Printmaking Studio Draws Youth Into a Community of Artists

Robert Beckman is a “maker” on a mission. As executive/artistic director of Artists Image Resource, a center for printmaking artists on Pittsburgh’s North Side, Beckman and AIR support working and aspiring artists, giving them a platform to develop their creative voices. Under Beckman’s watch, AIR, an artist-run non-profit, has been actively reaching into the youth community, bringing programs into area high schools – and encouraging youth to work alongside the artists at the North Side studio. AIR teaches young people the art of printmaking, beginning at the middle school level.

Where do the young artists come from?
Many regulars come from high schools like CAPA, Obama and the surrounding neighborhood. AIR is helping to transform these youth, showing them that “making” gives them a voice. “These kids can sometimes get on a career track and in the process, they become more involved citizens,” says Beckman.

How does it work?
AIR believes in mentoring. The studio is a gathering place for North Siders, with Tuesday and Thursday Open Studios “reaching everyone from artists to band members creating posters and T-shirts, to young entrepreneurs.” In turn, many of these young adults teach the middle schoolers who come from 4-8 p.m. on Wednesdays. Peer leaders help the younger kids “buy into the process,” and give the program more street “cred.”

How else does it reach these youth?
AIR provides a lab-type environment for printmaking and imaging media and technology, connecting the analog with the digital. By doing this, it’s an art that speaks to today’s youth. The established artists teach fundamentals to the younger artists and help them, as Beckman says, “interrogate the culture” and look at the world with a critical eye.




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