Council features modern dance and offers season after season of outstanding talent, including international performances. The Dance Council is a division of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and attracts the world’s finest companies, achieving an outstanding level of quality dance performances.
Pittsburgh Public Theater
The Pittsburgh Public Theatre performs in The O’Reilly Theater. The theatre opened in 1999 and is the only newly constructed theater in the Cultural District. Its layout allows the audience to view performances on three sides of the stage giving the theater enthusiast an up-close experience.
Adjacent to the O’Reilly Theater is Theater Square. This area was designed by Michael Graves, in collaboration with WTW Architects of Pittsburgh. Here you will find the main box office for any performance in the cultural district, as well as accessible parking. In addition there is the Cabaret at Theater Square, the Backstage Bar, and the Carolyn M. Byham WQED fm89.3 Studios.
August Wilson Center
The August Wilson Center for African American Culture opened the doors to its new facility in May 2009. The August Wilson Center encompasses all aspects of the African American experience. It includes galleries, classrooms, a 486-seat theater, a gift shop, a cafe, and many multipurpose spaces available for rental and use by the community and to be used for visual and performing art and expression.
The Byham Theater
Formerly a vaudeville house that was known as the Fulton Theater, Byham Theater has grown and thrived since its reopening in 1991. In 1995 it was restored and renamed the Byham Theater.
The Harris Theater
It was formerly known as The Art Cinema and was reopened after renovation in 1995. It is named in honor of native Pittsburgher John P. Harris, who created the nation’s first nickelodeon in downtown Pittsburgh. Movie goers enjoy visiting these theaters for contemporary and foreign films presented by the Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
Visual Arts Galleries
There are also a variety of visual art galleries in the Cultural District. These galleries offer an eclectic assortment of art to viewers and admission is free. Galleries include the Wood Street Galleries, Three Rivers Arts Festival Gallery, American Institute of Architects Gallery and Space.