LAB brings creativity to East End kids


LET’S BE CREATIVE—Jess Gold assists students from the Literary Arts Boom with their creative literary masterpieces. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Creating a safe and fun environment of reading and writing with children, while helping them to find, develop and foster their own creative voices, is what the Garfield based Literary Arts Boom (The LAB) program is all about.

“We celebrate the kids’ voices, while helping them to find their voice,” said Paula Levin, the founder and director of The LAB, or as she likes to be called, the lead experimentalist. “LAB shows them that writing can be fun and that it doesn’t have to be a chore.”

The program is a creative writing laboratory that takes place at Assemble, in Garfield, and offers youth ages 6-18, project based workshops that incorporate art, technology and communication.

“We want to continue to incorporate design principles and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) into our workshops to show that writing and communication are important and fun,” said Levin.

The LAB began last year through a grant from the Sprout Fund and a fellowship from Carnegie Mellon. Currently, it’s summer programming is being supported by the Grable Foundation.

According to Levin, since June 2012, The LAB has served approximately 200 kids through their creative works programming and more than 530 kids have participated in one of their workshops at partner organization’s events and festivals.  Some of their partnerships include CAPA, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Arsenal Elementary School, just to name a few.

One of The LAB’s major projects is its summer Storytellers’ Studio: After Camp Care, which is a series of three week-long evening courses where students collaborate with other campers to create a group story that is adapted into a play, a song, a rap, or even a comic.

“The idea is to get kids excited about storytelling and the many forms that storytelling can come in. I’m amazed by how much original material they come up with,” said The LAB Youth Program Coordinator and Facilitator Jess Gold. “It’s a fun and engaging, and gets kids learning and developing communication skills, all while having fun.”

Along with its Storytellers’ Studio, The LAB also offers a Comics Club, which allows the children to combine visual and writing elements; a poetry workshop; and a Homework Help afterschool program, a mellow, creative space for kids to drop in and do their homework.

And for elementary school classes that are interested in participating in The LAB, but are not available after school hours, The LAB also offers their Glorious Group Stories field trip, where classrooms can visit The LAB or its volunteers and staff can visit a classroom during the school day. Since its inception, the LAB has had about 70 students participate.

The LAB also operates a Mad Science Supply Surplus shop, a pop-up shop that sells items the students have made, that have been brought and rebranded or that come from local artists.

While The LAB successfully continues to reach children, Levin said as far as the future, she would like to have “even more neighborhood kids join us on a regular basis so we can continue to build a community of young writers” and expand their partnerships with schools and other organizations. She added that although Assemble has been very accommodating to their program, she hopes that by next year, The LAB will have acquired a space of their own so that they may offer more regular programming and at a consistent location.

Although there is a fee for most of its programming; The LAB does offer scholarships to those who need assistance.

(For more information on The LAB and its programming, visit


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