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Take in a Lot of Art Without Setting Foot Inside Pittsburgh

Monday, July 12, 2010

For arts lovers, summer creates a dilemma.

During the dreary winter months, weekends in general and Sundays in particular are often spent soaking up a little culture in the area’s abundant art galleries and music halls or catching a movie or play inside a windowless darkened room.

When the sun is shining and a gentle breeze is blowing it seems almost sinful to go indoors.

There’s no need to.

With a little planning and organization, it’s possible to enjoy a day of diverse art encounters without ever going inside.

This great date offers suggestions on how to spend a Sunday. But there are lots similar opportunities to enjoy concerts, movies, theater and art on other days of the week.

If there’s simply too much packed into this one day for your tastes, you could break it into two separate Sundays — assuming the weather provides two rain-free, low humidity Sundays this summer.

In advance

Start by acquiring copies of two “Pittsburgh Art in Public Places” walking tour maps — of Oakland and Downtown — from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

These are useful, fold-out maps offering directions for self-guided walking tours of outdoor art works. The Downtown booklet contains several tours, including one for the North Shore, where you’ll head today.

Free copies can be downloaded here or picked up between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays at the arts council offices, second floor, 810 Penn Ave., Downtown.

Mailed copies are available at a cost of $5 for the Oakland brochure, $7 for Downtown or $10 for both. To order, call 412-394-3353.

Bach Beethoven and Brunch Classical Music Series in Shadyside's Mellon Park presents free 90-minute classical music concerts. You can buy food on site, or pack your fanciest alfresco meal and take part in the best brunch competition. Courtesy CitiParks

10:30 a.m.

Begin your Sunday of cultural treats at the Bach, Beethoven and Brunch Classical Music Series in Shadyside’s Mellon Park.

Bring a picnic basket of goodies and a blanket and settle in for a 90-minute banquet of classical music. Food also is available for purchase.

But if you’re of a competitive nature, you may want to put some effort into your brunch menu. Each week, there’s a prize for the winner of the best brunch competition.

Presented by CitiParks, this popular event runs every Sunday through Aug. 15 and is free.

Upcoming performances include Pittsburgh Guitar Trio on Sunday and Allegheny Brass Band on July 25.

Details: 412-255-2391 or here

12:30 p.m.

It’s time to satisfy your appetite for visual art.

From Mellon Park head to the Oakland area.

Armed with your trusty Oakland edition of “Pittsburgh Art in Public Places,” begin your walking tour at the memorial fountain designed by Saint-Gaudens near the entrance to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

The walking tour covers a lot of ground, taking you past 26 outdoor sculptures, monuments and statues at sites on the Carnegie Mellon University campus, in Schenley Park, outside of Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum and around Schenley Plaza and the Cathedral of Learning.

The complete walk takes between 75 minutes and two hours, longer if you take rest stops or hydration breaks.

2:30 p.m.

End your tour with a rest stop in Schenley Plaza. Take a spin on the carousel. Refuel with something snacky from one of the food kiosks. Possibilities include bagels and pastries at the Bagel Factory, sushi and bubble-tea drinks from Asia Tea House, gyros and salads from Opa Gyros and pizza rolls, pretzels and vegetarian options from Milky Way.

There’s an abundance of benches or cafe-style tables and chairs throughout the park. If you’re looking for shade, head to the big tent at one end of the park.

Some of you may be willing to call it a successful day out right here.

If you’ve not yet had your fill of art, continue on.

3:30 p.m.

Now, it’s time to explore the North Shore.

Firmly grasping your map of Walking Tour 2: North Shore from “Pittsburgh Art in Public Places: Downtown Walking Tour” begin at the Alcoa Building that faces the water between Sandusky and Anderson streets.

This second tour covers 22 sculptures, architectural wonders and statues that range from the traditional — bronze statues of Art Rooney Sr. and Honus Wagner to George Sugarman’s colorful aluminum abstract sculpture. Along the way you’ll pass long-standing landmarks, such as the former Buhl Planetarium and post office buildings, now re-purposed as the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum in Allegheny Center, and get close-up views of Pittsburgh’s two humongous sports stadiums.

This tour should take between 75 minutes and two hours, depending on how fast you walk and how often you linger.

5:30 p.m.

Dine alfresco at one of the many restaurants along North Shore Drive that offers outdoor dining.

Two possibilities:

Jerome Bettis' Grille 36, on the city's North Shore, is a great place to enjoy a meal with a beautiful view of the downtown. Samantha Cuddy | Tribune-Review

• Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36 (412-224-6287 or here) offers a view of the river from beneath the black-and-gold umbrellas in its outdoor dining area. A full menu ranges from bar food and sandwiches to a 36-ounce strip steak served with mushrooms, onions, mashed potatoes and broccoli for $44.95.

• Calico Jack’s Cantina (412-322-7380 or here) also offers a view of the water from its outdoor tables along the restaurant’s northern side. It features a casual menu of Mexican and Cajun bayou dishes.

Cinema in the Park, presented on Schenley Park's Flagstaff Hill, offers free showings of recent movies. Courtesy CitiParks

8 p.m.

Finish your day with a movie or a play under the stars.

Each Sunday and Wednesday through Aug. 29, CitiParks’ Dollar Bank Cinema in the Park offers a screening of a recent film at Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park. Upcoming Sunday films include “Imagine That” (this Sunday), “Astro Boy” (July 25) and “Bandslam” (Aug. 1). It’s part of a larger program that offers outdoor screenings in city parks throughout Pittsburgh.

Admission is free. Screenings begin at dusk.

Details: 412-422-6426 or here.

If you prefer live entertainment and can wait a few weeks, Quantum Theatre will be performing “The Howling Miller” (July 29 to Aug. 22) outdoors in a production that utilizes the burned-out Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill as a background. Set in Lapland in the post-war years, the play revolves around a troubled stranger who is a man, a myth and a stranger who is part hero, part howler.

You’ll need to adjust your dinner plans slightly as Sunday performances begin at 7 p.m., but it’s at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Admission is $30-$45; $16 for students.

Details: 412-697-2929 or here.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633