In the back of Mt. Lebanon Uptown Market, Kate Gugliotta and Branden Koch set up a table with a wide array of materials. For that week’s project, which they called “Flower Power,” youngsters who stopped by were tasked with turning wire, yarn, paper, buttons and other materials into their own version of a flower. Some created roses. But not everyone made flowers. Each crafted their own unique piece of art.
That’s how Gugliotta and Koch, of Parker Drive, like to teach art. They provide open-ended prompts that promote inquiry, curiosity and discovery, allowing everyone to create their own art without having to adhere to the structure of a specific form or style.
“We’re really opening it up to everyone,” Koch said. “It’s empowering. That helps generate a lifelong interest in making things.”
The artists and teachers debuted their mobile pop-up art studio Dot and Line this summer. The name comes from a quote by early 20th century artist Paul Klee: “A line is a dot that went for a walk.”
They took Dot and Line to both Mt. Lebanon farmers markets, hosted classes inside Commonwealth Press and taught private and group lessons in local homes and online to everyone from kids to adults. They also teach art pods, or small groups of family members or friends, where they create an art project geared towards participants’ interests.
“It’s inquiry based, asking lots of questions and using materials as the tools to express your thoughts and ideas,” Gugliotta said.
Both Gugliotta and Koch have been creating art for much of their lives. She grew up in Mt. Lebanon and attended Lincoln Elementary School, where her art teacher helped her develop a love of creating. For Koch, it was a high school teacher in Cleveland who helped push him toward a career path in the arts.
Family also played a big role. Gugliotta’s dad was a photo editor at the Pittsburgh Press and on weekends she would head into the darkroom with him where she learned to develop photos. Koch’s mom was an artist and later sold Mary Kay cosmetics. For him, that was very formative, watching how color and lines could change the way a person looked in a matter of minutes.
Gugliotta received a bachelor’s in art history from the College of Charleston and a master’s in art education from the Teachers College at Columbia University. While her initial focus was museum-based art, she found that she loved developing relationships with kids and teaching them all aspects of art at a young age. Koch has a bachelor of fine arts from the Cleveland Institute of Art and a master’s degree with a concentration in painting from The Milton Avery School of Arts at Bard College in upstate New York.
The couple spent 14 years as artists and teachers in New York City. But after more than a decade in the Big Apple, they realized the hustle was not sustainable long term. They moved to Pittsburgh three years ago and to Mt. Lebanon two years ago. They live right near Lincoln, where their child now attends school.
Gugliotta works as an art teacher at Winchester Thurston while serving as an online adjunct instructor at Moore College of Art and Design. Koch did work for the Mattress Factory and Children’s Museums pre-COVID and has taught online classes at schools including Rutgers University. They launched Dot and Line as a new way to bring art to the community.
“The reason we make art is because art brings people together,” Koch said.
In the first few months of Dot and Line, they’ve already found the Mt. Lebanon community coming together through art. When they’re not teaching, they’re spending their time developing new classes, working to make new partnerships and hopefully, someday, they might even open their own space to create.
For the latest on their adventures, visit www.dotandlineartstudio.com.