Tag Archives: ceramics

You Saved HACC Arts: Shawna Purdy-Beaver & Ariana Bronson

How profound it is to be resilient… Thanks to the students who took time to share their stories with me. Thank you for demonstrating strength in community and the value of art. And thank you to HACC for listening to the needs of your students and community.

You saved HACC Arts.

A few weeks ago, students and professors at Harrisburg Area Community College quickly took action, organized, and worked with the college’s administration to restore arts courses that had recently been removed from the curriculum.

Due to their efforts, five of the six courses have been reinstated for the Fall 2018 class schedule and HACC’s President, Dr. John “Ski” Sygielski, has promised that the college will continue to better assess the needs of it’s students.


I spent time with some of the students who are not only enrolled currently in those classes, but are part of a tight-knit community of makers thriving and supporting each other through the arts programs at HACC. As of Wednesday, they are relieved and excited to continue their arts education here at the community college.

Shawna Purdy-Beaver throwing in the ceramics studio at HACC. March, 2018.

Shawna Purdy-Beaver originally worked as a hairdresser and hair educator in Harrisburg. In 2013, after owning two different salons, raising her children, and getting married, she decided to go back to school. Shawna started taking photography courses at HACC… which led her to explore glass art and eventually, ceramics as well. “I fell in love with ceramics!” she states passionately.

Shawna hopes to eventually open an arts center. She has always loved to teach and is fervent about the ‘desire in [her] heart’ to open a place in Harrisburg where people of all ages can come to learn to be makers of art. Agency through art and the programs at HACC helped her discover her own gifts and she wants to help others do the same. “When you get involved in the arts you always hear people say, ‘I always wanted to try that…,’ and I want to have a place where people can try it. I don’t care if you’re 80 or 95 [years old],” she says, “come on in here. We’ll find you a slow wheel and some soft clay and we’ll teach you how to throw.”

Ariana Bronson shows her classmates, Megan Caruso and Allanah Green, the progress she has made experimenting with crystalline glazes in the ceramics studio at HACC. March, 2018.

Ariana Bronson was homeschooled and cyber-schooled before coming to HACC to study ceramics in the Fall of 2015. Ari comes from a family that cherishes the arts and, as a result, states that she has, “always had a tactile sense of learning.” Acknowledging the cost of tuition at four year institutions and hoping to avoid extraneous debt, she values her education and resources here at the community college. A large portion of her time in the studio is dedicated to experimenting with and developing her own crystalline glazes and building a portfolio to apply to four year schools to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

“I’ve been president of the ceramics club at HACC for the past two years,” she says. “It has been what I consider to be one of the most valuable learning experiences in my life so far. The sense of community that we have and share is like no other.”

Save HACC Arts: Allanah Green & Roderick Dixon

Students and professors at Harrisburg Area Community College recently discovered that the college has cut valuable courses from the arts program. Strategically, as enrollment for the next semester opened, classes including ceramics, screen-printing, printmaking, and glass quietly disappeared from the catalog.

Last week, I spent time with some of the students who are not only enrolled currently in those classes, but are part of a tight-knit community of makers thriving and supporting each other through the arts programs at HACC.


Allanah Green in the hot shop of Harrisburg Area Community College. March, 2018.

Although she initially came to HACC for equestrian studies, Allanah was always fascinated with glass. When she learned that the program existed, she quickly switched her major to pursue Fine Arts. Following the switch, her life was quickly consumed by glass. “[The hot shop] was the first place I felt accepted.” After graduating, she continues to audit the class–building a portfolio to apply to bachelors programs at four year art schools. Without access to the shop, she will not be able to build a glass portfolio.

The shop, tucked behind the Rose Lehrman Arts Center is student maintained and also partially student built. “I fix everything,” she states confidently. She is adamant about how important it is to be trained in the maintenance of the shop in addition to developing skills as a maker. Students here develop well rounded, valuable skills that make them strong assets to programs at other schools and established glass shops.


Roderick (Rod) Dixon sitting with his classmate and friend, Allanah Green, before heading into the hot shop at HACC. March, 2018.

This isn’t Rod Dixon’s first experience at Harrisburg Area Community College. Initially, Rod came to HACC to pursue a career change in 2002. He received an Associates in Web Design and subsequently moved on to Duquesne University, finishing a Bachelor of Science in Leadership and Computer Systems Technology and then a Masters in Information Systems from Shippensburg University. Since then, he has been working as a business professional in the Harrisburg area.

After purchasing a new camera, Rod eventually returned to HACC in 2014 to take a beginning digital photography class. Once again realizing his endless capacity for learning, he began to foster his new curiosity for the arts in photography. While waiting for photography courses to be offered in the evenings to accommodate his schedule, Rod was also introduced to glass. He immediately fell in love with the process and the hot shop promptly became a happy home for his creativity. Currently, Rod is working on an Associates in Fine Arts in Photography with a focus in Glass Arts at HACC as well as a MBA from Western Governors University and hopes to eventually open an arts focused business.

“The possibility that we won’t have this anymore is extremely disheartening.” Rod speaks sweetly of Allanah, his other classmates, and future students who will potentially never have the opportunity to explore glass art. He has found camaraderie and community through the arts program, specifically the glass courses, at HACC. “Glass forces you to form a bond,” Allanah adds. The hot shop can be a dangerous environment and it is crucial to communicate clearly, trust each other, and develop supportive, nurturing relationships as classmates and fellow makers.

Rod is determined to help the administration come up with solutions to keep these classes in the community college. “To figure out ways to try to save this program is on the top of my agenda… to push [HACC] to do the right thing.”


Please consider signing the student petition below and share your personal stories about HACC Arts with the hashtag #saveHACCarts.



Save HACC Arts: Morgan Crumlich

Students and professors at Harrisburg Area Community College recently discovered that the college will be cutting valuable arts programs from the curriculum. Strategically, as enrollment for the next semester opened, programs including ceramics, screen-printing, printmaking, and glass quietly disappeared from the catalog.
In hindsight, one thing seems truly telling: a couple years ago, HACC ceased advertising for their arts programs.
Community colleges, like HACC, were erected with great purpose: to give access and opportunity to all. Underprivileged students and students of color who otherwise cannot afford to pursue higher education at a four year institution, students unsure of their path seeking opportunities to be curious and creative, and adult students with tricky schedules and families are a large makeup of HACC’s student body.
While it is true and necessary that HACC offers quality trade and workforce driven programs, numerous courses and programs that transfer to four year colleges, it is unacceptable for the institution to strip such a diverse arts program that serves those demographics. By doing so, HACC perpetuates the struggle of access and agency historically denied to underprivileged people.
Frankly, this is exhausting and sad. And I am not in the business of explaining privilege and the value of the arts to the largest community college in Pennsylvania.

I do, however, always believe in the power of people’s stories.

Above is an image of Morgan, who my close friends and I lovingly deemed the “Friend-tern” in the summer of 2016. (Friend-tern [noun]: an intern who wins your heart and becomes a fast friend.)
Two years ago, after finishing photography and glass at HACC, Morgan was accepted to Tyler School of Art at Temple and has since been working exclusively with glass. She also plans on pursuing her MFA and eventually returning to the Harrisburg area to pursue a career as a maker and teacher of glass.
Morgan was devastated by the news.
“That one small decision to step into [the glass] studio [at HACC] entirely changed the course of my life.
Glass is a medium that extends far past its materiality and process. I am constantly learning from the material everyday. It has taught me invaluable lessons about community and perseverance. It consistently challenges me to be a better maker and person. It was in that studio that I found my home.”
I took this image at a happier time: Morgan feeling the warmth of the new sunrise on her face. The reflection in the water like glass. Her first road trip with me. Her first time this far away from home. Her first time on a sailboat. Portland, ME. July, 2016.
Please consider signing the student petition below and share your personal stories about HACC Arts with the hashtag #saveHACCarts.