Arts—and Carnegie Museums—Drive Tourists to Pittsburgh
By Merle Jantz
A new Carnegie International is in the
planning stages and will be ready for unveiling in the autumn of 2004. The
54th in a series that began in 1896, the International is an event marked in red on calendars around the
This summer, Pittsburgh will be so thick with
prehistoric creatures, visitors may mistake us for the set of Jurassic Park. The big Tyrannosaurus rex greeting people at
the airport will be joined by more than 100 dinosaur friends citywide as
part of DinoMite Days, a joint venture between the Museum of Natural
History and the Laurel Foundation, a private philanthropic group. These
dinosaurs will remind people what dinosaur experts around the world already
know: that whether you're finishing your dissertation on early
Mississippian brachiopods or just want to look at some pretty cool old
bones, Pittsburgh is the place to
What do the International
and DinoMite Days have in common? Innovation—and cashing in on a growing
reputation for attracting out-of-town visitor attention. Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh has been
the major player in the Pittsburgh cultural tourism scene for more than a
Getting Away—to Carnegie Museums
Tinsy Lipchak, executive director of the Greater
Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors’ Bureau Office of Cultural Tourism,
confirms that Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh plays a big role in bringing
cultural tourists to town.
The bureau offers
“getaway” packages to prospective tourists, such as the “Classic
American Getaway,” which includes overnights in both downtown Pittsburgh
and the Laurel Highlands, along with tickets to Carnegie Museum of Art, The
Warhol and other attractions in the city, as well as the Westmoreland
Museum of American Art, Fallingwater
and other attractions in the countryside. A one-night package is
"Window to the World," which partners Carnegie Museum of Art with
the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of
Learning, and includes tickets to Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre
performances at Stephen Foster Memorial theaters in Oakland.
“The featured getaways are a very significant part of
what we do," Lipchak says. "And I’d say that almost 40 percent of
everything that's offered in all the packages takes place at one of the four
Carnegie Museums," she says. "If you take away the performing
arts attractions, that number gets much bigger. The Carnegie Museums are a central
part of what we do."
Andrew Der, writing for the travel Web site Gallagher's Travels, www.gallagherstravels.com, brought
his family to Pittsburgh last year to check out the “Kidsburgh” weekend package.
Museum of Art’s Light!, the
centerpiece of the 2001 “Pittsburgh Shines” campaign, attracted thousands
of cultural tourists.
"The Heinzes and Carnegies would certainly be
impressed with what people have wrought from a revitalized downtown to
centers of cultural arts, academia, and sciences, as well as spectacular
new stadiums, parks, and vistas,” he writes.
Kidsburgh premiered in 2002 and brings families to
Pittsburgh for three days and two nights that include visits to seven
family-fun attractions, including Carnegie Science Center and Carnegie
Museum of Natural History. In 2003, Carnegie Museum of Art is being added
to the package of possible attractions, which costs a family of four only
$329, including tickets to the eight attractions and hotel overnights. FamilyFun
Magazine’s (August 2002) designation of Pittsburgh as one of the top five
cities for families tells you something about the quality and quantity of
family attractions that Pittsburgh has to offer. The magazine also ranked Carnegie Science
Center as one of the top five museums for families in the nation.
In 2002, the Pittsburgh Visitors Bureau tracked 176,100
combined Kidsburgh package buyers and visitors from targeted markets and
found that 67 percent of these tourists passed through the doors of
Carnegie Museums. While in Pittsburgh, Kidsburgh tourists spent more
than $19 million collectively.
Tourism expert Lipchak believes the best advertisement
for the city is the tourist who returns home telling friends you need much
more than a couple of days to see Pittsburgh. "We want to let people know what exists
here," she says. "We almost want to overwhelm them with
Those choices are displayed thrillingly at Carnegie
Science Center’s Rangos Omnimax Theater, which screens the 8 ½-minute film Pittsburgh’s Big Picture before
every feature. This preview of the city puts Pittsburgh among the handful
of international cities that have their own signature large-format 70mm
film. The emphasis of Big Picture is on the dynamic, fun
aspects of life here, while still presenting a full montage of the region
and its assets -- its technology, industry, recreation, business, and
This exciting film is so popular with tourists and the
public that it is now for sale in DVD and VHS formats at Carnegie Science
Center’s Xplor Store. For tourists, Big
Picture is a great way to start any visit to the Pittsburgh, providing
a thorough overview of the region’s hot spots.
Last year, Pittsburgh ranked fourth in an AmericanStyle Magazine listing of
the top 25 arts destinations in the country. Receiving prominent mention in
the story were The Andy Warhol Museum and Carnegie Museum of Art's Contemporary Directions: Glass from the
Maxine and William Block Collection.
Lipchak says that AmericanStyle's
accolade provides the opportunity to raise the city's cultural profile
nationally. It certainly changes
people’s tired perceptions of Pittsburgh as a place where the only Art that
matters is the guy who founded the Steelers.
Pittsburgh beacon of light on the North Shore, the Science Center welcomes
more than 175,000 out-of-town visitors a year.
Drawing Distant Audiences
Another way the city's and the museums' profiles are
raised is through traveling exhibitions, such as Carnegie Science Center's Zap! Surgery Beyond the Cutting Edge,
which has been traveling North America for the past two years, and is
booked at other venues two years in advance, giving museumgoers from Cleveland to Charlotte, North
Carolina, to Edmonton, Alberta, to
San Jose, California, a reason to
put Pittsburgh on their list of vacation possibilities.
Other traveling exhibitions, such as Andy Warhol: A Retrospective and The Prints of Andy Warhol (From A to B
and Back Again), and The Warhol
Look have reached large international audiences. The United States’
Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs,
sponsored Andy Warhol: A Retrospective
on a two-year, 12-country tour of key cities in Russia and Eastern
Europe. This exhibit reached some
350,000 people in key cities with diverse international populations, and in
some cities tours were given in eight languages.
This has been going on for years. Since 1996 The Warhol
has sent shows to Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Australia, France, England, Canada
and New Zealand, reaching a collective audience of about a million
people. As a result, Pittsburgh
became a destination for a world full of art lovers interested in Warhol.
Carnegie Museum of Art’s Aluminum by Design has
been traveling for two years, calling attention both to Pittsburgh as an
art destination and to Alcoa as a world leader in Aluminum design. The
Wall Street Journal noted that the exhibition offered “a sleek
functional balance between instruction and aesthetic delight," and it
has drawn crowds at many major cities, such as New York, Montreal, Miami,
Detroit, London, Brussels, and Paris.
Readers have discovered it in periodicals as varied as The
Financial Times (London), Italian Vogue, Canadian Interiors, The New York
Times, Antiques Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, House and Garden, Elle
Decor, and Metropolitan Home, and viewers have seen it on CBS
Light! Becomes a Pittsburgh Theme
Through Light! The Industrial Age 1750-1900, Art &
Science, Technology and Society, Carnegie Museum of Art partnered with the
Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to bring together more than 300 works of art
in an exhibition that proved to be a tourist draw in Pittsburgh and
Amsterdam, the only two cities it appeared.
No doubt the worldwide media attention it received
helped attract visitors to both venues. The London Daily Telegraph art
critic Richard Dorment called "Light!" "The most important exhibition in
Europe," and in Amsterdam it drew 268,000 visitors.
In Pittsburgh for its 16-week run in the summer of 2001,
Light drew 151,500 visitors, and increased traditional summer attendance
significantly. Among the 566 group
visits, including some as large as 200 persons, were groups from Canada,
Great Britain, and France.
“Light” became the 2001 theme of the Greater Pittsburgh
Visitor and Convention Bureau’s “Pittsburgh Shines!” Campaign, which drew
nearly 30,000 visitors to Light! from targeted out-of-town markets, or nearly
20% of the show’s total attendance.
These visitors represented an influx of $3 million to the local
economy in direct spending on tickets, meals, hotels, and more.
People Magnet: Carnegie International
In addition to its obvious artistic and quality-of-life
impact, a blockbuster exhibit such as the International is good for business. The Pennsylvania Economic
League (PEL) studied the impact of the last International, which ran from November 1999 to March 2000. The
exhibit attracted more than 160,000 visitors, from as far away as Australia
and as near as Oakland.
During the five months of the International, average daily admission increased by about 38
percent. Tourists who came to town specifically to see the International expanded their itineraries
to include The Warhol Museum, the Mattress Factory, the Frick Museum,
Carnegie Science Center, and even further afield to Fallingwater and
Almost half of the out-of-towners surveyed by the PEL
said they would not have come to Pittsburgh if it weren’t for the International. Another 40 percent
came to Pittsburgh to visit family and friends, and once here decided that
the International would be
In all, the PEL found that the people who came to see
the International brought more
than $2.16 million into Pittsburgh; almost $1 million of that money was
spent by people who said they would not have come to Pittsburgh if it were
not for the Carnegie International.
Part of Lipchak's job is to promote local cultural
attractions to conventioneers.
When the Association of Alternative Newspapers 2003
convention is held in Pittsburgh June 5-7, the region’s many attractions,
particularly those for families, are being promoted to get delegates to
stay an extra day and see the sites.
Lipchak has tracked the influx of cultural tourist
dollars in the Pittsburgh region since her office began marketing
Pittsburgh culture in 2000. She
estimates that more than 360,000 people reached through targeted cultural
promotions have visited the region.
Over these past three years they contributed about $42 million in
direct spending at local businesses.
For 2003, she believes, “One of the most important
things we can do is to invite people back, and tell them that we have DinoMite Days as something new to
see.” Her Visitor’s Bureau message
is “There are many things to see and do in Kidsburgh in the summer of
2003,” and she depends on Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh to be a
cornerstone in the effort to capture cultural tourists.