RADical Days: Pittsburgh arts with no charge
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 00:09
Pittsburgh is highlighting its artistic side with the arrival of its 19th annual RADical Days celebration, a month-long series of free admission days to some of the city’s largest cultural assets.
RADical Days is conducted by the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD), a government agency dedicated the preservation of cultural assets in the community, according to Executive Director of RAD David Donahoe.
This year’s series is taking place from Sept. 20 to Oct. 13 and will feature a total of 43 free admission days to sites like the Phipps Conservatory, the Andy Warhol Museum, The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and the Senator John Heinz History Center, Donahoe said.
“It’s become a very popular event,” Donahoe said. “Almost as soon as it’s over, [people] start marking their calendar for the next year.”
RAD began the RADical days as a gesture of thanks to the tax payers of Allegheny County, a portion of whose sales tax funded the $1.3 billion in grants that have been given to cultural institutions since its inception, Donahoe said.
The free attendance events are also designed to give the 25,000 to 40,000 yearly attendees of the RADical days an opportunity to visit assets they might not have otherwise been able to, Donahoe said.
Ned Schano, director of communications for the Senator John Heinz History Center, thinks that the RADical days take the financial pressure off of many patrons while also encouraging those who have never visited to attend free of charge.
“Through the generosity of the RAD organization, all the events are free, so what better time to visit an educational organization than with free admission?” Schano said.
The Heinz History Center, a 19-year veteran of the program, will offer free admission to an expected 1,500 patrons on Sept. 30. This attendance is significantly larger than its typical 300 weekend patrons. It will also host performances by other assets including the Pittsburgh CLO’s Academy of Musical Theater and the Pitttsburgh Youth Ballet.
Since many of the smaller assets do not have their own venues, this is a way that they can still participate in the RADical days, Donahoe said. Schano, who has hosted the performances for the last four years, agreed that it is a good use of shared space.
“That’s a nice feature for some of the smaller assets,” Schano said. “[The patrons] get to enjoy them as well.”
Junior early level education major Kylie McGraw appreciates free admission to Pittsburgh’s cultural assets and it’s something she would like to take advantage of.
“There are so many places that I would visit anyway if I had time, so the fact that it’s free just gives me an incentive to make time,” McGraw said. Free admission also eases the financial burden, which can be a problem for students, McGraw said.
Katie Bennett, a junior English and public relations major, agreed, citing the “poor college student stigma” as a reason why the RADical days would appeal to students.
“We don’t get to experience all that the city has to offer because of limited income,” Bennett said. “[RADical Days] gets us off the Bluff to see what this city has to offer.”
According to Bennett, combining assets with this type of special programming could be a major draw, exposing visitors to several of the cultural benefits the city has to offer in a single venue.
“People don’t really realize how big theater is in this town,” Bennett said.
While the Andy Warhol Museum did not offer any special programming on its RADical day, Sept. 23, it did host 1,279 patrons free of charge, said manager of visitor services Jason Fate. This is more than three times their usual 300 to 400 weekend visitors.
According to Fate, the Andy Warhol Museum offers a free admission day to provide an opportunity for people to visit an asset that they otherwise wouldn’t. The museum can “[give] something back” to the community whose tax dollars partially fund it.
“We feel that it is important...” Fate said in an email the The Duke. “We would probably do it with or without RAD.”