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:

Cheryl Capezzuti

Cheryl Capezzuti is an Artist, Educator and Giant Puppetmaker whose work is inseparable from the communities in which she creates. She has been working in the greater Pittsburgh community for just over 20 years and continues to deepen her connections to this community every day. As a giant puppetmaker, she is best known for the artist-made, people-powered First Night Pittsburgh Parade on New Year’s Eve in downtown Pittsburgh. What started for Capezzuti in 1998 as a handful of puppets and a marching band now features over 300 giant puppets, art cars, dozens of musicians, fanciful pedicabs and over 500 volunteers making it happen. This annual community celebration invites people of all ages to make art together in workshops all over the region and then participate in the parade. She was also recently commissioned by the City of Pittsburgh to tell the history of Pittsburgh using giant puppets for the city’s Bicentennial Parade. Between parades many of her giant puppets are housed at the Braddock Carnegie Library and can be checked out with a library card for any type of event or celebration through her giant puppet lending project, Puppets for Pittsburgh. As an artist she is best known for The National Lint Project, a series of sculptural installations, performances and art classes held in working laundromats. This work, which has a long-term rhythm that ebbs and flows with the course of Capezzuti’s life, explores the aesthetics of everyday life and connects people across all kinds of social divides through the shared common experience of doing laundry. Over the years, The National Lint Project has been featured on The Ellen Degeneres Show, NBC News and many other media outlets. She has been the recipient of numerous local grants for her work from The Sprout Fund, The Heinz Endowments and the Pittsburgh Foundation. As an educator she is currently a member of the faculty at the Falk Laboratory School at the University of Pittsburgh where she runs the middle school art studio and collaborates with colleagues at all levels to integrate the visual arts into all areas of the curriculum. Prior to joining the faculty at Falk, she was a rostered artist for more than a decade for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts through which she completed over fifty residencies in schools all over Western Pennsylvania. She is honored to be recognized by PAEA as a Middle Level Art Educator of the year this year.