Artist Benjamin Aysan writes his name in italic letters.
Rivers of Steel’s Heritage Arts program strives to represent the region’s diverse cultural heritage, from ethnic customs and occupational traditions to new American folk arts and urban cultural practices. Usually passed down from person to person within close-knit communities, these traditions are as varied as they are unique, each representing another part of southwestern Pennsylvania’s rich ways of life.
Heritage Craft Kits for the Carnegie Library of Homestead
By Jonathan Engel
So other than the stories about local artists that we share in this forum, how does Rivers of Steel’s Heritage Arts program realize its goals? Especially during 2021, we’ve had to get creative in addressing these core questions: What are our communities’ art traditions? How do we bring them to more people? And how do we use those traditions to improve those people’s lives? With those questions in mind, we look for projects that increase the accessibility of art and seek partners that also value local culture.
The Carnegie Library of Homestead is one such partner. They have always sought to connect our neighbors to the resources they need to explore and express themselves. During the first social distancing period of the pandemic, the library began releasing monthly activity kits, free to anyone. They consisted of art supplies and instructions on how to make a simple craft. They were designed for children, suddenly stuck at home, without the creative outlets that they might otherwise have had access to—or have never had access to.
We’re excited to share that we have collaborated with the Carnegie Library of Homestead to produce a round of kits for them, co-created with local Turkish calligrapher Benjamin Aysan. Free as ever, anyone can pick them up at the library—located at 510 East 10th Avenue, Munhall PA, 15120—and begin creating their own works of handwriting art today. We hope that they bring you joy—and pull you a little bit closer to the rich heritage of one of our many wonderful communities.
Calligraphy Bookmarks with Benjamin Aysan
Benjamin Aysan, a frequent collaborator with Rivers of Steel, has designed our first Heritage Craft Kit. Benjamin is originally from Van, Turkey, and has been a practicing calligrapher for over ten years. Calligraphy has a long history in Turkey, extending at least as far back as the early days of the Ottoman Empire. Practitioners, then and now, decorated mosques with stylized passages from the Quran. Benjamin writes in both Arabic and English, adapting his talents to his new home in Pittsburgh. In this kit, he teaches us how to write our own name on some beautiful bookmarks for all our library favorites. To learn more about Ben, read this brief biography (pdf link).
This craft kit, available at the Carnegie Library of Homestead, contains: a set of calligraphy pens, a pair of scissors, paper, and instructions on how to cut the bookmark and make your letters. The kit is best for children in sixth grade or above, or third to fifth grade with adult accompaniment. You can view and download a PDF of the instructions here, and you can pick up a kit of your own at the Carnegie Library of Homestead at 510 East 10th Avenue, Munhall PA, 15210.
For more information about Benjamin Aysan, read an interview with him from the Heritage Highlight series, published in January, 2021. You can also check out the most recent Heritage Highlight, which features the Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational and Cultural Center.