Keynote Speakers

Vanessa German

Vanessa German is an award-winning multidisciplinary artist based in the Homewood community of Pittsburgh, PA. The third of five children, Vanessa was born in Wisconsin and raised in Los Angeles. Her mother is a renowned fiber artist who raised her children to make things and create their own stories and entertainment. "We grew up with the ingredients to make 'stuff'... and most importantly, fully realized faith in our imaginations. This is how we stayed alive—making our ideas leave our bodies through our hands, becoming tangible—and righteous enough for us to keep wanting to do it." Vanessa creates "contemporary power figures," as she defines them, made of everyday objects transformed into an iconography of astonishing metaphors. Vanessa believes her power figures are "alive by sight, and the adventure that sight incites in every piece" has its own meaning. Her visual works have been shown in galleries and museums throughout the country and was recently acquired by The Progressive Collection, one of the preeminent corporate contemporary art collections in the nation, and The David C. Driscoll collection, Franciscan University Collection. Her sculptures will be represented in "African American Art 1950-Present," produced by the Driscoll Center and the Smithsonian Institution. Vanessa's visual and performance work contend with the power and fragility of the human spirit. She grew up surrounded by Africans, Koreans, white folks, Mexican folks, strange folks, gay folks, sights, sounds, and scents according the ever-fabled melting pot. She also grew up at the foot of AIDS and gang violence, churches, co-ops, street vendors, house fires, and street music, from hip hop to meringue, every facet still found fibrous and illuminated in her story. Writer Graham Shearing observes, "She is a witness to what she finds and declares it loudly and passionately, and, for a shy woman, also fearlessly. She intuitively transforms her findings, her evidences, into her work." Vanessa has pioneered a performance style called "Spoken Word Opera," which brings all of the drama and theatricality of traditional opera to intimate performances and contemporary themes through a dynamic hybrid of spoken word poetry, hip hop, storytelling, music and movement. Recent performances include TEDx Harvard, TEDx MIT, and TEDx Pittsburgh. Vanessa has written and performed in four evening-length performance works. As a member of the inaugural 2009/2010 class of fellows at the August Wilson Center of African American Culture, she created "root," a spoken word opera. Vanessa is also the subject of the documentary film Tar Baby Jane. Biography used from:  Image used from:

Rob Rogers

Rob Rogers is the award-winning editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. His cartoons have been vexing and entertaining readers in Pittsburgh since 1984. Syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate, Rogers’ work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and Newsweek, among many others. Rogers has also been the curator of three national cartoon exhibitions, Too Hot to Handle: Creating Controversy through Political Cartoons (2003) and Drawn To The Summit: A G-20 Exhibition Of Political Cartoons (2009), both at The Andy Warhol Museum, and Bush Leaguers: Cartoonists Take on the White House (2007) at the American University Museum. In 2015, Rogers curated Slinging Satire: Editorial Cartooning and the First Amendment at the ToonSeum. Rogers is an active member (and past president) of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. His work received the 2000 and 2013 Thomas Nast Award from the Overseas Press Club, the 1995 National Headliner Award, and numerous Golden Quills. In 2015 Rogers was awarded the Berryman Award from the National Press Foundation. In 1999 he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. In 2009, Rogers celebrated 25 years as a Pittsburgh editorial cartoonist with the release of his book, No Cartoon Left Behind: The Best of Rob Rogers, published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. In 2015, he released a local cartoon collection called, Mayoral Ink: Cartooning Pittsburgh’s Mayors. He is currently serving as board president of the ToonSeum, a cartoon museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Image and Bio used from:

Baron Batch

Baron Batch referenced as The Artist is a Cultural Icon, Community Builder, Dot Connector, Conceptual Multimedia Artist and Entrepreneur based out of Homestead, PA who originally gained popularity through his street art. The Artist has brought the POP-X genre of art, a mix of Pop Art and Expressionism, to the city of Pittsburgh. Growing up in Midland, Texas with many siblings and little money Baron was a standout football player. When he was sixteen, Baron’s mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and tragically passed, leaving her children to take care of each other. Baron turned to football and the Midland community to help him cope with the grief and accompanying anger. Baron attended Texas Tech University where he graduated with a degree in Communications and excelled in his collegiate football career. During the 2011 NFL Draft Baron was selected 232nd overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers. After tearing his ACL during a training camp practice in August 2011 he was out for the season. In 2013, the Steelers cut Baron and once again he found himself forging his own future. With strategic financial savings from his football career, Baron moved into an unfinished building in Homestead, Pennsylvania, started creating full-time, and began his journey as The Artist. This once unfinished building in Homestead, Pennsylvania is now Studio A.M., the most creative place on the planet. The Artist serves as Creative Director of the multi-faceted creative collection, that specializes and creative/ guerilla marketing and brand strategies, unique and customizable private events/ experiences with a top-notch Chef. Studio A.M is open to the community on Thursdays and Sundays for food service and gallery hours. The space also serves as a production facility for his branded salsa line “Angry Man Salsa”, a high-quality dipping salsa available online in limited editions. The Artist works with the youth in the Pittsburgh Area promoting the message, “With the correct process and sacrifice you can be and do anything you want.” Baron has gained tremendous support in the community since preforming #FREE art drops, where he posts picture of giveaway paintings on Twitter and Instagram, leaving clues to their location. During the Summer of 2016, Baron admitted to painting along the riverfront bike trail from Hot Metal Bridge to Homestead. The Artist believes that sometimes great artists paint on things they aren't supposed to. An arrest warrant was issued by the Pittsburgh Police for numerous counts of criminal mischief involving graffiti. Recently, The Artist opened a creative arts incubator, dubbed The Hideout, that supports artists and like-minded creative by providing a platform that empowers growing creatives to implement their business and artistic ideas to the Pittsburgh community. The Artist is described as a "Creative Force", and followed by thousands of fans who admire his artwork. Image used from: