Pittsburgh Technical Institute, Bradley Center team up to raise funds for youth

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One venue, 200 pieces of art and 89 days. 

With those three factors, Pittsburgh Technical Institute and The Bradley Center seek to benefit young people with mental, emotional and developmental disabilities that the center serves.

The organizations are sponsoring Expressions of Hope, an art show and sale at The Mall at Robinson. The exhibition through July 30 features art made by Pittsburgh Technical Institute students and children from Bradley. The proceeds will support the Robinson-based center’s art program. 

For six months, PTI students worked with 11- through 17-year-olds at Bradley to craft jewelry, take photographs, make vases, paint and complete other art projects. 

“They would talk to me about their day and what craft they liked to do the most and stuff like that,” said Jaclyn Smith, a second-year student at PTI. “As far as it being a first-time project, it became a really positive experience for not only the students, but for all the people involved.”

Mark Bellemare, community service coordinator at PTI, said the sale’s organizers made different crafts with each age group of kids.

“Originally, we were going to go with the diversity theme,” he said. “As we started to think of other projects for some of the younger kids, we wanted them to just express what they were thinking at the time. That’s where we came up with the name ‘Expressions of Hope.’” 

Prices for the art begin at $5. The most expensive item, a $200 quilt, sold on the show’s first day, May 3. 

On May 8, businesses from the food court treated about 15 of the Bradley youngsters to pizza and ice cream. Afterward, the young artists walked around the exhibit to see their work. 

“It was really touching because you watched the children go through the cases, and they were looking at each one of the pieces and saying, ‘Oh, I worked on that,’ or ‘I did this piece, and look how much it’s selling for,’” said Shema Krinsky, marketing director for The Mall at Robinson.

“They were able to put a tangible number to it to show, ‘OK, I’m going to help generate additional dollars to actually give back to the place that is helping me on a daily basis,’” she said.

Lisa Fox, CEO of The Bradley Center, said creating the artwork was good for the center’s kids.  

“It really has allowed our children to express themselves in different ways,” Ms. Fox said. “When you work with children who have extensive special needs, the ability to express themselves in any way is really critical to their healing.”

The sale also influenced the PTI students, Mr. Bellemare said. 

“It kind of opened their eyes in some of our students that didn't realize there were some kids that face difficulties that the children at Bradley face on a daily basis,” he said. “On the flip side, we have students that have benefited from programs very similar to the Bradley Center, and they've come up to us and said that it was time for them to give back to the community.”

The show and sale is on the lower level of the mall near Macy’s. Visitors also can donate to The Bradley Center’s Wish List at Customer Service through July 30.

Marisa Iati; miati@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1891 or on Twitter @marisa_iati.

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