Teacher bios

Sheila Ali

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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

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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 Her work and history as a Western, PA Quilter have been archived by the Senator John Heinz History Center, a Smithsonian Affiliate.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.

David Covell

grew up in the wilds of Maine and only came home when it was time for dinner. Today, he works as a graphic designer in New York City, and his work has been seen around the world and in the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Run Wild is David’s third picture book – one he hopes will inspire everyone to get outside and explore! David Covell Design. davidcovell.com

Katy Dement

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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

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I'm a 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

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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

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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

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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)

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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.

Harriet Smith

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An avidly practicing multi-media artist. She was born and raised by a painter and a poet, in Brooklyn New York. She moved to Pittsburgh after graduating from the School of Art and Design at Alfred University. During her time at Alfred she experimented widely, with the various applications of silkscreen printmaking. Her tenacity for the medium has led her to become involved with Artist Image Resource. It is through this connection that she has been granted the opportunity to teach silkscreen printing at the Irma Freeman center for imagination. Aside from silkscreen, Harriet's work encompasses many mediums, including painting, drawing, text, costume and clothing design, video, dance, and stop motion animation. She has been working with kids for several years in day care centers, early childhood classrooms, and after school programs. She takes great pleasure in sharing her passion for visual arts with younger minds, and can not imagine a more fulfilling way to contribute to her community! widely, with the various applications of silkscreen printmaking. Her tenacity for the medium has led her to become involved with Artist Image Resource. It is through this connection that she has been granted the opportunity to teach silkscreen printing at the Irma Freeman center for imagination. Aside from silkscreen, Harriet's work encompasses many mediums, including painting, drawing, text, costume and clothing design, video, dance, and stop motion animation. She has been working with kids for several years in day care centers, early childhood classrooms, and after school programs. She takes great pleasure in sharing her passion for visual arts with younger minds, and can not imagine a more fulfilling way to contribute to her community!

H. Gene Thompson

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H. Gene Thompson is a Pittsburgh-based artist who uses soft sculpture, performance, and interactive sound to highlight unseen narratives, exploring themes of closeness, isolation, confining factors such as gender, social and economic oppression. Thompson’s wearable work is made up of colorful shapes working both as membranes to be resisted against and barriers to be broken through, both separating and connecting people, questioning human connectivity through wearable fabric sculptures. Thompson works to hold space that challenges social interactions, bringing people together socially through the organization of events and performances that empower.

Thompson has a strong foundation as fiber artist, sculptor and printmaker and has spent the past 10 years developing and leading workshops. The multimedia workshops act as a conduit for social emotional learning by way of connecting a wide range in ages and communities to themselves through learning new media in order to help to create connections within and across communities.

They have been the recipient of grants involving organizations such as: Girty’s Run Water Shed Association, New Hazlett Theater, The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Kelly Strayhorn Pittsburgh, Laboratory Spokane WA, Charles Adams Studio Project Lubbock TX, AS220 Providence RI, Neu Kirche Contemporary Art Center, and Future Tenant Pittsburgh. BFA 2012, Carnegie Mellon University.

H. Gene Thompson, Performer//Sculptor//Printmaker. www.hannahgthompson.com