Employment numbers are on the rise in the Pittsburgh region and the city’s creative sector continues to welcome talented people from across the country, as well as the world.  From video games to fine art, meet some of the new faces in Pittsburgh and get their perspective on what drew them to our city.

Harley Baldwin White-Wiedow, VP of Design, Schell Games

Harley Baldwin White-Wiedow was working in the San Francisco area as a lead designer at 2K when she plotted her next career move. The goal?  Schell Games.

While she had never been to Pittsburgh, she jumped at the chance to work with industry darling Jesse Schell and the game designers coming out of his renowned entertainment technology program at Carnegie Mellon University. She interviewed during the spring and was sold—both on Schell’s work in transformational gaming and on Pittsburgh, a city transformed.

“It feels like there’s a renaissance happening in Pittsburgh and right now is a great time to enjoy it,” says White-Wiedow says who declared the city “amazing” after her first 24 hours in town.

Earlier this June, she started her job as vice president of design for Schell Games on the South Side.

“One of the things I find very inspiring is the architecture around me, and Pittsburgh just gives and gives when you’re talking about the buildings and the bridges, even the houses,” White-Wiedow says. “There’s so much rich development around that it’s very exciting.”

She and her family will explore the city’s neighborhoods before deciding where to buy a house, although she’s initially looking at Squirrel Hill. Her husband, a stay-at-home dad, hasn’t been to Pittsburgh yet but is taking her word for it and doing a lot of research on his own.

Among the pluses? She points to the cost of living and the “very friendly and real” people. “I think it will be a better place to bring my kids up,” says the mother of three. “From kindergarten to college, the educational opportunities are spectacular.”

In her new role, White-Wiedow says she’ll work with Schell’s team on game designs that improve daily lives, whether that’s a fitness app on a smartphone or the digital applications of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

Anthony Monahan, interactive creative director, Brunner

When Anthony Monahan first moved to Pittsburgh, he made it his mission to explore every park in Allegheny County as he trained for the Pittsburgh Marathon. He also went paddleboarding. And kayaking. And mountain biking. All the activities that were a hassle to do living in New York City for the last 15 years.

Monahan, who loves Pittsburgh’s outdoorsy options, is renting near North Park with his wife (see below) and son while they decide where to buy. Now the interactive creative director at Brunner, he’s settling in for the long haul.

“The whole time we were in New York, we were always thinking about the next place we were going to move,” he says. “Now, it’s taking us so long to find a place to live because we’re going to be here for a long time.”

One good sign, he notes. Brunner has a lot of long-time employees who are still happy in their positions, a nice change from New York’s advertising culture where employees rotate through jobs every few years.

And he gives the agency kudos for accommodating employees’ personal time and understanding the work-life balance.

“But the actual work isn’t any different than New York,” Monahan notes. “They’re still trying to do great work, and the clients still have the same questions and the same issues.”

Monahan is Brunner’s first employee to work across more than one of the company’s businesses. He’ll be bringing more digital work to the Brunner side, while working with the digital clients at B*WORKS. He is also eager to work with BHiveLab, Brunner’s innovation incubator.

Outside of work, Monahan’s been hunting down vegetarian dining choices. So far he’s drawn to kid-friendly joints like OTB Bicycle Café at North Park Boathouse, Double Wide Grill and Salt of the Earth. Which brings us to his wife, who is also pleased with the food scene…

Bridget Monahan, designer and researcher, MAYA

Bridget Monahan spent much of her adult life living in places outside of Pittsburgh, yet she continued to track media coverage of her hometown. So when she and her husband Anthony moved to Pittsburgh over the winter, it was a carefully weighed decision.

Pittsburgh was a different place than the one she left, she says, adding that she saw Pittsburgh’s evolution firsthand through family visits during the holidays. “But it still was the same town, and it had the character that I knew and loved.”

After graduating from Boston University and earning her master’s degree at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Monahan lived in New York City for 13 years. But it was the last 5 ½ years—since the birth of her son—that thoughts of returning turned into a strong desire to do so.

She landed a job before her husband, Anthony (see above) as a researcher and designer at MAYA, a cutting-edge firm design consultancy and technology research lab located downtown at Gateway 4.

“There’s a vibrancy to the Downtown area that wasn’t here when I left,” says Monahan. And it no longer shuts down at 5, she adds.

While learning to drive again was the biggest challenge for Monahan, she says that the easy lifestyle in Pittsburgh makes it a breeze to enjoy the water, trails and parks, especially compared to New York. And like her husband, she’s been pleasantly surprised by the restaurant scene in Pittsburgh.

Monahan, who grew up in Summer Hill in the North Hills and attended Sewickley Academy, says the family is looking to move into a walkable community, but hasn’t decided on a neighborhood yet. “It’s exciting to see some of the neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, how beautiful they are and how vested people are in them doing well,” says Monahan who is happy for her son to have a yard and be closer to his five cousins.

All in all it will be a more “well-rounded life,” she declares.

Catherine Evans, chief curator, Carnegie Museum of Art

Catherine Evans of the Carnegie Museum of Art.

As the new chief curator at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Catherine Evans has a good eye for the urban landscape of the place she now calls home.

“I like the layers of the 19th-century industrial remnants here,” says Evans, who relocated from Columbus in January and began her new post in early February. “That makes for a very dynamic mix or backdrop for a city that seems to be growing and attracting a lot of interesting people.”

Evans, who worked at the Columbus Museum of Art since 1996 as its chief curator and as its first curator of photography, says her visitors have been as wowed by Pittsburgh’s dramatic topography as she is.

She chose to live in Shadyside for its proximity to the Carnegie and its active, walkable vibe. “You have a variety store in business since 1947 and across the street you have an Apple store,” Evans says. “It’s a great mix of traditional long-standing businesses with the incorporation of new businesses.”

Another things she loves are the porous boundaries of the city. She still isn’t sure sometimes where one neighborhood ends and another begins. (We can relate.)

In her new role at the Carnegie Museum, she’ll focus on how to keep the Carnegie sustainable and relevant to its communities and to the larger art world of the 21st century. “We’ve been working off a model that got its start in the late 19th century,” says Evans, who began her career at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “There’s room for progressive thinking.”

Especially appealing for Evans is the scale of the Carnegie Museum of Art, which touches national and international audiences.

Rick Fernandes, executive director, Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at St. Vincent College

As he watched his baby daughters maturing into little girls in Hong Kong, Rick Fernandes became increasingly concerned about the media content available to them.

Fernandes, who cut his teeth in the television industry as a 19-year-old working on the Sesame Street production, knew then that he had to leverage his talents and 30 years of experience and put them to good use for the sake of his daughters—and children everywhere. His new position as Executive Director at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at St. Vincent College fit the bill.

The former executive for Turner International Asia Pacific Limited in Hong Kong has earned 11 Emmy nominations over his career, for series for PBS, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. At the Fred Rogers Center, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, he has the chance to advance early learning in the innovative way the center and region are becoming known for.

Naturally, Fernandes loves Pittsburgh—also known as Kidsburgh—for its family-friendly appeal. “It’s the most family-oriented city and it’s incredibly friendly,” he says, adding that the city is exactly the right size for his family.

He has been renovating a home in the heart of Squirrel Hill for the arrival of his wife and children this month.

Squirrel Hill feels like a college town to Fernandes, with easy access to I-376, essential for making the reverse commute to Latrobe. It also doesn’t hurt that Fred Rogers raised his family in the same community.

Channeling that “special sauce” that Mr. Rogers had in connecting with children is an important part of Fernandes’ mission in his new role.

“Fred was an amazing person who took complex issues and made them very simple,” Fernandes says, adding that the Fred Rogers Center focuses on training the next generation of early childhood educators and media creators. “How do we encourage them to follow the example and keep Fred’s legacy moving forward?”

Michael Ashley, executive creative director at Mullen. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Michael Ashley, executive creative director, Mullen

It took 10 years of commuting four hours daily between his advertising job in New York City and his family upstate before creative director Michael Ashley reached a tipping point.

Through the years, Ashley made a name for himself as creative director at both BBDO, New York and at JWT, also in Manhattan. But between the extreme commute and the extensive international travel, he craved a better work-life balance. In March, he started a new gig as executive creative director at Mullen in the Strip District.

As the new ECD, Ashley plans to bring in new business, boost creativity throughout the office and push the boundaries of new media for the agency’s clients. “Don’t settle, don’t take no for an answer, and ask why. Always ask why,” Ashley says of his creative philosophy which includes going beyond what a client asks for. He succeeds Brian Bronaugh, who is serving as president of Mullen Pittsburgh.

Although they’d never been to Pittsburgh before, Ashley and his wife were sold on both the brand of Mullen’s local office and the family-friendly charms of the city.

“I instantly liked the place and we jumped in,” Ashley says from the orange couch in his new digs at Mullen. “I accepted the job before my wife even came to Pittsburgh.”

Currently living in temporary housing in Fox Chapel, he and his family are shopping for a home either south in Upper St. Clair or Mt. Lebanon or north in Wexford or Cranberry. While Ashley’s three children are home-schooled they want to be in a strong school district to reap the benefits of sports, clubs and support services provided.

The biggest surprise since landing in Pittsburgh? The food. Ashley counts meals at Legume, Meat & Potatoes and Tram’s Kitchen in providing an early taste of what the city has to offer.

Melanie Cox McCluskey

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Melanie is a free-lance copywriter and journalist whose work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Venus Zine and Maniac Magazine.