Filmmakers/center for arts to merge with glass center

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The Pittsburgh Glass Center plans to merge with Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

Charlie Humphrey, who took over as executive director of the glass center in the summer of 2007, said the merger is in the community's best interest and will take 12 to 18 months.

"One of the strategic goals is to ensure that the identities of all these entities and programs remains intact. The glass center has a very strong brand. We wouldn't want to dilute that brand," he said in a telephone interview Friday.

The board of Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts voted in favor of exploring a merger on Wednesday; glass center board members voted on Thursday night.

In the arts community, Mr. Humphrey is well-known for righting the ship at sinking organizations and arranging successful mergers. He is executive director of Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and Pittsburgh Filmmakers, which joined forces six years ago and became one organization.

At the glass center, Mr. Humphrey raised $25,000 to keep the doors open and drafted a three-phase recovery plan. Changes included a major reduction in expenses, an increase in earned revenues through rentals, setting new prices, offering more open workshops and reducing barriers to entry in education programs.

The third phase of that plan prescribed "a strategic partnership or an outright merger with another like-minded organization. This potential merger has been contemplated for some time," Mr. Humphrey said.

The glass center's annual budget is just over $1 million and it has 10 full-time employees.

Board members of the organizations will have to hammer out the details of governance, board structure and bylaws. "We have to make sure that we are in constant communication and that we're getting feedback from staff, membership and patrons," Mr. Humphrey said.

The glass center, which is 10 years old this year, will remain in East Liberty. Pittsburgh Center for the Arts is housed in a former Squirrel Hill mansion, and its director is Laura Domencic. Pittsburgh Filmmakers is on Melwood Avenue in Oakland, and its director is Andrew Swensen.

"That doesn't mean that 10 years from now we wouldn't think about building a single campus that would house everything," Mr. Humphrey said.

As for course offerings to the public, "We'll look at new ways to create classes that include several programs, like a jewelry-making glass where the metalsmithing would be taught at PCA but there might be glass bead making that would be taught at the glass center," he said. "The culture of both organizations is so similar. It's a place where the people who work there are not bound by narrow job descriptions. ... The people who work in both places are willing to do anything it takes to get something done."

Founded by glass artists Kathleen Mulcahy and her husband, Ron Desmett, the Pittsburgh Glass Center is a LEED-certified facility and has "been a catalyst for a fair amount of development in that corridor," Mr. Humphrey said, citing the Glass Lofts development across the street. "I don't think that's a coincidence that it's called the Glass Lofts," he added.


Marylynne Pitz can be reached at mpitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1648.


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