Center for Creativity

People

Jeanne Marie Laskas | Founding Director
Professor
jeannemarielaskas.com

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
Senior Lecturer

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 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 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

 

Nancy Kirkwood | Center for Creativity Assistant

Nancy’s main creative focus is in writing nonfiction and poetry. She also has a strong interest in eco-art and established The Workshop’s Recreate Wall to encourage creative reuse within the Pitt community. 

Nancy supports artists and eco-art in the Western Pennsylvania area as a volunteer for the Tess Senay Raynovich Eco Art Fund and teaches a nonfiction workshop for a women’s writing program. Degrees: MFA Carlow University (Creative Writing), BA University of Pittsburgh

 

Mike Campbell | Center for Creativity Assistant

Mike 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)

 

Chad Brown | Center for Creativity Assistant

Chad's academic focus was on set construction, screenwriting, and sound design, and he has worked in theater, film and live events all over DC, Virginia, and North Carolina. He relocated to Pittsburgh after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2019 and is excited to dive into Pittsburgh's thriving DIY scene.

He has an ongoing love affair with wooden furniture design and antique machines, but if a process is technical, he’s interested in learning it. Degree: BA Virginia Commonwealth University (Cinema)

 

Jasmine Green | Center for Creativity Assistant

Jasmine 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)

Graduate Student Assistant

Taylor Waits

Taylor is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Philosophy for Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. Her work centers pedagogy, Black teens, and African-American rhetoric while fusing her love of writing, music, mentorship, and community service to communicate the stories of groups who are often silenced in American society.

Born in Houston; raised in Washington, DC; and living her young adult life in the South; Waits combines all of her experiences in her projects. She currently does work with high-school aged students, provides graduate school consulting services, scholarship and fellowship application assistance, and also deejays on the side.

Student Ambassador

Caroline Kulczycky ('21) 

Caroline is a math major/studio arts minor with a passion for graphic design, soccer, and math proofs. She is the creator of the Feminist Math Zine, and enjoys exploring art museums in her free time.

 

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.