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Who We Are

MCG Youth inspires creativity, learning, and personal growth through the arts.

Mission

MCG Youth fosters a sense of belonging, interconnectedness, and hope.

Vision

MCG Youth instills the values of respect, embrace, listen, shape, and influence.

Values

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Our History

Our organization originated when a young, disengaged African-American man met Pittsburgh Public High School art teacher Frank Ross in the 1960s. Ross mentored our Founder & Executive Chairman Bill Strickland throughout his teenage years. He impressed upon Strickland the powers of art, education and community and helped him obtain entrance to the University of Pittsburgh.

 

Wanting to give back to his struggling neighborhood the opportunities he received through Ross’ generosity, Strickland started a small ceramics program while he was still in college in Pittsburgh’s Manchester neighborhood in 1968.

 

Strickland christened the program the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) because he admired the European guild system in which masters passed on their skills and knowledge to young apprentices.

Now, the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild has two programs housed under it: the MCG Youth & Arts program and MCG Jazz, which has been preserving, promoting and presenting jazz through its concert series and educational programming since 1987.
 
Strickland’s contributions to the arts and the community have been well documented and honored with numerous prestigious awards. Strickland has served a six-year Presidential appointment as a Council Member of the National Endowment for the Arts and received the MacArthur Fellowship for leadership and ingenuity in the arts.

Honor Code

Manchester Craftsmen's Guild (MCG) is an organization built on shared values. These values teach that hopefulness and freedom have true meaning when we agree to respect one another, embrace learning opportunities, listen with the intent to understand and shape solutions to problems. More than a collection of studios, MCG is also a community that defines itself through culture. Such a community cannot survive and thrive without mutually respected guidelines that ensure the safety and productivity of its people in an environment where they can work comfortably together. These guidelines require community members to be aware of and assume responsibility for their actions and their effects on others. Members of the MCG community uphold these ideals in our studios and during all related activities with students regardless of where or when they occur.

To View Our Honor Code

 
 
 

Ceramics
 

Our sunlit ceramics studio features numerous pottery wheels, work stations, kilns, a glazing room, and an outdoor raku firing station.

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Our Studios

Design

Our spacious design studio features screen and intaglio printing presses, sewing machines, and a figure drawing and painting area.

Digital

Our digital studio boasts a computer lab with Lenovo Yoga desktops (equipt with the latest in design software), a large format printer, two 3D printers, and a laser cutter and engraver.

Photography

Our photography studio is equipt with a collection of DSLR cameras, computers equipt with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, a darkroom with development bay and enlargers.

Our Staff

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Justin Mazzei’s history with the organization started more than 15 years ago as a volunteer while studying art education at Carlow University.  Justin graduated from Carlow University in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree in art education and is a K-12 Pennsylvania-certified teacher in the arts. Prior to his appointment as Executive Director, Mazzei held a variety of positions at MCG Youth including ceramics technician, teaching artist, teaching artist coordinator, and director of programming. Mazzei has enthusiastically shared the work of MCG Youth at various national and regional conferences. In 2011, he was awarded Outstanding Non-Public Secondary Art Educator of the Year from the Pennsylvania Art Education Association. Mazzei is an educator and an artist specializing in landscape painting and printmaking but enjoys all media of artistic expression.  Mazzei’s energy and passion for the youth arts scene is unparalleled, and as one student puts it, “he makes sure that every single one of his students is not just learning new techniques and art making processes, but that they’re having the time of their life doing it. Justin Mazzei is hands down the best teacher I’ve ever had.”

Justin Mazzei
Executive Director

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Rose Mary Gubser has worked for the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild for over 25 years and is currently employed as the Senior Administrative Assistant to Justin Mazzei, Executive Director.  A graduate of Bidwell Training Center, Rose Mary provides the administrative support critical to running an organization dedicated to educating and inspiring urban youth through the arts.

Rose Mary Gubser
Sr. Administrative Assistant

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Jill is a graduate of West Liberty State College and is an award-winning digital filmmaker. As a teacher, Jill is ambitious and believes in helping her students realize their maximum potential. Her passions include black and white fine art photography and Photoshop.

Jill Wiggins
Database Manager/
Teaching Artist, Digital

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Claira is a contemporary painter and educator living and working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She holds an MFA in painting from Edinboro University and a BFA in studio art from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She has been featured in issue 13 of “Create! Magazine,” volume 38 of “Studio Visit Magazine,” issue 11 of “Fresh Paint Magazine,” as well as various regional publications. She has completed residencies at SparkBox Studio in Picton, Ontario, Canada and the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont. Claira currently works as the Program Coordinator at MCG Youth. She is a lover of animals, magick, nature, good music, tea, and a fine cup of coffee.

Claira Heitzenrater 
Program Coordinator

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Germaine Watkins
Teaching Artist, Photography

Germaine is a former student of MCG Youth and is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He has worked at MCG Youth for more than two decades and is passionate about sharing his love of photography with students. Germaine also teaches photography at the University of Pittsburgh Osher Life Long Learning program. A partial list of his photography accomplishments include: Pittsburgh Black Photographers’ Group book project and blog titled “Feel Like Going On: A Year in the Life of Black Pittsburgh”, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Macedonia Church of Pittsburgh, National Urban League Convention, Pittsburgh Three Rivers Arts Festivals, Silver Eye Center for Photography, Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum, Mavuno Art Festival, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, August Wilson Center, Living Life on Life’s Terms exhibition, Clarion University, Robert Morris University, Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, Whirl Magazine, Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Carnegie Library Websites.

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Bryce is a ceramic artist with over 10 years experience working in the arts. After receiving a BFA from Edinboro University and a teaching certification from Carlow University he has gone on to be a Masters candidate at Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in ceramics. He was a resident artist at Touchstone center for the Crafts in 2014 and exhibited his thesis exhibition in 2014. His work primarily focuses on wood fired utilitarian ceramics made on the potter’s wheel.

Bryce Hemington
Teaching Artist, Ceramics

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Raquel is an abstract artist originally from Pittsburgh and a graduate from the University of Pittsburgh.  She works predominantly in watercolor and gouache paints and draws inspiration from nature.  Raquel loves being outdoors hiking, kayaking, and exploring.  As a teacher, Raquel encourages her students to fuse their own passions with their art so that they may find their creative voices.   

Raquel Kueffner
Teaching Artist, Design

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Ashley is an illustrator and designer living and working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She graduated Pennsylvania State University in 2014 with a Bachelor's Degree in Design (New Media; Interdisciplinary Digital Studio). Ashley has created promotional artwork for crowdfunding campaigns, planned wireframes for interactive experiences, and developed brand identities. She believes that people thrive when they have a chance to connect with others through creative experiences, and sees each new project as a chance to do just that, and give others the opportunity to do the same.

Ashley Kenawell
Teaching Artist, Digital

Ashley Kenawell
Teaching Artist, Digital

 

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