A couple weeks back there arrived in the mail with a thump Arts America, a 540-page tome offering a guide to the arts in 20 American cities. Among them is Pittsburgh.
"Steeltown, U.S.A" (as the book calls us) didn't make the editors' cut of "major" destinations (New York, Chicago, L.A., San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C.). But we do show up among 15 secondary towns, right there with Atlanta and Boston and Philadelphia.
Yeah, NYC gets 94 pages of entries and we get 12. But so do Houston and Baltimore. And Minneapolis/St. Paul only gets 16 ... but who's counting, anyway?
Indeed, books like this one, published by Las Vegas-based Huntington Press, always feel like occasions to see how your town stacks up. And of course it's gratifying to be included in what appears to be a labor of love for executive editor Jeffrey Compton (a businessman and arts afficionado with ties to Cleveland) and his crew of contributors. Their goal is to connect arts patrons to arts providers, especially on the road.
That said, few of the 16 picks representing Pittsburgh will be news to anyone who lives here: The Carnegie Museum of Art, The Warhol, the Public Theater, Symphony, Opera and Ballet eat up much of the space.
Less-canonical choices tend toward regional theater (City Theatre) and the family-friendly (Civic Light Opera, Pittsburgh Musical Theater).
Others on the roster: Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre, Mendelssohn Choir, Pittsburgh Jazz Society, MCG Jazz, and the Harris and Regent Square Theaters.
Meanwhile, some of the choices for including explanatory editors' notes are puzzling: Why annotate the Symphony and not explicate The Pittsburgh Camerata, whose function (professional chamber choir) even many Pittsburghers might be hard pressed to identify?
And annotaters should probably refrain from characterizing companies with productions from a decade ago, as they do in at least one case here.
One can rightly lament the general absence in Arts America's Pittsburgh chapter of smaller, more out-of-the-way venues and theater companies. (No Mattress Factory? No Quantum Theatre?) And what about Pittsburgh's modern-dance scene, which gets completely stuffed. (No Pittsburgh Dance Council, Dance Alloy Theatre or Attack Theatre? Geez.)
On the other hand, the guide expressly intends to cover "art museums [not galleries], theater, classical music, opera, jazz, dance, film and summer festivals." If you had only 16 entries to work with in those categories, who wouldn't include the CMOA, the Warhol, the PSO, the PBT, the Public Theatre, MCG Jazz and the Regent Square, at least?
The Arts America Web site is www.go-artsamerica.com.