Pitt Arts 20th Anniversary: Spurring Love of the Arts, Regardless of Major

Issue Date: 
November 2, 2015

In a few short years, Pitt junior Jonathan Kenneson will embark on a career in engineering. While his strong academic record and internship experience have positioned him for success, it’s his love for and commitment to the arts—nurtured at Pitt—that will truly set him apart from his peers. 

Pitt Arts“The arts are one of my most cherished hobbies,” he said. “My love for the arts has increased my leadership abilities and opened my mind to new ideas and ways of thinking. Once I enter the workforce as an engineer, I will be working in a team setting—and being open-minded to my teammates’ ideas will help us work together and accomplish more as a team.” 

Kenneson’s experiences capture the mission of Pitt Arts, which has worked over the last 20 years to imbue all students—regardless of major—with an appreciation of the arts that will make them not only better professionals, but also better people. 

“The arts get us thinking, make us laugh, and cause us to question the world around us,” said Annabelle Clippinger, Pitt Arts director. “The arts help us build a diverse community, beautify our world, and nurture our spirit.” 

Indeed, during a time when many are questioning the value of the liberal arts and humanities, the University of Pittsburgh has christened the 2015-16 academic year “The Year of the Humanities in the University.” 

A number of Pitt students have already embraced the idea, branching out from their majors to explore Pitt Arts’ Arts Encounters, the Cheap Seats program, Artful Wednesdays, and Free Museum Visits. For example, 36 percent of students participating in the Arts Encounters program are majoring in the hard sciences; and almost 16 percent of participants are engineering majors—the same percentage as the number of students majoring in the humanities or fine arts. The Arts Encounters program offers students free tickets, transportation, a catered reception, and the opportunity to meet performers following some shows in Downtown’s Cultural District.

Through the Free Museum Visits program, students enjoy free admission to local arts destinations, including the Carnegie Museum of Arts and Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Phipps Conservatory, and the Andy Warhol Museum. This past year, more than 65,000 student visits were tallied. 

Meanwhile, 2015 marks the 13th year of Artful Wednesdays, which include free performances and lunch for students in Nordy’s Place on campus. The program also helps local musicians and artists expand their fan base. And Pitt Arts’ Cheap Seats program continues to provide easy, affordable access to the arts to faculty, staff, and students. 

“The city is our campus, and we are connecting students to the arts in the city,” Clippinger said. “By forging these valuable connections, Pitt Arts is contributing to the retention of students here at Pitt.” 

While many students are drawn to Pitt Arts because of an existing love for theater, music, or visual art, other students develop an appreciation over time—often because of one arts encounter that makes an impression. 

“Before arriving on campus, some of our students have been thoroughly underexposed to the arts,” said Clippinger. “But all it takes is one experience to get students to stretch their thinking—whether it’s analyzing an abstract painting or visiting the opera for the first time. To me, that’s the most exciting aspect of my job—the growth that happens around the arts.”