This is a biweekly series about art and artists in the region. Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts serves the community through arts education, exhibitions and artist resources.
Pittsburgh artist Jan McAllister was born in California. Her parents, Carol and Julius Svendsen, met and married in the late 1940s while they were both working at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif. He was an illustrator and animator; she was a writer.
Growing up, Ms. McAllister recalls that she and her siblings were surrounded by their parents' artwork and were encouraged to be creative.
Art remained an important hobby when she went to college to study journalism. Then she left her first job as globe-trotting editor of Carte Blanche Magazine to become a flight attendant. She says she followed her passion for adventure for the next 30 years -- traveling the world.
Now settled in Pittsburgh, Ms. McAllister still feels the artistic inspiration she felt as a child. She paints with watercolors, sketches, writes stories, but most of all she enjoys her work as a ceramics artist. Two years ago she began going to the open ceramics studio at the Braddock Library and decided she should take a class. She started with a beginner-level ceramics class taught by Cynthia Young at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside.
From there, she just wanted to keep going.
She joined PCA as an artist member where she has access to studio time. "My artist friends here have helped me progress as well. They're so talented, enthusiastic and supportive of one another," she says about the importance of surrounding yourself with a community of artists.
"This summer has been particularly gratifying because the music of children's laughter and their delight [in summer art camps] further enhances the joyful atmosphere."
Her advice to young artists is to keep at it. "Because I kept experimenting with form and surface treatments, I was able to become fairly competent in the medium pretty quickly." She plans to continue experimenting with clays, glazes and firing processes and would someday like to have a gallery show, she says.
Ms. McAllister is one of many artists whose work can be purchased in The Shop at PCA (412-361-0873). To learn more about membership or art classes, visit www.pittsburgharts.org.