Executive Committee 2020 – 2021
Laurie Mefford, President
WSG Board President, found her passion for glass when she joined one of the first introductory classes at Water Street Glassworks in 2004. It was love at first touch. Laurie took every glass blowing and bead class offered. Laurie is dedicated to the selfless vision of our co-founders, Jerry and Kathy Catania, to have WSG serve the Benton Harbor community through our Fired Up! After school program and our open access studio for multiple glass disciplines. Laurie is inspired by the transformation WSG has led in the Benton Harbor Arts District.
Professionally, Laurie is a Division Vice President at Abbott Laboratories and brings her business experience to WSG.
Brenda Nieb, Treasurer
“I remember the day, so many years ago, when Kathy Catania told me of the plan she and Jerry had for The Hinkley Building and the Fired-Up Program. I have watched in awe as Water Street Glassworks has not only successfully brought arts to young people, but also to entire communities as they continue to be the cornerstone of the Benton Harbor Arts District. Consequently, it was a tremendous privilege to be invited to join the WSG Board of Directors.”
As the WSG Treasurer, Brenda is responsible for overseeing the fiscal health of the organization by creating and reviewing financial statements, creating budgets and establishing strong internal controls and financial management policies. Brenda grew up in St. Joseph, Michigan. She holds an A.B. in Biology from the University of Chicago and an MSA in Accountancy from Indiana University South Bend.
“I had no idea when I enrolled in Water Street Glasswork’s introductory glassblowing class how ‘blown away’ I’d be by this amazing organization. Its community of artists and administrators stays true to WSG’s mission of promoting the fire arts, education, youth inspiration, and community renewal and development. The Fired Up! and Cardea Beads programs are especially inspiring, emblematic of WSG’s depth of care and compassion for the world it inhabits.”
Beth’s focus on the WSG Board of Directors includes fund raising, grant writing, community development and collaboration, vision and operational strategy.
A native of Buffalo, NY, Beth and her family have lived in the Midwest for over three decades. She is an attorney, essay consultant for college applicants, runner, beach glass collector and ever-aspiring glassblower.
“I was stunned when I discovered all this organization does - and I couldn’t resist getting involved. It’s one of the best things going on here in southwest Michigan. Promoting fine art, connecting people, inspiring creativity, invigorating the ol’ hometown –‘Go Tigers!’, and most importantly to me, engaging young people in a life changing, no pretense, open-to-everyone community with glass artist instructors and mentors, some of whom are of the highest pedigree in the artform.”
As a member of the Water Street Glassworks (WSG) Board of Directors, Jim focuses on fund raising, public outreach, and contributes to development of operational strategies that support the WSG mission.
Jim grew up in Benton Harbor, and has held professional roles around the country in research biochemistry, technology, consulting, executive leadership, and entrepreneurship.
"When I was 8 my parents took me to Cedar Point and I saw glassblowing for the first time. I could care less about the rides, I just wanted to watch glassblowing. Fast forward many years and it still captures me as it did back then. I learned how to create glass beads more than 20 years ago and got to bring a little of that creativity home. I have seen the transformation in the kids of the Fired Up! after school program. Watching Jerry Catania teach this magic, I knew wanted to be part of this. I have taken many classes and learned the art that helps me focus my accounting brain, create and recharge."
After a 30-year career at Ford Motor Company, Tom Kerr has happily retired to southwest Michigan and enjoys spending his time working with Water Street Glassworks. Tom started learning about Water Street Glassworks as a glass blowing student under the direction of Jerry Catania in 2014. He enjoys exploring his creativity in all areas of glass shop as well as the metal shop.
Tom brings strong project management and managerial skills to the WSG board that he gained from his experience as a Computer Operations Manager at Ford. He also values the difference being made in young people’s lives through the Fired-up program, and desires to help the next generation express their creativity and become successful business people.
Ann is a native of southwest Michigan and has always had a love of glass art.
“I was first drawn to water Street glassworks with the Fired Up! program. The raw talent and creativity of these kids was inspiring! I found the more practical business aspects of their education really impressive.”
Ann brings volunteer experience and organizational skills having been a Corporate Recruiter for Bank of America and President of the Parent Support Organization for Beaches Episcopal School in Jacksonville, Florida. She currently is a certified yoga instructor and works as a Sound Healer. As a WSG board member Ann hopes to focus her energy on fundraising, volunteering and supporting the WSG organization.
Iris Watts is a life-long resident of Benton Harbor, Iris graduated from Benton Harbor High School and attended Siena Heights University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Mgt.
“I grew up with a family of nine including my mother and father. Life was simple, but our parents taught us the fundamental importance of family and community. Both of my parents were actively involved in the school’s PTA and our local church. Family values and having a solid structure help influence my decisions both personally and professionally.”
Iris worked at Whirlpool eleven years and later in the Benton Harbor Area Schools as substitute teacher and admin She served on the BHAS and the Salvation Army Board.
“My greatest enjoyment comes from volunteering with our local students in various capacities and lending a hand to improve the conditions of our community.”
Members of Advisory Board (Non voting members)
Lynne Clayton, Executive Director
Nick and Caty, my children started blowing glass at WSG in 2003. I had always wanted to experience it too, and in 2011, I finally succumbed to the call of the Glass Gypsies!
Glass is a metaphor for life to me: You make a plan, prepare, create, then must await the results; which are sometimes beyond your control. On occasion the creative result is exactly as you had pictured in your artist’s minds eye, other times serendipity intervenes, and a happy accident can become a new way to explore your artistic path.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve, work, learn, and create art at WSG. It is an incredible organization made up of many dedicated, creative, volunteers and staff, and it is my privilege to be a small part of it.