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ABOUT

Sweetwater Center for the Arts

About us

Sweetwater offers nearly 400 classes, workshops, and lectures annually in the visual, performing, literary and culinary arts for children, teens, and adults at every skill level, from beginner to experienced. Sweetwater’s multidisciplinary approach includes classes in ceramics/sculpture, cooking, drawing, painting, photography, jewelry & metalsmithing, fiber arts, traditional crafts as well as private music lessons.

Our vision is to thrive as a regional asset and to lead innovative, relevant arts and cultural programming throughout the region. Our values of Community, Classes, and Culture help us focus on serving communities as a regional asset, providing programming of the highest artistic quality, and creating an environment that supports excellence in the arts. We collaborate with schools and other community organizations to provide affordable and accessible opportunities; most of our outreach initiatives target underserved and at-risk youth. Sweetwater also continues to offer every student who wishes to attend a class the opportunity to do so through our need-based scholarship program. Sweetwater passionately believes that the foundation of arts education and skill development are critical to the individual regardless of his or her age or career path.

In addition to educational programming, Sweetwater provides cultural programming that is open to the public and offered for free or for a nominal cost – including musical performances, educational lectures, and exhibitions featuring local, regional, national, and international artists. Through gallery exhibitions, educational programming, and fundraising events, Sweetwater supports over 300 emerging and professional artists, musicians, and teachers throughout the region annually.

Four young children playing at Sweetwater Center for the Arts

Sweetwater’s Mission

Sweetwater Center for the Arts is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Our mission is to enrich the communities we serve by providing art education and cultural programming, fostering local and regional artist talent, and making art accessible to a diverse audience.

Board of Directors

Sarah Aziz

Sarah Aziz

President

Sarah Aziz, Director of the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival and Highmark First Night Pittsburgh

Sarah Aziz, Sewickley native, has been part of the SCA board since 2017. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, she lived in the New York City area for 15 years before relocating back to Sewickley in 2015. In addition to Directing the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival and Highmark First Night Pittsburgh, Sarah works with the visual arts team programming galleries and leads the Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion (DEAI) committee at the Trust. She also serves at Board Chair for Sweetwater Center for the Arts, a community arts center in Sewickley, PA.

Terri Tunick

Terri Tunick

Vice-President

Terri’s background in healthcare management and education as well as non-profit fundraising affords her the perspective that she plans to rely on as a board member. As the current Vice President of the Board, Terri wants to see Sweetwater Center For the Arts thrive as a welcoming and inclusive sanctuary for individuals and families to enjoy, learn and create.

Peter Schlicht

Peter Schlicht

Treasurer

Peter Schlicht is a 38-year resident of Sewickley and the proud husband of Anne Flynn, a native of County Cork, Ireland. Currently, Pete is a Vice President and Financial Advisor for Ameriprise. Along with his role as the Treasurer of Sweetwater Center for the Arts, he is also the President of the Valley Care Association. His previous non-profit board roles include Sewickley Valley YMCA and the Threw Rivers Rowing Association. When Pete isn’t advocating for his clients or the community, you can find him behind a digital camera, as several his photos have been accepted into juried shows!

Barbara Cooley Thaw

Barbara Cooley Thaw

Secretary

Barbara Cooley Thaw, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, has called Sewickley home for 38 years. For 10+ years, she has been on the SCA’s board, serving as their secretary. In addition, she volunteers her time with the Children’s Institute, Girl Scouts of Western Pa, Mifflin Avenue United Methodist Church, the Union Aid Society and the Relay For Life of Sewickley Valley.

Gary Bates

Gary Bates

Board Member

Gary Bates is an artist, art educator, and former arts administrator whose career highlights include serving as a past President of the New York State Art Teachers Association; President of The University Council for Art Education at Columbia University; Director of Art for the Lawrence Public Schools in Long Island, NY; and was awarded the New York State Art Educator of the Year for his work in education. He has been recognized in the art field on state and local levels as well as nationally for his contributions to the field by the National Art Education Association and as an artist, his work has been shown nationally and internationally. Since retiring and relocating to the Pittsburgh area several years ago, Bates has been an active Osher board member and study leader where he has served on various committees, including Curriculum, Nominating, Chairman of the Lecture Committee; and is the creator and chairman of Osher’s special interest group, Patron of the Arts.

Chris Chan

Chris Chan

Board Member

Chris Chan has been part of the SCA board since 2022. Chris is currently the Director of Corporate Strategy at FNB Corporation. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College and is originally from Vancouver, Canada. Chris lives in Sewickley with his wife, Blair, and his two children, Felicity and Emmett.

Yasmina Conti

Yasmina Conti

Board Member

Yasmina Conti Jeanfils, was born and raised in Belgium, where she studied graphic design at Saint-Luc, in Liege, a fine art college. After graduating, she continued studying the arts at the Beaux-Arts Academy, concentrating on Black and White Photography.

She moved to the United States, in San Diego, where she expanded her profession into digital photography. She then moved onto Pittsburgh, PA, where she reside today and have her own company; CONTYMEDIA.

She signed up for a metalsmithing class at Sweetwater more than ten years ago and she since then enjoys this extraordinary community. She sales her jewelry at the Sweetwater Holiday Mart every year and at the Christine Frechard Gallery all year around.

She is now a Sweetwater board member.

Alyx Hamilton

Alyx Hamilton

Board Member

Alyx Hamilton, a Pittsburgh native with a passion for art and music, has been on the board of directors for Sweetwater Center for the Arts since 2020. Raised in the Sewickley area, and taking full advantage of all the community has to offer, Alyx has fond memories of taking classes at Sweetwater as a child. Since resettling in Sewickley with his wife and two daughters, Alyx is grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community that helped him.

Stephen X. Hunter

Stephen X. Hunter

Board Member

Stephen is the Vice President of Innovation at Allegheny Health Network, he has experience in strategic planning, entrepreneurialism, and community outreach. He describes his role at the health system as breathing new life into a closed hospital to serve a community. With a concentration on higher education and a passion for supporting his community, Hunter plans to bring his ability to pitch to other companies and utilize grant opportunities to help fund and expand Sweetwater’s resources beyond Sewickley.

Elizabeth Murphy

Elizabeth Murphy

Board Member

Owner, Liz Murphy Design

Liz Shapiro Murphy as served on the SCA board for over 10 years. She has a BFA in Interior Design from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an MBA from Northeastern University in Boston. Liz worked as a commercial interior designer, in the Boston area, for 20 years. Moving to Sewickley in 1996, she established a residential interior design practice concentrating on residential renovations, partnering with architects, contractors, engineers and other trades, to offer full-service design and project management services to homeowners. When she’s not working, she enjoys cooking for friends, travel and her Westie named Bertie.

Janice Patz

Janice Maria Patz

Board Member

Janice Maria Patz grew up in the Sewickley area. She returned to her hometown with her family in 2009 from Syracuse, New York, where Janice attended law school at Syracuse University.

She maintains a law practice in Sewickley focusing on Family Law, Real Estate, Small Business, and Wills and Estates. In addition to practicing law, Janice is very involved with the nonprofit community in Sewickley. She has served as a two-time board member for Child Health Association of Sewickley (CHA), and has been an active member of CHA since 2012. She also served as Vice President of the Fern Hollow Nature Center board of directors.

She is a proud mom of two amazing daughters who graduated from Quaker Valley High School with high honors. Janice is an avid runner, mountain biker, skier, outdoor enthusiast, certified yoga instructor, and devoted fan of the Syracuse Orange basketball team. Her interest in the arts began at an early age when she took her first ballet lessons at the Barth School of Dance in Pittsburgh. She is passionate about her commitment to the nonprofit community in her hometown for organizations serving children and the arts.

Bonita Lee Penn

Bonita Lee Penn

Board Member

A Sewickley Native, Bonita Lee Penn is the literary programmer at the United Black Book Clubs of Pittsburgh, creative writing facilitator for the Madwomen in the Attic Creative Writing Workshops held through Carlow University, and managing editor at the Soul Pitt Quarterly Magazine. With a focus on poetry and an appreciation for visual arts, Penn brings her existing Pittsburgh arts and culture network to Sweetwater to help create a more intimate community. 

George Sebolt

George Sebolt

Board Member

George Sebolt is a Sewickley native and with over 30 years of leadership experience both in industry and arts education.  Currently George services as the Executive Director of Laughlin Children’s Center, a local nonprofit with a mission to empower children with the skills needed to be successful, providing services in Academic Tutoring, Psychology, Occupational and Speech Therapy.

Maggie Setler

Maggie Setler

Board Member

Maggie Setler has been a member of Sweetwater’s board of directors since 2004. She is the owner of PITTSBURGH STAGED HOMES and helps her clients get their homes ready to sell. When she is not staging homes, or finding ideas and resources on Pinterest and Houzz, you will find Maggie volunteering with one of the many community groups she belongs to. Maggie and her husband Chuck are native Pittsburghers.

Zoe Stanley

Zoe Stanley

Board Member
Jennifer Crawford Young

Jennifer Crawford Young

Board Member

Jennifer Young joined the SCA board in 2022. After growing up in the Sewickley area, she attended and graduated from Pennsylvania State University, Behrend. She returned to Pittsburgh and worked in the food distribution sector for a few years before joining Robert Morris University in 2007. She is currently the director of donor engagement for RMU and facilitates numerous projects for the university. Since joining the SCA board, she has headed the development committee.

Sweetwater Staff

Christine Brondyke

Christine Brondyke

Executive Director

Christine brings over 15 years of patron stewardship, fundraising, and event management experience to the role of Executive Director. Whether she is in the office, out with a supporter or on the soccer field cheering for QV, she is constantly advocating for Sweetwater and the Sweetwater community. A proud Sewickley resident, Christine is raising her two sons, Wesley and Daniel in the village with her husband Marc.

Denise Ditrich

Denise Ditrich

Director of Finance & Operations

Denise Ditrich relocated to Pittsburgh in 1998, and has been working for Sweetwater for the past 17 years. She has a BS in Accounting from Penn State University and an MBA from St. Joseph’s University. As a CPA, Denise runs her own Accounting and Tax business. If Denise is not coaching on a soccer field, you can find her in the stands supporting her son in basketball, volleyball and track. Denise resides in Moon Township with her husband, Bill and 3 children, Alexis, Andrew & Grant.

Meredith Bigatel

Meredith Bigatel

Education Manager

Meredith graduated from Edinboro University in 2013 with a degree in the Fine Arts, concentration in Metalsmithing, and from Birkbeck University of London with a Masters’ Degree in Art History in 2021. In addition to her role as the Manager of Education at Sweetwater, Meredith runs her own custom wedding and engagement ring business, and a hot sauce business.

Liana Agnew

Liana Agnew

Exhibition & Events Manager

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Liana holds a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Robert Morris University (2021) and a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Science in Art Education from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (2015). Outside of Sweetwater, Liana is also a ceramic artist, educator, arts advocate, and outdoor enthusiast.

Andrea Ruotolo

Andrea Ruotolo

Administrative Assistant

Andrea graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts. Andrea is most excited to return to the art industry after working in multiple industries accruing customer service experience. A Jersey girl who found her new home here in Pittsburgh, she is looking forward to planting roots at Sweetwater along with her husband, Christian and son, Luke.

Entrance to Sweetwater Center for the Arts

Sweetwater Center for the Arts

Our History

Sweetwater began as a grass-roots effort developed by community residents and initially offered a small number of classes in the fine arts and crafts for residents in local communities west of Pittsburgh. After receiving nonprofit and certified teaching institute status on October 22 1974, Sweetwater opened its doors in January 1975 and began operating as a full-service arts education facility. In 1987, Sweetwater moved from a small Victorian house into its current space in the Old Sewickley Post Office building — where it is uniquely situated on the periphery of Pittsburgh with easy access to many areas that traditionally have not had the opportunity to experience the high quality arts and cultural programming that Sweetwater offers. For the past 45 years, Sweetwater has been a cornerstone in the Sewickley community and continues to be committed to programming unique and innovative experiences in the fine and performing arts.

Sweetwater’s Founding Patrons

Mr. & Mrs. William Boyd
Mr. & Mrs. J. Judson Brooks
Mr. & Mrs. Henry Chalfant
Child Health Association
Mr. & Mrs. Clinton L. Childs, Jr.
Mr. & Mrs. Frederic L. Cook
Mr. & Mrs. William D. George, Jr.
Mr. & Mrs. W. H. Krome George
Mr. & Mrs. W. D. George, III
Mr. Francis Gerald
Mrs. Elizabeth C. Hall
Mr. & Mrs. Arthur F. Hetherington, Jr.
Dr. & Mrs. Arthur F. Hetherington, III
Mrs. James H. Higgins
Mr. & Mrs. B. F. Jones, III
Mr. & Mrs. Charles Lockhart, III
Mr. & Mrs. William Metcalf, III
Mr. & Mrs. Charles H. Muse, Jr.
Mr. & Mrs. Fredrick Okie, Jr.
Mr. & Mrs. David B. Oliver, II
Mr. & Mrs. George Oliver

Mr. & Mrs. Henry Oliver
Mr. & Mrs. John C. Oliver, Jr.
Mr. & Mrs. Frederic C. Paffard, Jr.
Mr. & Mrs. Nathan Pearson
Mr. & Mrs. Charles J. Ramsburg, Jr.
Mr. & Mrs. Henry O. Rea
Mrs. M. Pollard Rea
Mr. & Mrs. Frank E. Richardson, Jr.
Mr. & Mrs. R. S. Risien
Mr. & Mrs. Alexander L. Robinson
Rockwell Foundation
Mrs. J.M. Schoonmaker, Jr.
Mr. & Mrs. G. Harton Singer, III
Mr. & Mrs. G. Witney Snyder
Mr. & Mrs. William P. Snyder, Jr.
Mr. & Mrs. William P. Snyder, III
Mr. & Mrs. William P. Snyder IV
Mr. & Mrs. William L. Standish
Mr. & Mrs. Robert Wardrop
Mrs. Mary Wardrop
Mr. & Mrs. James W. Wilcock