Enriching the lives of youth through the arts

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Eric McIntosh is on an urban mission to enrich the lives of Wilkinsburg teen­agers through the creative and performing arts.

As the new executive director of Neighborhood Youth Outreach Program in Wilkinsburg, McIntosh,44, will be able to retool the after-school program to do just that.

Future
FUTURE ARTIST—Eric McIntosh looks on as students create their works of art. (Photos by J.L. Martello)

“There’s a lot of violence happening in Wilkinsburg, but there are a lot of services out there for youth. There’s still a chasm and we want to bridge that and give them good choices to keep them moving forward,” McIntosh said.

“I was asked to be the executive director to give the after school program more substance. It’s been in existence for 16 years and I am working to strengthen the staff and working to expose the kids to as much art as we can,” McIntosh said.

The Neighborhood Youth Outreach Program’s mission is to provide a vehicle and opportunity for mentoring children by instilling life skills, self confidence, self efficiency team building, cooperation, en­tre­­pre­neur­ship and project planning and presentation.

The program currently has 20-25 kids ages 7-13 in the after school program, which meets Monday-Friday from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 600 Pitt Street in Wilkinsburg.

McIntosh, who accepted the executive director position in May, is making inroads with various local entertainment entities including the Carnegie Museum of Art, The Andy Warhol Museum, The August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Carnegie Mellon University, Penn State University and the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh to give the kids more opportunities.

According to McIntosh, the kids will work with the Carnegie Museum of Art for a six-week program where they will observe and produce art. The kids will be featured in two showcases where they will exhibit their artwork as well as perform dance, music, and miming entertainment.

McIntosh hopes to have one showcase by the end of the year and another one in May of 2011. He is currently trying to find a venue to hold the showcases.

McIntosh brings a berth of experience to his new post. In addition to his executive director position, he serves as Parish Administrator for St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. He also serves as the parish’s resident seminarian. McIntosh is in his third year of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary where he is earning his master’s degree in divinity. He has been an ordained minister for over 17 years.

“I felt that the Lord sent me back to school. I am aggressively seeking funding so that I can keep kids off the street and expose them to the arts. The biggest impact is that it gives kids confidence and the courage to express themselves. They can do things with music and art that won’t keep them locked up in their own areas and in the classroom,” McIntosh said.

The NYOP has partnered with the Wilkinsburg WEED & SEED initiative to make it easier for community youth to receive all the services needed to overcome the roadblocks that come with living in low-income, at-risk neighborhoods. The first project from the collaboration is creating the Wilkinsburg Youth Council.

It will be comprised of and led by youth in the community. They will select youth as board members and will serve as advocates for the youth to the mayor, city council, police department and youth serving organizations.

“Eric is a visionary,” said NYOP Program Director, Anthony Jackson who recommended McIntosh as executive director. “He has a great repertoire with the kids and I knew he would be a great person to have on our team. Since he has been here, he has brought a sense of excitement and nostalgia. He’s trying to detail and formulate a good direction for the program.

“Many executive directors don’t have a repertoire with the community and the parents in the community, but Eric does. The staff has a sense of family now when we come to work,” Jackson said.

Although McIntosh has made great strides since taking over the NYOP, he knows he has a long way to go.

“I have an encouraging good start and I hope we get where we want to be. A lot of after school programs are geared more towards sports and academics and getting kids off the streets and then when they get the kids they don’t know what to do,” McIntosh said. “The arts have an expanded connection and I am excited about the fact that the arts can spill over into the academic world and when you see the light in these kids when they’ve performed or created something and you create confidence in them because you gave them your time, that’s the best feeling.”

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