A new School of Art Award aims to support a graduating student while helping to grow Pittsburgh’s art ecosystem. The Ken Meyer Professional Studio Development Award, given annually, provides funds for a graduating MFA or BFA/BXA student to rent studio space. The award—generously funded by William Kofmehl III, a 2002 graduate of the School of Art—gives a young artist the opportunity to stay in Pittsburgh to pursue their practice.
The first recipient of the award is Petra Floyd, who graduated from the MFA program in May. Floyd is using the funds to rent a studio at the Brew House Association, where she is continuing developing work related to her thesis project. Floyd’s practice elevates non-Western notions of technology, favoring sound and movement as inherited technologies from ancestors over the contemporary ideology of technology as progress, advancement, and expansion, which often comes at the expense of colonized people, animals, and environments.
Floyd said that having this studio space allows her to connect with other artists and to host studio visits with local curators. “Through CMU and visiting artists that professors brought in, we started to get an understanding of the arts ecosystem in Pittsburgh,” Floyd said, while noting that the obligations of school, along with COVID, made it difficult to become more immersed within Pittsburgh’s art scene. “Now that I have graduated, I can focus elsewhere and connect with other artists in the city,” she said.
Floyd said that in some ways, Pittsburgh’s size is an advantage to Philadelphia, where she grew up. As an emerging artist, there is less competition for funding and therefore more opportunities to grow your practice. Floyd also cited the strong community of artists, especially among other Black women-artists, including Alisha Wormsley, Bekezela Mguni, Naomi Chambers, and sarah huny young.
The award is named in honor of Kenneth Meyer, a machine shop foreman in the Department of Chemical Engineering at CMU while William Kofmehl III was a student. Meyer, along with Quinn Peyton, a technical staff member in the Software Engineering Institute, were tragically killed when the private aircraft they were flying crashed in 2004. Meyer graduated from CMU with a master’s degree in physics in 1982 and spent the next 22 years running the machine shop.
Kofmehl got to know Meyer when he was constructing a three-story residential building on campus next to Doherty Hall as a School of Art student. They became close friends, as well as collaborators. During Kofmehl’s fifth year scholarship at CMU, he pursued civil engineering studies and worked closely with Meyer on a project scheduled for completion the following year. Tragically, the project was not completed due to Meyer’s untimely passing.
An accomplished artist, Kofmehl is also an avid supporter of the arts in Pittsburgh and sits on the board of Radiant Hall, a non-profit operating more than 70 artist studio spaces in the city.