Studios, art centers offer creative options to all ‘makers’ |
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Mary Pickels

Andi Sharp has always wanted to have her own art studio.

A campaign helped her raise the funds to open Studio C in Herminie, her hometown, last November.

Sharp defines the studio as a community space where she encourages “makers” of all skill levels to share ideas and where she will offer art classes in various mediums.

Her studio offers classes to all ages, from preschool through adults, from girls’ night out to date nights to helping Scout troops, as she recently did, as they earn their art badges.

“It’s not just about guided instruction classes. I really want kids to know my studio is a place they can come in and explore their own creativity,” Sharp says.

Early introduction

Emily Croft brought son Wesley, 3, to a recent pre-school art class. Her daughter attended a painting birthday party at the studio.

“He’s not in school, so he and I are always looking for things to do,” Croft says.

Melissa Bizich of Irwin brought Nola Bechtold, 4, of North Huntingdon, whom she cares for during the work week. It kept the little girl busy on a winter morning, and Bizich says they likely will return.

She also enjoys finding artistic outlets for her own 7-year-old daughter, and looks forward to Sharp offering more weekend and after-school classes for older children.

Sharp says one idea she hopes to convey to young people is that opportunities exist for “creative careers.” Her studio is one of numerous regional sites where artists and makers of all skill levels can pursue a craft or perfect their DIY skills.

Artists inspiration

Tracy Alaia opened Feathers Artist Market and Gifts in Irwin in 2017, and offers walk-in painting and scheduled classes.

She hopes to expand her workshop and class options soon by bringing in other instructor artists.

Alaia holds artist receptions each month, and dedicates February to artists 17 and under. This year’s reception for that age group will be on Feb. 7, and artwork can be submitted through Feb. 6 and will hang in the shop all month. “They can submit anything. It’s just so exciting for them to see their (work) in a real gallery. It gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment,” she says.

Embracing community

In Jeannette, You Are Here opened in August, and offers exhibits, poetry reading, movie nights, art classes and supplies.

Its artist thrift store, Oh, Scrap!, is open to both creators and shoppers, and DIY workshop classes offer the chance to create art from recycled materials.

You Are Here also has a resident artist program for those 18 and up. Building and studio space is available for specific work goals, such as a community project or one that reflects issues including heritage, identity or environment.

Working and creating with others

Westmoreland Cultural Trust’s Incubator for the Arts opened in Greensburg in 2016, and offers a place where artists can collaborate, as well as the Art in the Alley project. Leased spaces include utilities, internet, Wi-Fi and 24-hour access to the Union Trust Building.

Kelli Brisbane, Trust corporate engagement and event manager, says there is a waiting list for the 12 studios, occupied by college students and professionals.

Among the art they produce are paintings, mixed media, photography, pottery and jewelry, she says.

Brisbane says the plan is to expand into another Trust holding, the Stark Building, to offer both more studio space as well as exhibit and instruction space.

Finding their muses — again

New Kensington Arts Center offers drawing and painting classes, paint parties and open gallery artist markets where visitors can see and purchase artists’ work and learn about opportunities to show their own creations, says Bill Hall, center president.

“The purpose is to give people the opportunity to get back into their art or discover art,” he says.

“What we really get excited about is the lives that we change. … (Artists) find renewed interest in their old art,” Hall says.

The site has some studio space available, and the arts are expanding to include open mic nights, writing workshops and puppetry programs for children. The all-volunteer center will hold its third, fundraising gala on March 23. “We want to encourage art in any fashion in the community,” Hall says.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

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