Justin Mazzei – Executive Director
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 & Arts including ceramics technician, teaching artist, teaching artist coordinator, and director of programming. Mazzei has enthusiastically shared the work of MCG Youth & Arts 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.”
Rose Mary Gubser – Sr. Administrative Assistant
Rose Mary Gubser has worked for the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild for over 25 years and is currently employed as the Executive 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.
Claira Heitzenrater – Program Coordinator
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 & Arts. She is a lover of animals, magick, nature, good music, tea, and a fine cup of coffee.
Bryce Hemington – Teaching Artist, Ceramics
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.
Raquel Kueffner – Teaching Artist, Design
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.
Germaine Watkins – Teaching Artist, Photography
Germaine is a former student of MCG Youth & Arts and is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He has worked at MCG Youth & Arts 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.
Jill Wiggins – Database Manager/Teaching Artist, Digital
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.
Ashley Kenawell – Teaching Artist, Digital
Ashley is an illustrator and designer living and working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She graduated Pennsylvania State University in 2014 with a Bachelor 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.