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Greensburg sculptor finds way to monster career with Syfy opportunity

| Sunday, May 3, 2015, 10:45 p.m.
Sculptor Jake Corrick of Greensburg, a former contestant of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, shows visitors one of the monsters displayed in a temporary artist gallery at Westmoreland  County Community College on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Corrick judged the Head Games Creature Competition, choosing WCCC art students’ submissions and selecting the finalists, whose designs were made into animatronic heads. The four finalists were paired with four WCCC robotics students, who created the mechanics for creatures’ eyes that bring the monsters to life.
Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
Sculptor Jake Corrick of Greensburg, a former contestant of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, shows visitors one of the monsters displayed in a temporary artist gallery at Westmoreland County Community College on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Corrick judged the Head Games Creature Competition, choosing WCCC art students’ submissions and selecting the finalists, whose designs were made into animatronic heads. The four finalists were paired with four WCCC robotics students, who created the mechanics for creatures’ eyes that bring the monsters to life.
Several monsters created by sculptor Jake Corrick of Belle Vernon, a former contestant of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, are displayed in a  temporary artist gallery at Westmoreland  County Community College on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Corrick judged the Head Games Creature Competition, choosing WCCC art students’ submissions and selecting the four finalists, whose designs would be made into animatronic heads. The finalists were paired with four WCCC robotics students, who created the mechanics for creatures’ eyes that bring the monsters to life.
Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
Several monsters created by sculptor Jake Corrick of Belle Vernon, a former contestant of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, are displayed in a temporary artist gallery at Westmoreland County Community College on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Corrick judged the Head Games Creature Competition, choosing WCCC art students’ submissions and selecting the four finalists, whose designs would be made into animatronic heads. The finalists were paired with four WCCC robotics students, who created the mechanics for creatures’ eyes that bring the monsters to life.
A monster created by sculptor Jake Corrick of Greensburg, a former contestant of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, is displayed in temporary artist gallery at Westmoreland  County Community College on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Corrick judged “Head Games Creature Competition, choosing WCCC art students’ submissions and selecting the finalists, whose designs were made into animatronic heads. The four finalists were paired with four WCCC robotics students, who created the mechanics for creatures’ eyes that bring the monsters to life.
Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
A monster created by sculptor Jake Corrick of Greensburg, a former contestant of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, is displayed in temporary artist gallery at Westmoreland County Community College on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Corrick judged “Head Games Creature Competition, choosing WCCC art students’ submissions and selecting the finalists, whose designs were made into animatronic heads. The four finalists were paired with four WCCC robotics students, who created the mechanics for creatures’ eyes that bring the monsters to life.
Sculptor Jake Corrick of Belle Vernon, a former contestant of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, poses for a portrait with art and robotics studentsat Westmoreland  County Community College on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Corrick judged the Head Games Creature Competition, choosing WCCC art students’ submissions and selecting the finalists, whose designs were made into animatronic heads. The four finalists were paired with four WCCC robotics students, who created the mechanics for creatures’ eyes that bring the monsters to life.
Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
Sculptor Jake Corrick of Belle Vernon, a former contestant of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, poses for a portrait with art and robotics studentsat Westmoreland County Community College on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Corrick judged the Head Games Creature Competition, choosing WCCC art students’ submissions and selecting the finalists, whose designs were made into animatronic heads. The four finalists were paired with four WCCC robotics students, who created the mechanics for creatures’ eyes that bring the monsters to life.

Monsters under the bed were never a concern for Jake Corrick, growing up in Belle Vernon.

“I grew up a monster kid,” said Corrick, 22, who lives in Greensburg. “When I was young, I was constantly watching the old black-and-white Frankenstein and Godzilla movies, just anything I could get my hands on.”

That fascination with the bizarre drove Corrick to the world of creature design, a spot on a reality television competition called “Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge” and a career making monsters.

“Somewhere in middle school, I found out you could make monsters for a living,” Corrick said. “I discovered the world of special-effects makeup and making monsters for movies, and I was just sold. I never looked back from there.”

While a student studying fine arts at Seton Hill University, Corrick learned he had been selected for the Creature Shop Challenge last year and worked with the school to take a leave of absence during filming and still graduate on time.

The Creature Shop Challenge is a popular reality show on the Syfy cable channel named for puppeteer, artist, cartoonist and television producer Jim Henson, who created The Muppets. He died in 1990 at 53.

Competitors on the show battle against each other to make the best puppets and animatronics. The winner gets cash and a contract to work at Jim Henson's special effects company, Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

“When you get out there, you're almost ready for it, but nobody's ready for reality TV,” Corrick said. “It's a crazy experience.”

Corrick returned to school once the show wrapped and had to keep quiet about specifics during “watch parties” on campus to avoid spoiling the results.

“It felt like the whole Pittsburgh area was behind me. Being a young artist from Pittsburgh, in a city that's kind of finding its place in the art world, is really exciting,” Corrick said.

He said he valued “having all that support and the support of a college that has always kind of accepted my style of art.”

“Most art schools don't have much to do with creature design. The fact that I was able to do it there and receive support for it rather than being encouraged to do something else was pretty incredible,” he said.

Corrick advanced to the next-to-the-last episode of the Creature Shop Challenge, gaining exposure on the show that helped him land work designing masks for the Zac Brown Band to wear during performances.

Being on the show allowed him to network with other competitors for projects such as “Godzilla: Heritage” — a crowd-funded monster movie.

When he graduated, Corrick accepted a visiting artist position with Westmoreland County Community College, where he mentored art students and served as a judge for the inaugural Head Games competition, a collaboration between WCCC art and robotics students to make realistic creatures with animatronic features.

“I think what it does for the students is show they can model this behavior by putting themselves out there, and things are reachable. It's just a matter of what kind of horizon of limitations you set for yourself,” Seton Hill art program director Pati Beachley said.

Sharing his knowledge and experience with other artists comes naturally for Corrick, so working with WCCC students was a natural fit.

“For how gruesome and creepy his artwork is, you might think that he's kind of this harder-core guy, but he really is one of the most kind-hearted and humble artists I know,” longtime friend Casey Worthing said.

“Another important thing I've noticed about him is he's not greedy. He definitely has a lot of talent, and he shares his wealth of knowledge with anyone who asks, whether it's a seasoned artist or a kid playing with Play-Doh.”

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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