Education Through Art at the AAP

Author: Isabel Meline

Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP) is a local nonprofit which organizes shows in the Pittsburgh area for artists in the region. With the assistance of AAP staff, artist members design exhibits to display and sell their work. With a focus on accessibility and community, AAP works to promote diversity, inclusion and education within the art world. This semester, with guidance and assistance from executive director Madeline Gent, I have been responsible for designing additional educational programming for two of their upcoming exhibits in the summer and fall.  

The first project I was involved in was a retrospective of the artist Mary Culberston-Stark, an AAP member of 30 years who has had a successful career as both a well-respected artist and educator. Since the show is a celebration of her career, we approached the design with the aim of giving an intimate experience with the artist and insight into her process. Madeline and I came up with two events: a modified and personalized version on the popular ‘Paint and Sip’ activity and a tour of the exhibit with the artist herself. Before we could pitch our ideas to Mary, I had to create a project proposal which included a potential budget and supply list. It was the first time I had undertaken such a task , and it helped me ensure that I was thinking of all the necessary details and possibilities involved in each program.  Our meeting with Mary went very well, and we are in the process of nailing down dates for each event while her exhibition is open over the summer.  

The second show I worked on was a project developed by AAP member, Brent Nokomoto. The show was designed to highlight the work of Asian American artists in the Pittsburgh area and features eight artists who utilize a variety of styles and mediums. A major goal of the show was not to simply focus on the variety of Asian American identities and culture in the Pittsburgh, but also to help shift the stereotypical face of the art world away from that of exclusive whiteness. For the programming I decided to focus on workshops targeting younger audiences. Again, I had to create project proposals. This exhibit was much more difficult to design programming for since it involved so many different artists and I wanted to be able to design something that was properly representative of their diverse practices. 

It was exciting to be able to collaborate with artists in the design process. Taking these programs from the online research phase to speaking to them in person showed me how important collaboration is. Because Madeline gave me so much freedom, trust, and responsibility working on these projects I was able to really get out of my comfort zone and learn by doing. I look forward to continuing to develop the programming and to seeing it executed once the exhibits open. It was challenging to have so much responsibility with very limited professional experience, but Madeline was a great advisor and was able to balance giving me freedom and specific instruction.  

Isabel Meline, Museums studies Intern at Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, Spring 2022 

Constellations Group