By Nico Chiodi – 11th Grade, Homeschool
Walking through the tinted glass doors of Artists’ Image Resource (AIR) on the North Side, I was immediately greeted with an artistic scene. The white tables along the white walls were covered in a random layer of paint spots and pen marks. One young man, James, worked intently at his computer, looking for designs. Another student was in the back cleaning printing screens. Prints that visitors had created hung on the walls, ranging from posters for local bands to new takes on pop art.
After a few minutes, another young man entered the studio and immediately sat down at one of the computers to work out a design. He set up some music and a few moments of intense concentration followed.
AIR’s Youth Open Studio, which runs from 4 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday year-round, is for middle and high-school students to create designs to screen onto t-shirts, posters, and other materials at reasonable prices.
“I try to make it here every Wednesday,” James said. “[Everyone] is really nice.”
Tye, an employee at AIR, has only been working here for a few weeks, but he was a regular of Youth Open Studio while he was in school. His experience is useful for new students, as he explained: “If they need help with screen printing, I help them screen print. I help them Photoshop.”
“They can make shirts, patches, regular prints,” Tye said as he showed me a wall of prints.
The atmosphere in the studio was very friendly, almost like a family. Although the students go to different schools, they knew each other well and have worked together many times before.
When I visited, talk of drawing a “huge sentient hedgehog” was bandied around, and the students helped each other use the computer to start the drafting process. James was working on a design with DNA, and I saw a Statue of Liberty design as well.
“Youth Open Studio has been happening since 2006,” said Heather White, Staff Printer and an organizer of Youth Open Studio. “AIR already had a general Open Studio Program that started in 2003/4 so we thought it was only natural to open the program up for a youth night.” When asked about the program’s goals, she responded, “The goal of the program is… to provide teens with a plan to learn and practice silk screening (as well as other types of print media). The goal is met every week when they come and do exactly that.”
AIR’s Youth Open Studio provides a safe and creative space for young artists to bring their personal print designs to life at an affordable cost ($5 for a screen print plus the cost of the materials to print on something else). For young, aspiring artists, printing original designs can be expensive and the results you want are often not the results you get. Places like AIR provide means to overcome those obstacles and work toward individual artistic goals. They are likely to foster a new generation of passionate artists, while creating a sense of community and unlikely friendships along the way. Speaking as a young artist myself, this is an invaluable resource for our future community.
Nico Chiodi is going into 11th grade. He lives in Thornburg and is home schooled. He has been in Pittsburgh Youth Media for 2 years and has published stories in Belt Mag’s Pittsburgh Anthology. Nico can be seen playing banjo with his father and brother all around the city.