01 Jan Scott Shiller Joins the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s newest arts executive, Scott Shiller, poses a big challenge to TEDx Pittsburgh readers: “Attend an event in the Cultural District and rebel!”
I recently heard someone refer to Pittsburgh as a “struggling city”. As a recent transplant, I was confused. Granted, since I’ve started working downtown, I’ve heard about the hard transition the city faced in the 80’s and 90’s and I know we still have work to do. But I look around and I see people coming together to build a vibrant American city, a city growing by leaps and bounds with booming education, hospitality and technology sectors. I see the country’s most dynamic downtown arts and culture scene. To borrow a term from our successful start-up colleagues, I see Pittsburgh 2.0.
So if our past is iconically Flashdance, what is our present? We transplants consider Pittsburgh home now, along with all of you who have been here for years, decades or even generations before us. Thank you for welcoming us. I believe that the live performing and visual arts are crucial pieces of our shared storytelling experience. Seems like now is the time to ask ourselves what type of stories belong on our stages and in our galleries.
You are the Cultural Trust’s partners and, together, we’re going to shake things up. This is why our partnership with TEDx Pittsburgh is so important- because as you know- TEDx is all about transformative ideas.
Now, you may not think of yourself as a rebel. Few rebels do. The reality, though, is that if you have attended an event recently in the Cultural District, you’re shaking things up every time you walk in the door.
Think about the fact that our business has been around for over 2,000 years. Over that time, it has continuously evolved and reconsidered its potential. There has never been a time like this, though. Personal (and professional) technology is upending everything about the theatrical experience, from your first search for tickets on your smart phone to the last selfie you post before heading home. There’s something new seemingly every day, and the Cultural Trust wants to lead the way.
That said, it’s not all new. We still have stages, actors, musicians, sets, props and wardrobe. We still have playwrights and directors and stage managers and crew. Mix well and you have theatre. But then again, now we have “immersive” theatre that forgoes seats and stages for wandering through theatrical spaces. We have jukebox musicals, dance mash-ups, cirque and other forms traditionalists might not even recognize. Here at the Cultural Trust, we’re about to begin updating the technology throughout our campus to accommodate the new, high-tech, demands of audiences attending events inside our buildings as well as the many free festivals that take place outside throughout the year.
But here’s the big question — should the shows and gallery exhibits we bring to the Cultural District stay the same or become something new?
As we move forward, what do you think the future of live entertainment should be? What kind of programming should we embrace? Should we stay rooted in the past with traditional plays and concerts? Should we tear up the rule book and see what happens?
If we do either, will you attend more or less? Because whatever we do, you complete it. You are the reason we’re here and we want to hear from you. The revolution will not be televised — but it may be staged.
Let us know your thoughts by commenting at the bottom of this story.
About the author: A nationally recognized Producer, Presenter and Entertainment Executive, Scott Shiller was recently named to a newly created leadership position at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. As Vice President of Artistic Planning, Shiller will work to provide strategic leadership and serve as provost for the artistic activities of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust where 4,000 performances a year attract over 2 million patrons in one of the nation’s most vibrant Cultural Districts. Working collaboratively with a team of 10 programming professionals, Shiller will ensure the ongoing diversity of artistic vision across theater, dance, music and festival programs in over 20 venues throughout the Cultural District. Shiller will also partner with the team to foster and accelerate the robust offerings of the Cultural Trust’s arts education, community engagement, visual arts and film programs. The former CEO of Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Shiller has presented and produced thousands of engagements in New York, Boston, DC, Chicago, Miami, Denver, San Francisco, LA, and Philadelphia.