On the last Friday in 2017, about two dozen young children are gathered at the Hatch Art Studio in Point Breeze. School is out for the holidays and 7-year old Rachel Collura is spending the day here at a day camp.
"We're making things for New Year's Eve, like a wand with a wish in it and a hat and confetti, and stuff like that," said Collura.
The studio’s owner and creative director, Shannon Merenstein, is a Pittsburgh native who returned to the city to teach art at the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park when it opened in 2008.
Seven years later, when Merenstein had her first child, Graham, she started to think about a space where she could bond with him and inspire his own sense of creativity and love for art.
"I didn't really find anything that fit that need, so I started looking into the idea of opening my own children's art studio," she said.
Merenstein said she envisioned a place that would let kids experiment freely, instead of sending them home with a standardized product, like a painted mug.
"And I wanted it to be a space not just for art-making but also for making connections," she said.
She found a vacancy among the storefronts on Point Breeze’s Reynolds Street, and in the fall of 2015, Hatch was born. Merenstein started offering classes, workshops and camps for kids ranging from 18 months to their early teens. Her programs cover art forms like painting, calligraphy and printmaking.
"Almost more important than the materials they're using is that kids are making choices, they're making discoveries and they're self-imitating and creating," said Merenstein.
Katherine Mazzey-Humphries has lived in Point Breeze for 13 years. Her 9-year-old daughter, Anna, has participated in various Hatch programs.
"There’s often open studio time down there, so children can drop in without being signed up for a class. In the summertime, you see the children out and about in the community, Anna’s done art projects on the pavement with her friends before," said Mazzey-Humphries. "It’s always nice to meet the parents down there and chat."
Mazzey-Humphreys said that because Hatch is centrally located in the neighborhood, it’s an easy place for families to walk to and gather and it’s one of the businesses on Reynolds that offers food, drinks and activities to the neighborhood during Point Breeze’s holiday Light Up Night each year.
Merenstein said that, these days, Hatch has become the community-oriented studio that she envisioned, maybe even more than she would have thought.
"All of the families who come and take classes with us have built relationships not only with me but with the other instructors that we have here," she said. "You wouldn't believe how many times they're asked to babysit."