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North Hills Monthly

Thrival Festival Celebrates Innovation, Technology and Culture

Aug 31, 2018 11:40AM ● By Jennifer Pizzuto

A Music X Arts performance

Pittsburgh’s Thrival Festival has steadily evolved over the past decade to become one of the area’s premier annual events. From its humble beginning in 2000 as a grassroots festival in Bakery Square to this year’s multi-platform extravaganza, Thrival is the Pittsburgh area’s “it” event.

Thrival is produced by Ascender, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organization that is dedicated to supporting and growing the area’s innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Thrival has been divided into two principal components that feature their own unique contributions to the overall Thrival experience: Humans X Tech, a series of symposia that is dedicated to Pittsburgh’s technological environment, and Music X Arts, a day-long showcase of talent and culture. 

“Humans X Tech is really where the rubber hits the road,” explained Dan Law, Ascender’s business director and executive producer of the Thrival Festival. “It features people from Pittsburgh talking about their innovations and exploring the intersection between humans and technology through the lens of artificial intelligence and robotics.” 

Humans X Tech features the future of employment and innovation in the area through a day-long conference at Phipps Conservatory and through segments at Carnegie Music Hall.

The Music X Arts component will take place on Sept. 21 at Highmark Stadium and will feature a hybrid of live music, food trucks and installation art. The music festival will be headlined by Dillon Francis, who will mark his Pittsburgh debut at this event. Also performing at Music X will be Matt and Kim, Bastard Bearded Irishmen, Brooke Annibale, Paul Luc, and Mars Jackson.

Regarding this year’s notable highlights, Law said that Humans X Tech will feature speakers from two dozen cities across the globe. “This year’s program aims to explore ways that Pittsburgh is leading and conquering challenges through its ever-expanding innovation and technology,” he explained.

Humans X Tech will take place from Sept. 19-20 and will include summits, conferences and symposia. The Future of Work Symposia is scheduled for Sept. 19 at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty. The LIFE.CODE. summit will take place on Sept. 20 at Phipps Conservatory in Oakland, and will examine the nature of adaptation, learning, and world-building within the fourth Industrial Revolution.

The LIFE.CODE. summit will be augmented by an interactive learning experience at the Carnegie Museum of Art and Carnegie Music Hall, themed “What Makes Us Human?” John Battelle will moderate discussions with the area’s key tech and cultural leaders.

Law also notes that this year’s Thrival Festival is particularly exciting because of the location of the music piece. Thrival Music X began in a dirt lot in Bakery Square in 2013; its location has since been moved to Highmark Stadium, a prominent urban location that is much more accessible to a greater swath of Pittsburgh-area residents.

“This is the first time that the music has enjoyed an urban core location,” Law said. “It’s much more accessible for the entire area.”

Tickets for Thrival can be purchased at Law added that the festival features something for everyone, and that is reflected in the ticket prices that range from 

$15-$150. Tickets can be purchased for individual symposia for Humans X Tech and/or for Music X. Those who are interested in volunteering for Thrival should also visit the website.