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Art Studios Building Community

Katie's Clay
Katie's Clay

Expressing creativity and learning new skills are common reasons for taking art classes, but it is also a great way to meet new friends, connect with others and build a sense of community according to MJ McCurdy, owner of Bottlebrush Gallery & Center for the Arts.

“I wanted to create a space for women to get together and connect,” she said.

MJ McCurdy
MJ McCurdy

As she explained, McCurdy started an open art group for women, ”Time for Me: A Women’s Creative Circle,” in 2011 as a means for women in the area to meet each other and make art. “Every month we try a new art form and have sampled everything from oil painting to batik, hand-built pottery to djembe drumming, jewelry making to painting silk suncatchers,” she said, “Guest artists teach some of the classes so the group experiences a variety of art forms. We’re going into our 13th year, so we’re doing something right.”

Men are welcome to the classes as well (with the exception of the Women’s Circle).

McCurdy offers numerous “stand-alone” classes for adults in topics such as alcohol inks, art journaling, painting on glass, mosaic, painting on fabric and others. McCurdy also teaches private, one-on-one classes for both children and adults at her Harmony studio.

“The classes are an individualized instruction series for the more serious student. All students begin with an evaluation meeting to assess their skill levels, then we refine drawing skills and proceed to their specific interest areas. Students benefit from individualized and in-depth attention,” she said.

In addition to art classes, the Bottlebrush Gallery has been a professional art gallery since 2007, hosting work by 85 local artists.

“Classes are held in the Gallery, not in a separate classroom, so students create in an art immersion experience,” McCurdy explained, “Perhaps most importantly, we specialize in teaching ‘art for nonartists,’ so everyone can be successful. All levels of experience welcome.”

Katie Petrovich from Katies Clay
Katie Petrovich

Katie Petrovich, owner of Katie’s Clay Studio, also felt the need to help build a sense of community when she opened in 2011.

“I wanted to create a place for people to connect. I like to make art, and I knew others wanted to make art and meet others,” she said.

Originally located in Allison Park, Petrovich moved her studio to a new location in Richland Township on Rt. 8 with over 2,600 square feet of space per floor for classes along with an outdoor creative space. And don’t let the name of the studio deceive you—Petrovich offers a wide selection of of art classes.

“We offer wheel throwing classes and a variety of camps and workshops, glass fusion workshops, tie dyeing, canvas painting and painting pottery for all ages,” she said.

At Katie’s Clay studio, Petrovich feels people can find a way to be creative in whatever means feels right to them.

“We are the one-stop shop for all things art in the North Hills. We offer the largest selection of pottery for painting in the area along with unlimited color options. We are the only studio in the area to offer stoneware for painting,” she said, “Additionally, Katie’s Clay Studio is the only studio in the area to offer quality instruction in pottery wheel throwing. We teach ongoing courses as well as one-time try-it sessions, and date-night specials.”

Making art accessible for everyone is the emphasis behind the arts programming of Not Forgotten Home & Community Services. The nonprofit serves intellectually disabled adults in the Pittsburgh region and through a partnership with Baierl Family YMCA on Nicholson Road, they have offered free art classes for everyone for over a year. The classes are inclusive, and all are welcome.

“Our target audience is teens and adults who are neurodiverse and/or have other intellectual disabilities,” Laura Stuart, Creative Director said, “We feel like this is an important way to reach an audience that is underserved. Art is a communication that transcends across all ability ranges.”

Since the classes are inclusive, other members of the community can join as well.

“It’s a way for people to feel connected to themselves and to their environment. The classes also offer an opportunity for socialization that the participants enjoy,” Stuart said.

Classes include painting, fabric work, drawings, and other various mediums.

Classes are also offered at Not Forgotten Home & Communities studio and retail shop located in Carnegie. Local artwork from a variety of artists, including projects created in class are offered at the shop.

Artissima Studio located in Indiana Township opened in 2015.

“Our goal is to instill strong foundations of art-making by exposing our students to a wide variety of 2-D and 3-D media and techniques,” Owner Cara Livorio said.

An artist herself, Livorio spent several years in Italy where she discovered her passion for teaching. When she returned to the U.S., Livorio decided to create a studio much like one where she had taken classes as a child and thus, Artissima was born.

At Artissima, they offer classes and workshops for both adults and children and summer art camps for children 4-18 years of age.

“We aim to provide the highest quality artistic enrichment programs that grow with our students so that they can continue to expand their skills and confidence in an inspiring and welcoming environment,” Livorio said.

Livorio is a mother of two young children and remembers her childhood growing up and exploring art.

“I loved my art classes and discovering my own skills as a child. My goal for students is to go away from the classes with a well-rounded artistic experience where they can constantly expand their artistic ”tool belt,” increasing their skill level and exposure to different materials, techniques and artistic processes,” she said.

Classes for children start as young as toddlers , and they offer a variety of workshops which include “Kid and Me” classes for children and their caregivers.

Livorio said that classes for adults include a very popular open studio where students can work on their own projects with assistance from a teacher artist.

All of the studios offer private events and parties including showers, birthday parties and other celebrations.

For more information about classes, workshops and scheduling private events:

Bottlebrush Gallery & Shop: or 724-452-0539.

Katie’s Clay Studio: or 724-502-4700

Not Forgotten Home & Community Services: or 412- 279-5000

Artissima Studio: or 412-968-5858

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