If you’re looking for a cutting-edge example of a creative digital literacy initiative in a large urban public library system, you’ve come to the right place. We’re proud to continue our partnership with Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and to share a new post in our series on The Labs @ CLP. This week, Labs mentor Molly Dickerson returns to the site to share her work on an exciting partnership between The Labs and The Mattress Factory.  Enjoy! ~Erinn


by Molly Dickerson

First, there was cutting, gluing, taping and shaping; a circuit was formed, followed by whirring. Then, one lost a leg.

It was the beginning of a successful partnership between The Labs @ CLP and the Mattress Factory, a museum of contemporary art. Together, the Library and the Museum created a workshop that allowed teens to make scribble machines—small sculptures made from recycled materials, fashioned with motors and markers meant to create drawings with vibration.


Mattress Factory educators Di-ay Battad and Erin Phillips supervise the scribble machine construction.

This is the second year The Labs has invited local organizations to co-host a series of summer workshops. Summer 2013 will see the return of Hip-Hop On L.O.C.K. and Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Program in addition to the Mattress Factory workshops, all of which will hold sessions at the four Labs locations: CLP – Allegheny, CLP – East Liberty, CLP – Main (Oakland), and CLP – South Side.

My first experience with Art on the Move! was at CLP – East Liberty, where Mattress Factory educators Di-ay Battad and Erin Phillips lead the activity. Di-ay and Erin arranged egg cartons, plastic containers, metallic duct tape, pipe cleaners and more on the tables in The Labs (currently occupying a meeting room at the CLP – East Liberty location), and as teens arrived, they were confronted with the challenge of creating a functional scribble machine with the materials provided.

Ameret focused on crafting an elaborate façade for her scribble machine.

Ameret focused on crafting an elaborate façade for her scribble machine.

The scribble machine activity was a natural fit for The Labs; it encompassed two of our four weekly themes: design and makers’ studio. Whether a teen was more interested in creating an aesthetically pleasing machine or one with ambitious mechanics (there were some attempts at utilizing dual motors during the session), everyone had to think critically about how to balance their creation—literally. At first, some machines toppled and lost their circuit connections, but there was plenty of time for teens to tweak and experiment. Both the process and the result of the activity relied on uncertainty, but gradually, the machines came to life.


Erin and Julian unleash scribble machines. Some scribble machines moved linearly, while others made perpetual spirals.

The Mattress Factory’s presence helped facilitate a conversation on how the workshop experience related to contemporary art in a larger sense. Di-ay and Erin shared examples of installation art at the Mattress Factory and explained the processes and motivations of artists who have exhibited at the Museum. Teens were enthusiastic about the presentation, which included work by Yayoi Kusama, James Turrell, and Chiharu Shiota.

As The Labs continues to develop and reshape its parameters, it’s exciting to work alongside practitioners who have similar goals and succeed with them. Although The Labs mentors’ role is to build relationships with teens to facilitate learning, there are advantages to inviting outside educators who share different resources and perspectives. The teens had one of the better conversations they’ve ever had at The Labs during the Mattress Factory presentation and thought critically about art as spectators instead of creators, which is typically the teens’ role in The Labs. Ultimately, both the teens and The Labs staff benefit from these partnerships—it just so happens that we get to have a lot of fun while we learn.

Art on the Move! in action at CLP – Allegheny

Stay tuned for posts on our partnerships with Hip-Hop On L.O.C.K. and Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Program as our summer workshops continue! You can also see more photos from the Art on the Move! workshop on The Labs Facebook page.



Molly Dickerson is a mentor at The Labs@ CLP, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s digital media learning lab. She earned a BA in Film Studies from The College of Wooster in 2010 and an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012, both of which have informed her passion for her work at The Labs. You can follow her Labs activity on her Facebook profile.

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