Stroll into any one of The Labs at select Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) locations on a weekday afternoon and rest assured that you will not see research coats and safety goggles. What you will see, however, are cameras and whiteboards, tripods and computer software, and everything else in between.

For example, during my visit to The Labs @ CLP Main (Oakland), Pittsburgh Filmmakers, in partnership with Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, was providing a workshop entitled Make a Movie on the art of filmmaking.  Running  July 11th, 18th and 25th, the workshops give teens a chance to work with hand-processed Super 8 film to create and edit their own movies. With guidance from independent filmmakers, students explore the entire process of filmmaking, from planning to shooting to editing.  Similar workshops are also underway at The Labs other three locations at the East Liberty, South Side and Allegheny (North Side) branches.

Kayla gets ready to shoot a scene of Cody and Sarah as Pittsburgh Filmmakers representatives Michael Johnsen and Marie Mashyna look on.

Kayla gets ready to shoot a scene of Cody and Sarah as Pittsburgh Filmmakers representatives Michael Johnsen and Marie Mashyna look on.

“We’re using film to engage teens in critical thinking and to let them explore a more tangible form of science and art,” explains Marie Mashyna from Pittsburgh Filmmakers. “Plus, learning about film helps them understand the current digital world more.” Through a crash course lecture as well as an interactive, hands-on process, teens learn about the different possibilities with the lost art form of Super 8 filmmaking and end the workshop with a completed group movie.

For Phillippa Zang, 12, the best part is working with the team: “I love forming ideas and hearing others’ thoughts, too. And it’s cool to see how it starts out scattered and comes together so well in the end.”

Even beyond the Make a Movie workshop, the Labs are revolutionizing art opportunities for teens. Workshops on photography, robotics and digital art are offered throughout the year, and the Labs are always open to students who wish to use its equipment and facilities for individual projects.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the Labs, explains Labs mentor Andre Costello, is accessibility: “It’s about making technology and information available to every teen in the greater Pittsburgh area.”

“I pretty much come to the Labs everyday after school,” says Morgan Wable-Keene, 16. “And because of the Labs, I have experience with a little bit of every mainstream art form.” Even more importantly, the Labs provides a great sense of community among its participants. As Wable-Keene maintains, “It’s a great place to have fun and be productive with mentors and fellow regulars, even if you don’t consider yourself an artist.”

The Labs are an even greater opportunity for those who do have artistic aspirations. Pascal Duffy, 12, says it best: “You get a lot of inspiration here. Who knows? Maybe the future Steven Spielberg will come from this Lab!”

Reporters from the Pittsburgh Youth Media program cover stories for Hive Pittsburgh. Read more at pghyouthmedia.com.