Museums typically showcase art in carefully curated rooms. At Mattress Factory, however, the room itself is the art. Since 1977, the museum's two buildings have housed a permanent collection of contemporary installation art—room-sized works that engulf the entire space. In Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Dots Mirrored Room, mirrored ceilings and walls infinitely reflect a trio of fluorescent dots painted on a white formica floor. In Greer Lankton's It's all about ME, Not You, astroturf lines a floor covered in artful arrangements of grotesque dolls that form shrines to artists such as Patti Smith and Candy Darling.
To further immerse guests, Mattress Factory's exhibitions are paired with educational programs that range from lectures to hands-on art projects. Along with stimulating the public, the museum stimulates the growth of artists through its residency program, which invites participants to create installations while living near the museum, a much more practical alternative to hiding a secret cot in the coatroom.
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh delights children with hands-on learning and interactive exhibits that allow kids to interact with real stuff and do things they wouldn't normally do, such as hammer a nail, build a circuit, and ink a silkscreen. The museum welcomes nearly 250,000 visitors annually, encouraging them to explore its interactive permanent-exhibit areas, which include The Studio, Theater, Waterplay, Nursery, Backyard, and MAKESHOP.
MAKESHOP invites young minds and hands to tinker with sewing machines, woodworking, and electronics. Kids craft boats and build fountains in the nearby Waterplay exhibit, and in the Studio they form clay, paint portraits, and create paper from recycled-newspaper pulp. Infants, toddlers, and their families can play in the Nursery, where they build wooden train systems and then roll their trains around, comb colored sand with hand tools atop lighted tables, and ride a seesaw whose motion generates water bubbles.
The museum’s award-winning, three-story center building is screened by a shimmering wind sculpture and connects two historic structures—the Allegheny post office building and the Buhl Building. In 2006, it became a certified green building and was honored by the American Institute of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2011, the museum was named one of the 10 Best Children’s Museums in the nation by Parents magazine.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1896, and its reputation was as big as its sound right from the start. Andrew Carnegie was an early backer, and reportedly claimed that it was the best orchestra in the country. More than a century later, the organization still enjoys its status as a nationally renowned organization. And the PSO continues to take pride in its acclaim—perhaps expanding on Carnegie's earlier view, current Music Director Manfred Honeck called the company "one of the world's finest orchestras."
The long-lived PSO makes its home in an equally historic venue. Converted from an opulent movie palace in 1971, when Americans swore off movies in favor of high culture, Heinz Hall proves itself an exceptional music venue. Fine acoustics please ears, while eyes take in glittering chandeliers and glints of gold leaf.
More than 50 years ago, Mr. John E. Connelly set his sights on cleaning up Pittsburgh's polluted three rivers and returning them to their former glory as the Steel City's heart and soul. As then-treasurer of the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, John was in a prime position to complete his ambition. With the belief that he could get the public engaged and committed to a cleanup, he decided to give the local people access to the rivers via boat tours, knowing the city's characteristic architecture as viewed from the rivers would engender a genuine appreciation for the region's waterways and environment.
After getting his nephew, Captain Jack Goessling, on board, John purchased a 100-passenger fishing boat they would christen the Gateway Clipper, which would later launch from Monongahela Wharf for the first of its many pleasure cruises. Today, with Gateway Clipper Fleet, his dream of engaging locals and visitors in the city's history and waterways thrives with a fleet that has grown to five boats capable of accommodating 2,500 guests. Through the years, the fleet has ferried more than 25 million passengers, treating them to dinner cruises, sightseeing tours, and entertainment jaunts along the clean, blue waters of Pittsburgh's three rivers.
Perched in the Steel City's Cultural District downtown and staffed by passionate volunteers, the nonprofit ToonSeum pays homage to the art of the cartoon with rotating exhibits, kids' classes, and hands-on entertainment for all ages. Exhibitions have ranged from collections of original work to special displays honoring artists such as Pennsylvania native, Keith Haring. Contributing to the museum's ongoing educational mission, local cartoonists often donate their own time to teach fun-filled workshops or share the bleak realities of living with a talking cat.
Rising six floors above the historic Strip District, the Senator John Heinz History Center's handsome, redbrick exterior houses 275,000 square feet of exhibits and materials devoted to Western Pennsylvania. Long-term exhibits include From Slavery to Freedom, which traces the quest for equality from the antislavery movement to the modern struggles for Civil Rights, using indenture, manumission, and freedom papers from the Allegheny County recorder of deeds as starting points. Pittsburgh: A History of Innovation highlights the land's original inhabitants, the journey of Lewis and Clark, and the modern superhighways, whereas the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum delves into the history and lore of local athletics, from the Steelers? Immaculate Reception to Bill Mazeroski's title-clinching home run in game seven of the 1960 World Series. The museum also hosts nationally renowned traveling exhibits; click to see a list of current exhibits.