Staff Bios

Justin Mazzei – Executive Director
Justin Mazzei’s history with the organization started more than 15 years ago as a volunteer while studying art education at Carlow University.  Justin graduated from Carlow University in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree in art education and is a K-12 Pennsylvania-certified teacher in the arts. Prior to his appointment as Executive Director, Mazzei held a variety of positions at MCG Youth & Arts including ceramics technician, teaching artist, teaching artist coordinator, and director of programming. Mazzei has enthusiastically shared the work of MCG Youth & Arts at various national and regional conferences. In 2011, he was awarded Outstanding Non-Public Secondary Art Educator of the Year from the Pennsylvania Art Education Association. Mazzei is an educator and an artist specializing in landscape painting and printmaking but enjoys all media of artistic expression.  Mazzei’s energy and passion for the youth arts scene is unparalleled, and as one student puts it, “he makes sure that every single one of his students is not just learning new techniques and art making processes, but that they’re having the time of their life doing it. Justin Mazzei is hands down the best teacher I’ve ever had.”

Abigail Beddall – Teaching Artist, Design
Abigail is a multimedia performance artist, dressmaker, and organizer living in the Borough of Millvale with a small menagerie. Beddall promotes availabilism and multiculturalism to evoke a carnivalesque world, which simultaneously calls attention to systems of value and celebrates the everyday; creating spectacles that blur the line between art, artist, and audience. For the past five years, Beddall has produced The Pittsburgh Performance Art Festival (PGH·PAF), Pittsburgh’s only FREE weekend long event featuring site-specific performances and art interventions by artists from around the world. Abigail received a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in Art History from Penn State University and her work in the community has been awarded grants by Neighborhood Allies, Sprout Fund, Pittsburgh Foundation, Penn State Center for Outreach, U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Cecilia Ebitz – Visiting Artist & Exhibitions Coordinator
Cecilia earned a BFA in Sculpture from Penn State University in 2011, dividing her undergraduate studies at the University Park campus and Bard College. Her interdisciplinary art practice seeks to affirm agency through ritual play and manipulation of everyday materials. In Pittsburgh, Cecilia has shown her work at Space Gallery, the Andy Warhol Museum, and the Pittsburgh Zine Fair. In 2010 Cecilia cofounded Bunker Projects, a studio, gallery, and residency space in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Previously Cecilia has taught art classes and workshops for youth at the Smithsonian Institute in DC, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Mattress Factory, and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, where she completed a F.I.N.E. Residency in 2016.

Rose Mary Gubser – Sr. Administrative Assistant
Rose Mary Gubser has worked for the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild for over 25 years and is currently employed as the Executive Assistant to David Deily,  Director of Youth and Arts Education Programs.  A graduate of Bidwell Training Center, Rose Mary provides the administrative support critical to running an organization dedicated to educating and inspiring urban youth through the arts.

Jeff Guerrero – Production Associate/Teaching Artist, Digital
With more than 20 years of experience in print design and publication, Jeff brings his skills and experience to MCG Youth & Arts’ Digital studio. A graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and Point Park University, Jeff holds degrees in visual communication and applied corporate communication. He specializes in Adobe publishing software and especially enjoys laser cutting and engraving. Jeff designs the annual NCECA Journal, a 200-page illustrated ceramics publication. He also founded an internationally renowned bicycle magazine, played in punk bands for over a decade, and has traveled extensively pursuing his interests in food, ceramics, and culture. Jeff was recently recognized as the Japan America Society of Pennsylvania’s 2018 volunteer of the year.

Claira Heitzenrater – Teaching Artist, Design Arts
Claira is a contemporary painter and educator living and working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She holds an MFA in painting from Edinboro University and a BFA in studio art from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She has been featured in issue 13 of “Create! Magazine,” volume 38 of “Studio Visit Magazine,” issue 11 of “Fresh Paint Magazine,” as well as various regional publications. She has completed residencies at SparkBox Studio in Picton, Ontario, Canada and the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont. Claira currently works as a teaching artist in design at MCG Youth & Arts. She is a lover of animals, magick, nature, good music, tea, and a fine cup of coffee.

Bryce Hemington – Teaching Artist, Ceramics
Bryce is a ceramic artist with over 10 years experience working in the arts. After receiving a BFA from Edinboro University and a teaching certification from Carlow University he has gone on to be a Masters candidate at Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in ceramics. He was a resident artist at Touchstone center for the Crafts in 2014 and exhibited his thesis exhibition in 2014. His work primarily focuses on wood fired utilitarian ceramics made on the potter’s wheel.

Kelly Lanzendorfer – Teaching Artist, Photography
Kelly is a teaching artist with a focus in film photography. Her work is rooted in nostalgia and the intimacy of moments as she seeks to draw attention to the quiet and sensitive qualities of the human experience. Her teaching style reflects this passion for expressing emotion through storytelling. She earned her BA in photojournalism from Point Park University and was a recipient of the Emerging Photographer Award for her involvement with Pittsburgh Filmmakers in 2010. Her work has been shown locally as well as in Philadelphia, New York, and New Mexico where she was artist in residence at the Starry Night Retreat. Kelly’s other passions include Muay Thai kickboxing, cooking, and collecting both vintage clothing and bad tattoos. She lives in the east end of Pittsburgh with her dog Coco.

Zakaria Miller – PULSE Fellow, College & Career Planning
A graduate of Appalachian State University, Zakaria majored in Communication Studies with a minor in European Studies. She was heavily involved in community service at Appalachian State, working as a Peer Leader Alternative Service Experience where she recruited undergraduates to commit to an international or a domestic service week. She also helped clean and rehabilitate trails, historic sites, and other locations impacted by hurricanes in the Virgin Islands with the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park. As in intern for the Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge, she helped market and run events for their members. Zakaria’s hobbies include writing poetry, hiking, dancing, and scrapbooking. She is responsible for coordinating college and career engagements at MCG Youth & Arts.

Samantha Rapp – Director of Strategic Partnerships
Sam graduated from Kenyon College in December 2015 with a BA in Psychology.  During her time at Kenyon, Sam’s passion for inspiring others to pursue lifelong learning was fostered. Prior to joining the MCG team, Sam worked in Carlisle for Pennsylvania Counseling Services implementing behavioral interventions to children with neurodevelopmental disorders.  She relocated to Pittsburgh in September 2015 as MCG’s College and Career Planning Specialist, which allowed her to expand the postsecondary horizons for MCG Youth & Arts students and grow the organization’s scholarship fund.  Sam is committed to collaborating with community partners who share the goal of improving the quality of and access to youth development opportunities.

Talon Smith – Teaching Artist, Ceramics
Talon was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Smith produces functional ceramic wares that are influenced by the changing landscape of Pittsburgh. She began studying ceramics at CCAC in 2008 and continued her education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Smith has been a participant in the Highland Park Pottery Tour, and was awarded the Emerging Artist Scholarship for the 2016 Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Germaine Watkins – Teaching Artist, Photography
Germaine is a former student of MCG Youth & Arts and is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He has worked at MCG Youth & Arts for more than two decades and is passionate about sharing his love of photography with students. Germaine also teaches photography at the University of Pittsburgh Osher Life Long Learning program. A partial list of his photography accomplishments include: Pittsburgh Black Photographers’ Group book project and blog titled “Feel Like Going On: A Year in the Life of Black Pittsburgh”, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Macedonia Church of Pittsburgh, National Urban League Convention, Pittsburgh Three Rivers Arts Festivals, Silver Eye Center for Photography, Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum, Mavuno Art Festival, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, August Wilson Center, Living Life on Life’s Terms exhibition, Clarion University, Robert Morris University, Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, Whirl Magazine, Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Carnegie Library Websites.

Jill Wiggins – Database Manager/Teaching Artist, Digital
Jill is a graduate of West Liberty State College and is an award winning digital filmmaker. As a teacher, Jill is ambitious and believes in helping her students realize their maximum potential. Her recent passions include teaching 3D modeling and printing and laser engraving in MCG newest space, the Tech Suite.