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.
Beth Lichtenberg - Secretary
“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.
"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.
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.”
My background in the art world goes back to childhood. I began drawing at an early age, and art has been a part of my life ever since. Over the years I have studied at Kalamazoo Institute of Art, University of Iowa, and of course at Water Street. I have taken classes in drawing, painting, printmaking, metalsmithing, and glassmaking.
I met Jerry Catania some years ago as he was teaching at the Ox Bow Art School. He was demonstrating glass blowing with his students on the final day of a week’s course on the subject. The was the beginning of my fascination with the process of glassmaking of all kinds. I was also impressed at his teaching process, and how all his students were visibly inspired by him. I would soon learn why they were so enthusiastic about learning glass from him. He met every student where they were, and how they learned with an openness to help them understand how glassmaking was accomplished.
It is with his voice still in my ear that I am eager to help preserve the inspiration that he, and Kathy built this school around. It is not simply a place to learn about Glassmaking, but a great asset to the community at large through Fired Up Teens, and the other great programs, and classes that are available. I hope that many more people in the community can experience Water Street Glass for many years to come. See you at Water Street!