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Art projects plentiful in Pittsburgh

| Monday, Jan. 24, 2011

No need to dress up, drive far or go broke when you make a date to dabble in the studio arts.

It costs $10 and takes about an hour to try mug-making at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside. And the experience can be sensually therapeutic.

Ever wrap your fingers around a handful of whirling, wet clay to create the perfect drinking vessel• Or gently play with brush strokes of vibrant, acrylic paints?

Try either experience with that special someone, and you might pick up more than new skills.

"You get to see the thoughtful, sensitive side of the person. ... You get to see them analyze situations and think creatively. You probably gain a deeper and more honest insight into who they are," says Claire Marcus, director of education at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

Doing art projects indoors also has its advantages this cold time of year, especially when the activity is slow-paced, and pre-planned in a low pressure atmosphere.

"It's a nice way for people who are interested in the arts to learn together," says Brenda Jaros, education director at Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley.

Sweetwater is among an number of art centers and museums now registering would-be-artists of all ages for hands-on workshops in pastimes ranging from photography to jewelry making. Accomplished artisans often lead the sessions and typically offer individual attention to participants. .

Couples also can sign up for a number of upcoming mixer-style lectures with libations. Here's a sample of upcoming opportunities to indulge your artful selves at a variety of Pittsburgh area sites.

Carnegie Museum of Art / Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Art instruction at the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History often includes time spent sketching works in galleries -- Old World-style -- as museum visitors walk past you.

"It's very romantic here," says spokeswoman Heather Jarrett of the Carnegie Museum of Art, where couple-friendly programs include Culture Club, a series of monthly, salon-style happy hours with museum staffers and guest speakers.

Upcoming hands-on workshops will explore pastel painting and collage-making skills. Award-winning scientific illustrator Mark Klingler also will teach a class in drawing wildlife. Register in advance for any the following programs.

Culture Club: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Feb. 17. "Paul Thek: Against Interpretation." $10 (includes museum admission and two drinks). Happy hour discussion focuses on upcoming exhibit "Paul Thek: Diver, A Retrospective."

Creating Wildlife Art: Collage: noon to 3 p.m. Feb. 19. $35; $30 for members (includes materials). Participants will create a mixed-media collage of insect or bird illustrations.

Pastel Painting: Inspiration from Nature and Andrey Avinoff : 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 6 and 13, or 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 3 and 10. $48; $40 for members. Participants will create fantastical pastel paintings using museum artifacts, such as specimen butterflies, while learning how to combine pastels with tempera, charcoal and watercolor.

Drawing Wildlife Class: 6 to 9 p.m. April 7, 14, 21. $50; $40 for members. Participants will practice their mammal-drawing skills in the Hall of North American Wildlife with scientific illustrator Mark Klingler.

The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History are at 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Details: 412-622-3288 or here .

Sweetwater Center for the Arts

Sweetwater Center for the Arts operates in a stately former post office in Sewickley.

Couples interested in art and history might wish to register for Gretchen Bender's upcoming slide lecture on how the body and nature influenced artists in the early 1800s. Bender is a University of Pittsburgh lecturer with a doctorate in art history from Bryn Mawr College.

"Dr. Gretchen Bender is probably one of our most popular lecturers at Sweetwater," says spokeswoman Jaros. "We serve wine and hors d'oeuvres before the lecture starts, and during intermission, so there's plenty of time to socialize. There's also time for questions at the end of the lecture as well."

Also available are one-day workshops in assemblage art and acrylic painting. Both include time for lunch breaks in downtown Sewickley. Register in advance for any of the following programs:

Photographic Lighting Workshop: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 5. $60; $45 for nonmembers. Instructor is commercial photographer David Cooper.

Acrylic Painting Techniques: Faux Woodblock Prints: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 19. $60; $45 for members. Instructor is Tara Zalewskiy-Nease, who has a master of fine arts degree in painting from the University of New Mexico. Participants will use watercolor masking flue to create a bold image, similar to a wood block carving print.

Collage and Assemblage Art: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 5. $60; $45 for nonmembers. Instructor is Danielle Worst, a Carnegie Mellon University School of Art graduate who works in printmaking and installation art. Participants will create a work that combines two-dimensional images and three-dimensional forms.

Circa 1800: Birth Pangs of the Modern World: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 11. $10; $5 for members. Informal, illustrated lecture and discussion on what historic happenings influenced early 19th century artists by Gretchen Bender. Refreshments served.

Sweetwater Center for the Arts is at 200 Broad St., Sewickley. Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Details: 412-741-4405 or here

Pittsburgh Center for the Arts

Shawn and Cristine Leifheit of Mt. Washington, a couple in their 40s, recently took the new Arts Crash Course at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. The four-hour workshop offers participants a chance to sample three skills -- such as printmaking, ceramics, stop action animation and jewelry making -- in one afternoon.

"We definitely enjoyed it as a couple," says Christine Leifheit. "Everything was provided."

Pittsburgh Center for the Arts offers many opportunities for beginner-level artists to sample a variety of studio arts before committing to a longer class. Register in advance for any of the following programs.

Sunday Sampler -- Mosaics: noon to 1 p.m., 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. Feb. 6. $10. Participants will make a small, decorative square with Rachael Cooper, a certified elementary and secondary school art teacher.

Sunday Sampler -- Ceramic Mugs: noon to 1 p.m., 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. March 6. $10. Participants will make a decorative, greenware mug with instructor Rachael Cooper.

Arts Crash Course: noon to 4 p.m. March 19. $60; $35 for members. Participants will work with instructors in the center's printmaking, ceramics and jewelry studios to create take-home works of art.

Anatomy of the Figure: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 20. $100; $75 for members. Participants will study anatomy and the human form while making drawings and sculpture with Eva Rorandelli, an Italian artist and studio art professor from Florence, Italy.

Introduction to Precious Metal Clay Jewelry: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 26. $95; $70. Participants will make silver pendants and charms with instructor Donna Penoyer.

Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 1047 Shady Ave., Shadyside. Details: Shadyside. 412-361-0455 or here .

Westmoreland Museum of American Art

Upcoming programs include "Art on Tap 5.2.7" from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 11, a happy hour with music and a scavenger hunt. Cost is $7, which includes two drinks.

Westmoreland Museum of American Art is 221 North Main St., Greensburg. Details. 724-837-1500 or here .

Greensburg Art Center

Couples eager to explore ceramics can sign up for "Learning to Throw a Pot" with Ann Gravelle from 7 to 10 p.m. any Friday. The cost is $50 per couple, or $25 per couple, for two couples. The fee includes materials.

Also available are drop-in still life drawing and painting sessions from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Cost is $3 per person. Drop-in drawing and painting sessions -- usually with a model in varied poses -- also are available 7 to 9:30 p.m. each fourth Monday of the month.

Greensburg Art Center is at 230 Todd School Road, Hempfield. Details: 724-837-6791.


Pittsburgh Glass Center and the Society for Contemporary Art also offer a number of introductory workshops and classes listed in their online catalogs.

Pittsburgh Glass Center is at 5472 Penn Ave., Friendship. Details: 412-365-2145 or here .

Society for Contemporary Craft is at 2100 Smallman St., Strip District. Details: 412-261-1941 or here .

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