Mia Sanford - Thriving in a community studio

Mia displays one of her creations - fresh off the wheel!Nine-year-old Mia Sanford started taking ceramics classes at Union Project when she was just six-years-old. From the very beginning, the impact of these classes has been visibly noticeable. Her mother, Cara, says Mia always comes out of ceramics class buoyed and elated. “No other activity has the same impact on Mia. It feeds her in a way that other extracurricular activities don’t. She enjoys swimming and engages in other art activities, but nothing seems to give her the same physical and psychological boost that she gets from clay. There’s something about the tactile approach, rolling the clay between her hands. It’s not the same with a paintbrush.”

Mia attends Pittsburgh Dilworth, which is known for its dedication to the arts, but she hasn’t had the chance to work with clay in school. Taking classes at Union Project on the weekends allows her to learn and play with clay in a welcoming community environment. As a parent, Cara feels that her daughter is in a safe place where she can be independent and explore. Mia is among many ceramics students of all ages and levels who frequent the studio at Union Project. At such a young age, she demonstrates a dedication to the art of clay and enjoys sharing her passion with the UP studio community.

Cara told us their experience at Union Project is consistently positive and that’s why Mia keeps coming back. After attending UP classes for over two years, she’s forged relationships with a few of the instructors. When Mia arrives to class on Saturday mornings, she never hesitates to engage with instructors and fellow students. She runs through the doors and says “Alright, Mr. Ben, what are we doing today?” She’s comfortable talking to the adults working in the open studio and asks what they’re working on or what techniques they use.

Cara is considering getting a wheel for Mia to use at home, but suspects the pleasure she gets from ceramics might be due to the community environment in the studio at Union Project. “Mia respects the ceramics instructors who always greet her as an equal - not a kid that needs to be managed.” The freedom she receives in the studio fuels her independence to create and imagine at her own pace. At Union Project, she’s not just a young ceramics student - she’s a respected member of the studio community.


Story written by Kerry Donnelly