Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh





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Tourist Trade

How the 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 world.


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 be.


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 century.

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,, brought his family to Pittsburgh last year to check out the “Kidsburgh” weekend package.


Carnegie 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.

The Big Picture

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 choices."


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 OMNIMAXâ or IMAXâ 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 art. 


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.


A 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 Sunday Morning.


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.


The 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 Kentuck Knob.


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 worthwhile.

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.            




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