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Category Archive: MCG Youth & Arts

  1. Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Youth & Arts’ new Executive Director is a familiar face

    In October, MCG Youth & Arts welcomed Justin Mazzei as the new Executive Director.
    While new to the position, Mazzei’s history with the organization started 15 years ago
    as a volunteer after graduating from Carlow University where he was studying arts education.

    “Upon graduating Carlow University, MCG Youth & Arts was at the tip top of the list of places I wanted to be a part of,” said Mazzei. “I started as a ceramic technician and in the next eleven years I grew through the organization in various roles, from teaching artist, arts integrated specialist, and studio coordinator to program director.”

    During his time here, Mazzei found magic in the building and in the students.

    “The amount of high quality opportunities we provide is astounding,” said Mazzei. “It is a place where your dreams can become realities. It is a place where you can see real tangible growth with the kids in our programs and its real.”

    Mazzei noted that the value of the program always revealed itself when he would see a student start their time in the program shy, nervous, and weary and leave the program a strong, confident, and empowered young adult with a matured sense of who they are and what their assets are.

    Between his time as program director and his new role as executive director, Mazzei stepped away from MCG Youth & Arts and worked at Andrew Street High School, a part of Propel Schools here in the region.

    Although he might have been away, his heart was still at MCG Youth & Arts. It was common to still see Mazzei at exhibit receptions and program events supporting students. He even took some of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild story with him to the high school hoping to be the Frank Ross to a future Bill Strickland.

    “I smile thinking of it,” noted Mazzei. “I implemented even the smallest details like playing jazz music on my record player during classes and saw the wonder and excitement and frankly confusion on the kids’ faces. Needless to say everything I did to positively impact the youth in my reach was directly pulled from the story of Frank and Bill and the experiences I had at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild.”

    However, Mazzei couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to fill the executive director position at MCG Youth & Arts when it was available.

    In his new role as executive director, Mazzei wants to ensure that MCG Youth & Arts continues to provide world-class opportunities for youth in the region. One of his priorities is to collect and utilize meaningful data on new initiatives to expand the program’s family of partners, participants, and alumni.

    When asked about potential changes, Mazzei looks to the past for inspiration. “When I think of changes I think of the process of wheel throwing that inspired a young Bill Strickland,” said Mazzei. “I think of how as a potter you are transforming the clay into something with value, something with purpose, something beautiful. I envision the same process for the program. Change is constant, but making well informed and purposeful change to ensure all students have access to programming that offers them a bright and promising future is important.”

     

  2. Renowned illustrator exhibits and works with students

    Best-selling illustrator and children’s book author Carson Ellis shared her work and knowledge with MCG Youth & Arts students and her art is on display in our gallery. “Carson Ellis: Selected Works” presents a collection of original drawings, prints, and illustrations from the artist.

    The featured works—selected by Ellis—showcase the artist’s signature style through a range of traditional mediums. Concert posters, album covers, book illustrations, and process sketches are on display.

    Ellis’ work fits with MCG Youth & Arts’ 2019-20 theme “Celebrate. Collaborate.” Ellis works with her husband, The Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy, as well as with other authors and musicians. Her experience teaches students about the realities of being a professional illustrator while offering them inspiration to follow creative avenues they may already have access to.

    “I found Carson through Instagram, but also kept noticing her books in the homes of friends, even those without children,” said Cecilia Ebitz, MCG Youth & Arts Visiting Artist and Exhibitions Coordinator. “I hope that the students will see themselves as a part of a creative community at MCG and figure out what collaborations can be made here.”

    Ellis worked directly with students in the design studio as part of a threeday workshop. They went through the process of creating a picture book and talked about them as an art form and the process of storyboarding and character design.

    Aside from her work as a professional artist, Ellis is fond of giving back and sharing her knowledge.

    “I taught a 12-week drawing workshop for teen artists at the Portland Art Museum for years,” said Ellis. “These days I volunteer at a women’s prison teaching art to incarcerated moms and their kids, but I have a special place in my heart for working with teenagers because my own teen years were difficult and art was the thing that got me through them.”

    “Carson Ellis: Selected Works” is on view until Dec. 23 at the Connie Kerr Gallery at 1815 Metropolitan St. Pittsburgh, PA 15233.

  3. Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and Westminster College Partner to Add College Courses to World-Class Youth Art Center

    Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) Youth and Arts, a program of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, is announcing an exciting new partnership with Westminster College. High school students that attend MCG Youth and Arts have long been given access to university-level art training and equipment to enhance their secondary education. Now, alongside Westminster, MCG will be offering college courses to junior and senior high school students taught by Westminster professors. Students taking these courses will be met with the same level of engagement and support that MCG Youth and Arts has provided for 50 years.

    Kevin Jenkins, President and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, sees this new partnership with Westminster as a natural fit for MCG Youth and Art’s programming.

    “This is part of another path we see for MCG to carry out its mission of helping people break down barriers to opportunity and growth,” said Jenkins. “We’re committed to seeing students develop the tools and confidence they need for the rest of their lives, and enhancing educational resources for them is another vital piece of that goal.”

    Beginning on January 2, 2019, students can take Economic Reasoning on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Introductory Writing on Mondays and Wednesdays. All classes are from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will be held at 1815 Metropolitan Street. Pittsburgh Promise funding is available to all Pittsburgh Public School students who have attended PPS since ninth grade. As with MCG Youth and Arts’ art programming, transportation for students can be provided or arranged.

    Dr. Kathy Brittain Richardson, President of Westminster College, expressed her enthusiasm about the partnership with MCG as well.

    “We are pleased to be partnering with MCG to provide Westminster’s Early College courses taught by Westminster faculty members on site on their Pittsburgh campus,” said Richardson. “This learning opportunity coordinates so well with the strong enrichment options that have long been offered at MCG to help enrolled students strengthen their preparation for their college careers.”

    Enrolling in these classes can be a gateway to becoming a full-time Westminster student. Successful participation makes admission to the college very likely. Students and parents can contact Samantha Rapp from MCG Youth and Arts at srapp@manchesterbidwell.org for more information or to sign up for classes.

    About MCG Youth and Arts

    MCG Youth & Arts’ mission is to educate and inspire urban youth through the arts. In 1968, Pittsburgh was a city racially divided and economically distressed. Bill Strickland established Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild to help combat the economic and social devastation experienced by the residents of his predominantly African-American North Side neighborhood. Today, MCG Youth & Arts provides free arts programming to over 3,000 high school and middle school students. For more information about MCG Youth & Arts, visit mcgyouthandarts.org.

    About Westminster College

    Westminster College, founded in 1852, is a four-year liberal arts college. The first integrated and unrestricted coeducational college in the country, Westminster was recently ranked #22 in The New York Times’ list of “Top Colleges Doing the Most for the American Dream.” For more information about Westminster College, visit: westminster.edu.

    FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION CONTACT
    Joel Mora
    Communications Manager
    Manchester Bidwell Corporation
    jmora@manchesterbidwell.org
    ###

  4. New Exhibit “Frank & Bill: 50 Years of Mentorship”

    On the left: a cup and bowl from a dinner set by Frank Ross. On the right: lidded vessels by Bill Strickland. Photograph by Joel Mora.

    Manchester Bidwell Corporation would not exist if Bill Strickland had not wandered past Frank Ross’ ceramics classroom at Oliver High School. We celebrate that meeting and mentorship with the exhibit “Frank & Bill: 50 Years of Mentorship” in the Connie Kerr Gallery.

    The exhibit highlights the extraordinary relationship between Strickland and Ross. Ross’ mentorship not only fostered Strickland’s creativity—motivating him to graduate high school and attend the University of Pittsburgh—it ultimately led to the development of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation and its affiliates. While showcasing ceramic works from both men, the exhibit will also highlight historical elements telling the story of the last 50 years.

    Frank Ross doing a ceramics demonstration.

    “I’m honored to be able to reconstruct the history of the journey,” said Strickland, who has persevered in his studio practice, despite the inherent difficulties associated with creating ceramic work after surviving a double lung transplant.

    Strickland’s recent work is a continuation of his passion for functional stoneware pottery instilled in him and countless others by Ross, who taught in the PittsburghPublic schools system, and later as a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

    In addition to the exhibit, Strickland will take part in a two-day workshop with MCG Youth & Arts students in the ceramic studio and have lunch with them in the MBC board room.

    Outside of the exhibit, guests will find a timeline of MBC highlighting how the organization has changed lives across the world for the past half century.

    Ross never lived to see the incredible ceramics studio that Strickland eventually built on Metropolitan Street. A car accident took Mr. and Mrs. Ross in 1980. In 2008, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild’s world-class, ceramic studio was officially dedicated in memory of Ross and his wife. It can only be assumed that Ross would be just as excited as Strickland is regarding the planned renovation and expansion of the ceramics facility that will allow the past 50 years of mentorship to extend into the far future.

    “Frank & Bill: 50 Years of Mentorship” will run until December 31, 2018.

    Bill Strickland teaching a student at a potter’s wheel in the ceramics studio.

  5. Bill Strickland Honored at NCECA

    Bill Strickland speaking after receiving the NCECA Honorary Member of the Council
    award. Photo by Germaine Watkins.

    When the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) annual convention returned to Pittsburgh, they gave MBC President and CEO Bill Strickland their Honorary Member of the Council Award.

    Strickland received the award for his contributions to ceramic arts and his work is now recognized as essential to ceramic arts’ impact.

    This award comes as Manchester Bidwell Corporation celebrates its 50th anniversary, which all started with Strickland in 1968 with a lump of clay serving his community. Josh Green, NCECA executive director, presented Strickland with the award at the conference.

    “With this award we too connect Bill’s work with pottery of the ancients,” said Green during the award presentation.

    For Strickland, the award provided an opportunity to reinforce the idea that art is more than something to look at.

    “I know there is magic in clay,” said Strickland during the awards ceremony. “We can use this medium called clay to literally change the world.”

  6. The 50th Brings the Funk at MCG Youth & Arts

    Middle Passage Vessel by David MacDonald in the “Funk: American Dada” exhibit at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild.

    MCG Youth & Arts celebrated both the return of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) annual convention and its 50th anniversary with a powerful ceramics exhibit and a three-day, hands-on workshop for students.

    “Funk: American Dada” featured strong political and personal work from 10 of the top contemporary, African American ceramic artists. The exhibit was a homecoming for several of the artists who were either former students, teaching artists, or visiting artists.

    Curated by Anthony Merino, the show’s title references musicians such as George Clinton, who crossed currents to obliterate genres and subvert the norm. The artists featured in “Funk: American Dada” do the same using clay; not notes. The exhibit—sanctioned by NCECA— featured Malcolm Mobutu Smith, Kelly Phelps, Kyle Phelps, Lydia Thompson, David MacDonald, Yinka Orafidiya, Janathel Shaw, James Watkins, Sharif Bey, and Angelica Pozo.

    While all ceramic work, the pieces in the exhibit varied in style, scale, and intent from the Phelps brothers’ tableaus documenting the lives of middle-class factory works to Orafidiya’s Freedom Cups. Some artists showcased older works like MacDonald’s arresting Middle Passage vessels, and others created new works specifically for this exhibit like Pozo’s expressive tile paintings.

    The reception was attended by many of the artists as well as hundreds of convention attendees. NCECA offered shuttle service to the 6,500 registered attendees from the convention center to MCG.

    In the days leading up to NCECA, Bey co-presented the three-day workshop for students with MacDonald. Bey came of age at MCG; discovering clay as a teen and eventually returning to teach ceramics in the very same studio.

    The two masters worked alongside the students on a collaborative project allowing everyone to get their hands dirty and to express themselves personally.

    “Can you tell how much fun David and I had working with kids at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild,” asked Bey. “I used to think that MCG was a magical place. Now I understand that MCG brings out the magic we all have inside of us.”

    Ceramic artist Sharif Bey teaching a workshop with MCG Youth & Arts students. Photo by Jeff Guerrero.

  7. MCG Creativity Continues at Harvard University

    Cynthia Gu’s Recycled Tinkerbell Dress

    Cynthia Gu’s Recycled Tinkerbell Dress, 2014. Photograph by Richena
    Brockinson.

    On the surface MCG Youth & Arts (MCG), an affiliate of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, gives Pittsburgh students the rare opportunity to explore their artistic side. However, it also gives students the confidence and skills to succeed in school and reach new heights. Harvard University junior Cynthia Gu is the epitome of that success.

    Stepping into the design studio classroom at (MCG) was an influential moment for Cynthia Gu. A Pittsburgh Taylor Allderdice student at the time, Cynthia would spend the next four years of her high school career designing and constructing dresses out of reclaimed materials every day at MCG. The components of Cynthia’s designs ranged from ordinary garbage bags to recycled homework assignment papers. Cynthia loved the idea of upcycling—taking what most would consider trash and transforming it into something beautiful and wearable. The MCG teaching artists worked with Cynthia on her sewing and design skills as she created more stunning dresses. Cynthia’s time at MCG culminated in a fashion show at The Andy Warhol Museum showcasing her unique dresses constructed out of upcycled materials.

    Cynthia had already built a lengthy portfolio showcasing her designs from MCG when the time came to think about colleges. Working with MCG’s teaching artists, Cynthia submitted applications to several prestigious universities. She chose to write her entrance essays on a topic close to her heart: her time spent at MCG and its impact on her education.

    “I believe the process of making art is such an undervalued skill and activity,” wrote Cynthia in her applications. “It helped me to develop skills that are not reflected in the regular school curriculum.”

    Cynthia Gu

    Cynthia Gu modeling her Recycled Tinkerbell Dress. Photograph by Richena Brockinson.

    Cynthia’s essay clearly made an impact. She is currently a junior at Harvard where she is studying applied mathematics. Even with a heavy course load, Cynthia remains dedicated to incorporating her art into her busy schedule. She has been featured in several fashion shows at Harvard and MIT and has already completed several courses in the visual arts department of her university. There is even a ceramics studio right inside of Cynthia’s dormitory where she is able to continue her passion of creating things from recycled materials.

    When asked about what she learned in her time at MCG that she carries with her today, Cynthia has a simple reply: “I learned to not be afraid of leaving my comfort zone. To this day, I have used artistic skills from MCG to form innovative solutions to problems in school and in life.”

    See more of Cynthia’s work at cynthia-gu.com.

  8. MCG Youth & Arts’ New Exhibit: “Mad House”

    Adhemas Batista

    Illustration by Adhemas Batista created for Brazil’s Allegra Bitter Beer.

    MCG Youth & Arts’ next visiting artist, Adhemas Batista, is a designer, illustrator, and animation director working in Los Angeles. His vast client list includes Adidas, Asics, Beats, Coca-Cola, Gatorade, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Unilever, and more. The hallmark of his work is bright, vivid imagery.

    Born in San Paulo, Brazil, Batista draws inspiration from urban art and pop culture and influences of Brazilian tropical culture. A self-taught digital artist, his work includes a variety of design, illustration, typography and animation.

    He co-created an animated short for Unicef titled “Malak and the Boat,” which drew attention to the plight of Syrian children. The short won a Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in 2016. Batista’s other awards include nine Lions at the Cannes Festival, a Brazilian Young Creative award at the
    Cannes Festival in 2003, and three Golden Statues at the London International Awards.

    “Mad House” runs through Jan. 5, with a public reception on Nov. 16. He will also conduct a workshop with MCG Youth & Arts high school students in November. Visit mcgyouthandarts.org for more information.

  9. Transformative Teaching Artist Richena Brockinson

    Richena Brockinson, MCG Youth & Arts teaching artist

    Richena Brockinson, MCG Youth & Arts teaching artist

     

    MCG Youth & Arts teaching artist Richena Brockinson was selected as one of ten Pittsburgh-area arts educators to receive the New Sun Rising Transformative Teaching Artist Award. Brockinson was once a student at MCG and returned years later to teach in the photography department where she imbues her classes with a special blend of kindness, caring, and tough love.

    With the support of the Heinz Endowments, New Sun Rising awarded the 10 finalists $5,000 each and recognized their work with youth from African American and distressed communities.

    “I am honored to be a part of a group of such outstanding teaching artists; such beautiful and inspiring people,” said Brockinson.

    The Transformative Teaching Artist Award not only shines a light on the exceptional educators who won the award, but on the important role of all teaching artists. According to a statement released by New Sun Rising, “Teaching artists play critical roles in the lives of the youth they serve, providing not only artistic skill building, but caring, support, and mentorship. Yet those teaching artists who have chosen this as their life’s work face great challenges in building teaching artist careers.”

    For more than 10 years, New Sun Rising has supported innovative organizations that create economic opportunity and solve social challenges.

    The Heinz Endowments focuses on stirring creativity, learning, and environmental, economic, and social sustainability in the region.

    In addition to Brockinson, winners included Alisha Wormsley, Kim El, Celeta Hickman, Jordan Taylor, Shimira Williams, Akil Esoon, Mario Quinn Lyles, Bekezela Mguni, and Thomas Chatman.

  10. Shining the 50th Anniversary Spotlight on Our Sustaining Donors

    Grace Hampton sustaining donor

    Grace Hampton, Ph.D., MCG Youth & Arts sustaining donor.

    Before Bill Strickland realized his dream of opening a center to serve the youth and adults in the Pittsburgh area, he made a connection to a special individual at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Little did Bill know then that this individual would play an important role in the success at Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC).

    Grace Hampton, Ph.D., was the assistant director of the Expansion Arts Program at the NEA and witnessed the growth of the programs that Strickland was spearheading in Pittsburgh. Hampton has been a sustaining donor to MCG Youth & Arts for over three years. She—along with our other sustaining donors—provides a steady, reliable stream of support every month so that we can continue to provide our programs to people in need.

    Hampton spoke about why she made the decision to become a monthly donor to MCG Youth & Arts and why she believes others should do the same.

    “For many years I have tracked and watched MCG grow and become an important national asset to the arts in America—community arts in particular,” said Hampton. “The Guild is a leader in many areas and has nurtured the minds and the creative spirits of children and adults alike through the multiple youth programs and the fabulous jazz concerts presented.”

    She also had thoughts on MBC’s 50th anniversary and why it is so important for our sustaining giving program to grow stronger. “I know that the growth of the Guild has not stopped,” said Hampton. “I expect even more great things from MCG in the next 50 years.”

    Want to join Hampton and the dedicated group of people who provide monthly support to transform our students’ lives each day? To make a sustaining gift of $50 in honor of our 50th anniversary, or any amount that is right for you visit manchesterbidwell.org/about/support-donate/donate.