PITTSBURGH – Young urban playwrights will have a stage to debut their first productions. Aspiring young inventors will have 3-D printers, a computer lab and tools to produce their first prototypes. Budding musicians will be able to record their original songs for the first time.
And it’s all happening at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA. Beginning in January 2016, the Y will undergo a $6.5 million transformation to become the Creative Youth Center. A $1,542,000 grant from The Heinz Endowments will enable the Y to begin Phase 1 of construction. The Y will continue to provide its regular services to the Homewood community, including health and wellness programs, family support and social services, youth sports programs and emergency food assistance.
“For more than 100 years, the Homewood-Brushton YMCA has served the needs of the community, from physical fitness to social support to food pantries,” said Kevin Bolding, chief operating officer of the Y of Greater Pittsburgh. “Today, one of the most urgent needs in Homewood is for youth development programs that give young people the hope, motivation and tools they need to find success in life. At the Creative Youth Center, we aim to build a creative hub that helps young people in Homewood and from all over Pittsburgh experience the deep satisfaction of applying hard work, knowledge and creativity to bring their ideas to life.”
The concept for the Creative Youth Center is based on the success of the Homewood-Brushton YMCA’s Lighthouse Project at Westinghouse High School. The Lighthouse Project supplements students’ education by introducing them to creative arts projects, including digital media arts, filmmaking and visual arts. On average, students in the Lighthouse Project are more likely to graduate from high school and have higher GPAs than their peers at Westinghouse High School.
Phase 1 of construction on the new Creative Youth Center will enable the Y to move the Lighthouse Program from Westinghouse High School to the YMCA and serve more students. The Y will also use the new center to expand Y Creator Space, a youth program that helps students apply science, technology, engineering, art and math skills to complete projects. The center will boast state-of-the-art new equipment dedicated to both programs, including a music education suite and recording studio, teaching artist lounge, a commercial kitchen with demonstration area, high-tech flexible classroom and expanded community space for Y programs for individuals, families and seniors.
The Y expects to complete work on Phase 1 in time for the 2016-2017 school year as many new students will transfer to Westinghouse High School in Homewood following the closure of Wilkinsburg High school. Phases 2 and 3 of construction will be completed by 2018. The fully completed Creative Youth Center will include the following:
· Expanded urban garden & outdoor plaza
· High-volume commercial kitchen with a demonstration area for cooking classes and guest chef nights
· 75-seat black box theater
· “Maker” classroom equipped for projects such as 3-D printing, wearable technology, circuitry and robotics
· Small performance stage
· Fully-equipped music production studio
· Art & design lab with tools for a range of visual and digital arts, including painting, graphic design, fashion design, sculpture and animation
· Computer lab
· Teaching artist lounge for staff to meet and plan lessons
· Workforce development center with workstations for individual and group work
· High-tech classroom with flexible configurations
The Y will also offer new programs that cater to older teens and young adults who have aged out of traditional school-age programs. These programs will include group physical fitness programs such as dance, martial arts, stepping, capoeira and other activities. Budding young artists can also take advantage of the Y’s new career readiness programs that will help them find job opportunities in the arts.
“With the support of The Heinz Endowments, we can ensure that the arts are not a luxury but a fundamental part of youth education that teaches students creative ways to solve problems,” said James Brown, youth and family program director at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA. “We know that these programs help students improve their academic achievements: 90% of our Lighthouse Project students graduate from high school, compared to only 67% of their peers at Westinghouse High School. With the help of The Heinz Endowments, we can continue to push these numbers upward and help these students pursue productive, satisfying careers.”
The Heinz Endowments supports efforts to make southwestern Pennsylvania a premier place to live and work, a center for learning and excellence, and a region that embraces diversity and inclusion.