Jeanne Marie Laskas | Founding Director
Jeanne Marie Laskas is the author of eight books, including To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope (Penguin Random House, 2018), Concussion, Hidden America, and an award-winning trilogy of memoirs. A Distinguished Professor of English, she teaches writing at Pitt and is the creative force behind the Center for Creativity.
Kit Ayars | Director, Strategy and Partnership
Kit Ayars is the Director of the Center for Creativity, her most recent administrative gig at the University. She began her academic administration career at Pitt in the Arts & Sciences’ graduate studies division before working in the Office of the Provost and Pitt Information Technology.
Kit did her graduate work in literature and cultural studies at Pitt and has taught composition, literature, and nonfiction writing. She has published both nonfiction work and poetry.
During the pandemic, she performs a daily improv with her grandson around thematic concerns such as The Mystery of the Big Stink and the appropriate number of clam sandwiches if packing for a journey with mice between the Amazon and Antarctica.
Carl Kurlander | Founding Producer, C4C: The Pittsburgh Lens
Carl Kurlander, who helped launch the University’s Pitt in LA film program, has made a variety of award-winning films at the University of Pittsburgh: The Shot Felt ‘Round The World, about the development of the Salk polio vaccine; Burden of Genius, about Dr. Thomas Starzl’s pioneering work in the field of organ transplantation; and The Rehabilitation of the Hill, which allowed Pitt students and members of the Hill District community to work alongside industry professionals in the making of a feature film.
Kurlander, a Pittsburgh native, is also a screenwriter (his credits include St. Elmo’s Fire) and TV writer/producer (including NBC’s Saved by the Bell franchise). Other work includes the Starz TV series The Chair, which followed two directors making different movies from the same script in Pittsburgh and won the 2015 TV Critics Award, and the documentary My Tale of Two Cities, which told the story of Pittsburgh reinventing itself for a new age.
Shannon Fink | Manager of Operations
Shannon (she/they) is a former carpenter who began her career in the theater, building and painting sets and working as a stage manager. She transferred her creative skills into the construction field and worked as a remodeler in residential construction.
Her interests include printmaking, painting, and woodworking, and she is always looking for new ways to create. Degree: BA Chatham University (Technical Theater and Studio Arts)
Erik Schuckers | Manager of Communications and Programming
Erik (he/him) is a former marching and jazz band nerd who has worked in nonprofit and corporate management. He is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose work has appeared in Chelsea Station, Impossible Archetype, PANK, Assaracus, Not Just Another Pretty Face (Beautiful Dreamer Press), and more.
He has a special interest in combining words and images through collage, Instagram, and zines. Degree: BA Allegheny College
Mike Campbell | Center for Creativity Assistant
Mike (he/him) is a student affairs practitioner and artist who aspires to use conceptual creative practices as a means to help students explore identity. His art background is in sculpture and ceramic, but he loves to experiment and explore with any media. His art is influenced by his own identity and interest in popular culture and technology.
He is the Chair for the Pitt Queer Professionals and spends his free time playing league sports. Degrees: MEd University of Pittsburgh (Higher Education Manager), BA Indiana University of Pennsylvania (Studio Art)
Jasmine Green | Center for Creativity Assistant
Jasmine (she/her) is a visual artist and poet born and raised in the Pittsburgh area. She works mainly in portraiture and the narratives of the black community, influenced by her own childhood and the experiences she shares with her loved ones. She specializes in acrylic paint but is exploring other media such as clay, gouache, and recycled jewelry. She aspires to build stronger bridges between the Pitt community with artists evolving Pittsburgh’s art scene from the ground up.
Jasmine is currently a member of 1Hood Media, a socially-conscious art collective in North Oakland, as well as grassroots organization RedFishBowl studios located in Lawrenceville. Degree: BA University of Pittsburgh (Psychology, Anthropology, Africana Studies)
Dani Stuchel | Center for Creativity Assistant
Dani is an artist working in performance, video, photography, and text. Inspired by miscommunications, lost signals, and unexpected associations, Dani's work tries to follow the ways we make (and break) meaning. Experimentation, play, and curiosity are at the very core of this practice. Since 2012, Dani has performed as Maria Denolt, a self-titled "art critic, lecturer, lofty person" whose lectures and museum tours mix art history with misremembered pop culture.
Dani is a collaborator on the Pittsburgh Queer History Project, and a member of the Literary & Cultural Plant Studies Network. Degrees: MA University of Arizona (Library & Information Science), BA University of Pittsburgh (Linguistics)
Britney Mae Yauger | Center for Creativity Assistant
Britney Mae (she/her) is a Thai-American soprano who performs primarily in the Pittsburgh region, where she was born and raised. She is known for her love of jazz, opera, musical theater, and traditional Thai music. She is passionate about using art to individually and societally question our norms, and her work focuses primarily on the centering of female, queer, and non-white perspectives in vocal literature and repertoire.
In her free time, she also enjoys writing songs and poetry, as well as working with polymer clay. Degrees: MM Carnegie Mellon University (Vocal Performance), BM Messiah University (Music Performance, Sociology & Anthropology)
2019-20 Center for Creativity Advisory Board
- Don Bialostosky | Professor, Department of English, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
- Babs Carryer | Director, Innovation Institute
- Buddy Clark | Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Swanson School of Engineering
- Paul Cohen | Founding Dean and Professor, School of Computing and Information
- Annmarie Duggan | Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Theatre Arts, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
- Yona Harvey | Assistant Professor, Writing Program, Department of English, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
- Delanie Jenkins | Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Studio Arts, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
- Dan Kubis | Associate Director, Humanities Center
- Deane Root | Professor, Department of Music, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
- Lucy Russell | Vice Provost and Chief of Staff, Office of the Provost
- Eli Shorak | Vice Chancellor for Business and Real Estate
- Larry Shuman | Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Industrial Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering
- Kornelia Tancheva | Hillman University Librarian and Director, University Library System
Administrative support for the Board: Nancy Kirkwood (Workshop Assistant, Center for Creativity)
The establishment of the Center for Creativity in 2015-16 was a group effort, with particular support from the members of its steering committee: Kit Ayars, Rebecca Bagley, Don Bialostosky, Babs Carryer, Annmarie Duggan, Debra Fyock (Director, University Store on Fifth), Delanie Jenkins, Nancy Kirkwood, Dan Kubis, Jeff Oaks (Senior Lecturer and Assistant Director of the Writing Program, Department of English, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences), and Deane Root.
Associate Vice Chancellor Eli Shorak and Assistant Vice Chancellor Jim Earle, with the enthusiastic expertise of Bill Heller, worked magic to make an initial home for the Workshop space. Provost Patricia Beeson and her office provided the commitment needed to make the impossible real.