Moving the Father Ryan Arts Center forward

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Maggie Johnson calls the Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks a real jewel in the Sto-Rox area and says, "It's a beautiful place to work."

She's in her fourth week as interim director of the 4-year-old center, which is part of Focus on Renewal, a nonprofit human services agency that has served the community for more than 40 years.

The arts center serves more than 300 families every year, Ms. Johnson said, "but there are still many families that have not interacted with the Father Ryan Center," so one of her goals is to reach out to them.

The facility is open to those who live outside Stowe and Mc-Kees Rocks "and we want to put the center on the map."

A native of Springfield, Ill., Ms. Johnson has been in Pittsburgh for 10 years. She lives in the East End of the city. She is a graduate of the Carnegie Mellon University master of arts management program.

Ms. Johnson will serve in the interim role through September.

Greg Quinlan, executive director at FOR, said Ms. Johnson will be primarily responsible for leading a grass-roots campaign that reintroduces Ryan Arts to the Sto-Rox community. The search for a permanent arts center director will begin this summer.

"Given her strong arts background, passion for community development and connections to the larger Pittsburgh arts community, we think she is the perfect match for helping us move the vision of the Father Ryan Arts Center forward," Mr. Quinlan said.

Ms. Johnson has more than 10 years of experience working with arts programs, including marketing strategy and strategic planning.

She has worked in various capacities for Pittsburgh-area nonprofits, including the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Pittsburgh Opera. She was director of marketing and audience development for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. Most recently she has been a visiting professor and director of community outreach for Point Park University's Sport, Arts & Entertainment Management program. She currently heads JazzSpace -- a nonprofit that supports emerging jazz musicians.

In the McKees Rocks arts center, Ms. Johnson said, "I would like to see these walls filled with art every day. I would really love to see more local artists presenting works. I would love to see more community performing art."

The center has a wide array of exhibitions, performances, events and classes for children and adults.

Next up is the third annual Celebration of African American Art, which starts at noon Feb. 17. It features artists, crafters and food. Available classes include theater, music, dance and visual arts, health and wellness.

Information: www.FatherRyanArtsCenter.org or visit the center's Facebook page for more information.

neigh_west

Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0087.


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