Mug Shot: Personal Ceramics as Public Art

Mug Shot: Personal Ceramics as Public Art

Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Engaging youth voices in the future of the city, the Union Project will create 1,500 individual pieces of art with at risk youth to be distributed to the artists -- young people at risk -- and the surrounding community, rather than creating a single piece of art to be shown publicly, . The young artists will be asked to address an important central question: What is Your Dream for the Future? The Union Project's [email protected] (CUP) will work with 500 youth at risk, including youth transitioning out of foster care, to create three sets of 500 mugs to be distributed in three different ways. One set of 500 mugs will go directly to the youth artists. The second set of mugs will be given to all attendees of the Union Project's annual Martin Luther King Day, Jr. Celebration in January 2010. The third set of mugs will be given away at the Union Project's Eat UP café to the community, helping to enhance a customer base for the cafe which trains young men and women through our Youth Barista Program. The mugs will be created using an award winning decal process refined by CUP staff over the past three years and recognized for its innovation by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, American Craft Council, and Ceramics Monthly. This process allows any small piece of art to be transfered to a production pottery piece. The art can be one color or full color, and has no limits but size and the imagination of the young artists. By distributing these pieces in multiple ways throughout the Pittsburgh community, and to the artists themselves, the project will validate their artistry while sharing their vision of the future, and opening up important cross communication with youth and their community.
About You
Project Street Address

801 North Negley Avenue

Project City


Project Province/State


Project Postal/Zip Code


Project Country
What is your idea? What makes your project innovative? Why is it important?

"Mug Shot" takes the idea of public art and moves it from the usual idea of a large public piece to individual pieces of ceramic ware to be distributed to a wide range of people throughout Pittsburgh. Youth at risk, including youth aging out of the foster system, will have the opportunity to voice their vision of the future through the creation of individualized pieces.

Coffee mugs were chosen for this project as they symbolize shared conversation and the sharing of food, important modes of simple engagement in a larger community. These pieces will open up a dialogue about the importance of Pittsburgh's youth and their participation in creating a future vision for themselves and their city., This conversation will be held in large and small groups alike: from a discussion with the 500 community members participating in the Union Project's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event to two individuals over a daily cup of coffee. “Mug Shot” will empower youth to begin and continue conversations about the city’s future with each other and their community at large. This project will also highlight the power of art in communities, as well as the important and impact of civic engagement at all ages.

What will be the impact of your idea?

The impact of this project has multiple levels: - A nearly voiceless segment of the population -- youth currently in the foster system -- will have an opportunity for hands-on arts participation, and will have their voices heard by a larger, diverse population. -These youth will each have a tangible piece of art to take with them (one of the three mugs made from their artwork), allowing them to hold their vision of the future in their hands. -Youth interested in the process of ceramics making will also have the opportunity to volunteer at [email protected]UP, creating a further connection to their art and the finished pieces, and gaining valuable artistic skills. –Youth will have the opportunity for civic engagement, realizing the value of engagement and its impact on the city at large. -Men and women throughout Pittsburgh will discuss and engage with the art, both through our Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration in January 2010 and the follow-up discussion series in February 2010.

What will it take to launch your idea? How will you secure community support and youth participation?

Union Project staff will work directly with youth to create art in Fall 2009. The Union Project has an existing relationship with the Allegheny County Department of Humans Services (DHS) through our Youth Barista Program. This partnership allows us to access interested youth fairly quickly and easily. Two-hour workshops will be held with youth, allowing them to create their art with the guidance of professional artists. The Union Project has a history of incredible community support, including approximately 1,000 volunteer hours given annually by community members. This project will be marketed to our community through our weekly e-blast, quarterly newsletters, and intensive schedule of community programming.

We are looking for ideas from people who can make them happen. Tell us about yourself or your team.

The Union Project creates community by connecting neighbors and celebrating art and faith in common space. The Union Project encourages creative expression, promotes civic engagement, and connects neighborhoods through social enterprise, job training, and community programming.

Our social enterprises (businesses with a strong mission component) include:

• SPACE RENTAL: Below market rate use of spaces at the Union Project building by non-profits and community organizations, including Union Project tenant partners;
[email protected]: A production pottery offering below market co-op space to all members and free co-op space to low income community members;
•EATUP CAFE: A full service cafe and training ground for the Youth Barista Program, training young men and women aging out of the foster system in Cafe and Food Service.

These enterprises are held together through the overall mission of the organization and our community programming, including monthly and annual events which engage the community and bring thousands together each year to celebrate our diverse neighborhoods and create a vision for Pittsburgh's East End communities.