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.
A creative life
Even as a little girl Alexandra Kanik knew she was destined for a creative life.
Her parents encouraged and supported her tendencies, taking her to museums and signing her up for ceramics classes, drawing classes and computer classes.
Ms. Kanik -- Allie to her friends -- fondly recalls a favorite life lesson: "I was about 8 years old and had to draw a backyard scene for school. I made this grassy wildlife scene, and just as I was finishing up, I totally messed up the squirrel. Total failure. But my mum showed me how to make the squirrel into something else. I will never forget that."
With a little imagination, nothing is ever lost, she explains.
Growing up in Upper St. Clair, she took advantage of a strong arts program in that school district. "I had some truly amazing art teachers who really gave life to the subject for me," she says.
While in high school she also discovered photography through Manchester Craftsmen's Guild youth classes. "To be able to work with artists was a transformative experience," she says.
But don't call her an artist.
"I get a little bit squeamish about the word artist," she says. "I am a coder, a designer, a digital builder."
Ms. Kanik went to Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore where she earned her BFA in graphic design. While still in college she and a friend started a T-shirt business called Rational Act Clothing (www.rationalact.com). "We use only environmentally friendly materials, organic cotton shirts, water-based inks, eco chemicals," she says.
Shortly after graduation in 2010, she moved back to Pittsburgh with her now husband, Andy Coleman, a photographer who had been hired by Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
"I saw how awesome Filmmakers was and was totally jealous," she says. She managed to get a part-time gig working on PF/PCA's website when PublicSource was launched. Housed in the same North Oakland headquarters, PublicSource is an independent nonprofit online news group focusing on original investigative reporting in the region (www.publicsource.org).
Turns out PublicSource wanted Ms. Kanik's creative skills, too, and hired her on the spot as its full-time Web developer. "Timing is everything," she says with a smile.