Busking, or street performing, is a centuries-old tradition of entertainers performing for tips in public areas. In medieval Europe, local merchants would invite entertainers to their storefronts, plazas and public squares to attract pedestrians and increase business. The roots of the American busking tradition lie in the numerous circuses that once migrated from coast to coast. Barnstorming from town to town, circus performers adjusted their comic, sword swallowing, acrobatic and juggling talents for street corners and soon became a mainstay in American street culture.
Street performers attract the public into an area and encourage them to browse from performer to store to restaurant and back to performer. This creates a mutually beneficial commercial environment for the stores, performers and the public.
Street performers cost the city and stores nothing and attract large crowds of people who are introduced to the other establishments during their visits to see the performers. The public benefits because it is exposed to a variety of quality entertainment for a minimum of expense and they can feel a part of the process of supporting the arts. There is also a benefit which can’t be gauged in terms of dollars and cents. Performers encourage people to know each other and to be connected.
As a way to encourage street performance in Pittsburgh and enliven a city street, we want to brand and build an outdoor area in which performers of all kind will have the freedom to busk legally. We'll work with NextGen Pittsburgh, The Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition and Chamber, Shift Collaborative, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill and Councilman Dan Gillman's office to build and promote the effort. We'll work with Busker Street Union to program the area.
Many buskers have been harassed by police or kicked off the street, even though it is a Constitutional Right. This will offer a safe place for performers to busk and find new audiences.
Funded by Pittsburgh, PA (March 2015)