Teacher bios

Sheila Ali


Director of the IFCI, Curator, an Art and DIY tech instructor, and Maker. Sheila holds a PA Teaching Certificate for Visual Art (K-12), a BA from Brandeis University, and an MFA in Visual Art from Vermont College. For over twenty years she has worked both as a teacher and education coordinator in places such as the University of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Silver Eye Center for Photography, Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas and the University of Pittsburgh. Her artwork and films have been shown at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Las Vegas Museum of Modern Art, the Three Rivers Film Festival, and many other venues. Sheila has received various grants for her educational programming such as from the Grable Foundation and The Pittsburgh Foundation with support from the Sprout Fund as part of the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum Makeshop Maker Micro grant program. Sheila has participated, on behalf of the IFCI, at a number of Maker Faires, including doing her stand-up act My Journey as a Maker: Reflections of the Artist as a Child (available for booking), and Miniature Plumbing at the Maker Faire in San Francisco. She has also taught art as the A in STEAM of Pittsburgh Public Schools, where she created a 35 foot/3-story tall mixed-media replica of a Monarch Butterfly Tree as a school-wide project. Sheila has been active in the Penn Avenue Arts District since its humble beginnings. For Artist Residencies email sheiladali@irmafreeman.org!

Christine Bethea


An artist, Penn Avenue gallery owner, and grass roots arts administrator, whose career spans over 20+ years. Currently, Ms. Bethea servers on several boards including the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative, and Women of Visions, Inc. She is a popular teaching artist, rostered by the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and other guilds. Ms. Bethea has also won awards for her work in arts administration through the Hill House and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council in 2009. Her work and history as a Western, PA Quilter have been archived by the Senator John Heinz History Center, a Smithsonian Affiliate.

Peter “Rocky” Cristobol


A native to Mars, Pennsylvania. She has a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a working artist and has been an arts educator in many capacities. Her experience ranges from teaching summer courses in painting and drawing at the School of the Art Institute to working with fourth and fifth graders in Pittsburgh Public Schools at an after school program electives program teaching arts and crafts. Maggie has also run independent work- shops such as woodworking for children. She has exhibited her art in both Chicago and Pitts- burgh. She is currently a staff member at the Three Rivers Village School, Pittsburgh’s only democratic/ free school, where she spends heaps of time with students in addition to performing a variety of administrative jobs. Maggie lives in Millvale with her two daughters where producing artwork is an everyday thing.

Katy Dement


Offered her expertise as a papermaker to educate the public in the metro Atlanta school systems and as an independent art educator with Young Audiences / Woodruff Art Center, Georgia Council for the Arts and other community outlets since 1990. While continuing her independent studies in fiber and costume design, she attended Georgia State University majoring in Art History and psychology. Currently DeMent continues her studies in printmaking, paper making, independently working on welding and sculpture. She is an obsessive gardener and beekeeper too. These natural influences are reflected in her work. DeMent’s achievements are varied and numerous she continues to show her work at art festivals and galleries. In 2009 she was awarded Best of Show, Kentucky Festival held in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Percy Echols


I'm an 8th Level Student/ GROUP INSTRUCTOR in Leung Ting Wing Tsun Kung Fu. In Wing Tsun (pronounced “wing chun“), close-range techniques such as punches, low kicks, elbows, and knees are combined with highly maneuverable footwork for strategic positioning. I've studied 3 years of Wing Tsun Kung Fu under Si-Fu Mike Adams before I moved to Pittsburgh in 2016 to work at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. My martial arts background is 4 years in mma, 4 years in BJJ, Blue Belt in Robson Moura Jiujitsu, 2 years of muay thai.

The principles and practice of Wing Tsun can stand alone, as well as supplement prior martial arts experience. Personally, I've found Wing Tsun to improve my daily life as well as my glassblowing and Art practice.

Gerry Florida


Gerry Florida is an award-winning assemblage artist who refers to herself as a "Master of Imperfection”. Her creations deliver underlying messages of rebirth, recovery and reclamation through an array of salvaged, recycled and contemporary materials that she employs in work. Her intrigue with the “beauty of imperfection” has led her to work on behalf of at-risk populations locally and nationally fostering the belief that integrating failures, accepting imperfections and embracing differences is the path to living in harmony with the imperfections surrounding us and to living in sync with the real world and the one we can create.

Lisa Julian


A seasoned dance teacher. She has a BFA in Dance and has been lucky enough to share the gift of dance with children for the last 15 years. Her specialties include ballet, tap, jazz, modern, contemporary, hip hop and salsa to name a few. She found yoga while living in NYC as a professional dancer. Lisa has undergone serious training in many different yogic philosophies, some of which are Iyengar, Ashtanga, Anusara, Bikram, Vinyasa and Yin. In her yoga classes, Lisa pulls from all of these vantage points as well as her dance experience. She is absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to teach classes at the Irma Freeman Center for Imagination, as she believes there is nothing more important than enriching the lives of our up and coming generations.

Michael Lubbert


Has been practicing Yoga for seven years and teaching since 2011. By bringing attention to how and why yoga works for us, he helps his students to transcend the physical practice and make positive shifts in their lives. Michael completed his 200 hour training with Yoga to the People in NYC and his 500 hour training with Philip Urso and Live,

Love, Teach, with whom he is presently a facilitator-in-training. He placed 4th the USA Yoga 2014-2015 Competition at One Whirl Yoga Fest and looks forward to participating again next year. Michael seizes every opportunity to share the beauty that Yoga has helped him to experience. When not on the mat, Michael is a musician and poet. As a performer he has opened up for The Flaming Lips, Wiz Khalif, and Andrew WK. His first poetry collection will be released by Six Gallery Press this fall. His new documentary project is called Yoga Pilgrims.

Michelle Soto (aka Miss Ella Campaign)


A fashion forward herbalist, educator, gardener and dog lover. As a former public school and Montessori teacher she now works in school and community gardens as a Garden Educator with Grow Pittsburgh.  She loves guiding students to self discovery and nurturing their natural talents.  She also founded and runs Cutting Root Farm and Apothecary, an organic flower and herb farm in Butler PA.  She grows over one hundred different kinds of herbs to make tea blends, tinctures, and body care products.  As a member of the Stonefruit Community Herbalists, Michelle is committed to strengthening our community’s health by offering herbal medicine to those for whom alternative health practice might be out of reach. Michelle believes that by introducing children to the magical worlds of plants they can help heal themselves and others with plant magic.

Hong Zhao

Hong is from Wuhan, China. She is the Deputy General Editor of “Children's Art”, a magazine in China. She has been invited for several years now to teach Chinese arts at the Irma Freeman Center for Imagination. Zhao Hong graduated from Hubei Institute of Fine Arts. Besides oil painting, she is also interested in exploring art forms such as watercolor, Chinese painting, cartooning and Chinese calligraphy. Her portrait sketches are lively and vivid. Her watercolors, often of subjects from nature, are fine and delicate. She feel that her life and art are affected by the Chinese Taoist concept of harmony with nature and the Vipassana spirit.

Paige Tibbe

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Paige Tibbe is a visual artist based out of Pittsburgh, PA. She graduated from Seton Hill University with a BFA in Studio Art in the spring of 2017. Paige is a member of both the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Society of Artists. She has exhibited at galleries in the surrounding Pittsburgh area, including the Christine Frechard Gallery, the Westmorland Museum of Art, and Percolate Gallery. Juried group exhibitions include the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh’s 106th Annual Exhibition curated by Taras Matla (2018) and I See You curated by Jen Melvin at Point Park University (2018). Through teaching, she hopes to bring the wonder of making and the freedom of exploration to students. Paige values how important connecting emotion and technique to artistic practice is and hopes to encourage students to consider this and what art means to them through their own creativity.


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Gunner is a Pittsburgh-born writer/performer who twists, flips, and clowns around in The Flippin' Circus and ThaCrowBats.  She co-wrote, -directed, and -starred in the circus play Sue Anne's Funeral, and is currently collaborating on a new circus play showing at Braddock Carnegie Library on October 19th and 20th, "Feathered Fooliage", showing at  October 2019. 

In addition to workshopping partner acrobatics with kids and adults at The Children's Museum and the Pittsburgh Maker Faire, Gunner has taught circus acrobatics and clowning to kids at Providence Family Support Center and the Irma Freeman Center.