Staff

Operations and Instructor Team


Paul Morgan

Executive Director

Paul is a leader committed to providing youth with educational access, artistic expression and equity. Prior to joining Ignition Community Glass, Paul served as the Director of Programs and Innovation for the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund where he oversaw the core academic enrichment programing. Paul also worked for the Office of Minority Student Affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he counseled low-income, first generation college students whom, like him, wanted an opportunity to achieve a more ambitious future. He also instructed several undergraduate courses for the University. Paul later spent five years working as a Graduate level Instructor for The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign while simultaneously serving six years in the United States Marine Corps Reserve to include a combat deployment to Fallujah, Iraq.

Paul is a coveted speaker that believes in the significance and beauty of storytelling. He has been presented with the Chicago Youth Center Adult Achievement Award, the Hoyman Professional Education Award from the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois, and the Outstanding Educator Award from the Network of Hispanic Administrators in Education. Paul is a recent graduate of the Chicago Surge Fellowship and was the recipient of the 2018 Chicago 35 under 35 award for community and social impact.

In his spare time Paul enjoys being a mentor, community organizer, and co-founder of the Chicago Doberman Club. He serves as the Co-Chair of Chicago Youth Center’s Auxiliary Board which provides high quality innovative early childhood and out-of-school programming to youth in Chicago’s most divested communities. He sees volunteering as a fun activity and vital step toward building stronger and more inclusive communities.

Joe Waropay

Education Manager

As Education Manager for ICG, Joe designs and implements all of ICG’s youth glass art programs. Joe strives to introduce a fresh approach to the traditional craft of glass making while sharing his passion for glassblowing with the youth of Chicago. Joe received his art degree from Illinois State University where he studied under renowned glass blower John Miller.

Sam Akainyah

Coldworking Studio Manager/Instructor

Sam is a key member of the Ignition instruction team facilitating youth learning in the areas of cold working and fused glass.  Sam currently leads Ignite Glass Studios Cold Working Studio. In the Cold Shop, Sam shines with ICG’s youth where his natural ability to polish, shape and perfect a glass art comes to life and ICG youth learn not only about this critical glass skill but also about patience.

Josh Laabs

Artist/Instructor

Josh received his Bachelor’s of Fine Art’s in 3D Design from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he studied under glass artist Jon Chapman. Josh started his glass career as an intern at Ignite Glass Studio during his senior year in college and quickly moved to a full-time position where he currently serves as a key driver of – and instructor for- the Ignition team. Josh works hand in hand with members of ICG and Ignite Glass Studio to provide Chicago teens a safe space for creative exploration.

Connor O’Brien

Artist/Instructor

Connor O’Brien is a Chicago-based artist who was raised in Racine, Wisconsin. He first discovered glass at the age of 14 in high school at The Prairie School in Racine. During his time at Prairie, he fell in love with the material and the art he could create with it. After completing high school, he went to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he earned his BFA in sculpture in 2017. During his time at SAIC he focused on learning the processes of glassblowing, metal casting, and neon bending. Becoming proficient quickly in the material, Connor has been able to aid instructors in teaching their glass courses and has been a teaching assistant at the Ox-Bow School of Craft in Saugatuck, Michigan for the past three summers. Connor has been a part of the Ignition team since its founding and has proven to be an invaluable member of the team.

Alan Robles

Artist/Instructor

Alan is a product of one of Ignition’s youth programs where he learned to work with glass in multiple different ways. He was introduced to ICG via the After School Matters program in his sophomore year of high school. After graduation he returned to ICG as an intern with the ASM program and was later hired as an intern with Ignite Glass Studios.  His growth continued from there as he moved up to an instructor assistant, and finally now an instructor with both ICG and Ignite. He occasionally works in the hot shop blowing glass, but has geared his expertise towards flameworking and focuses on teaching students to make beads and pendents on a torch.

Kat Skinner

Artist/Instructor

Kat graduated from University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point with a BFA with an emphasis in Three-Dimensional Art and a Art History Minor. Originally she attended UWSP for Interior Architecture but she didn’t find this to be the right fit. She was introduced to glass and metal working which initiated her switch to a more hands-on degree. Kat graduated in the spring of 2016 with a Bachelor of Fine Art with a Three-Dimensional Emphasis and an Art History Minor.Kat crafted her technique throughout college while attending week-long residencies led by master glass artists such as David Salvadore, Nancy Callan, Kathy Gray and many others. As an ICG instructor, Kat teaches the art of fused glass and glass blowing and supports the Ignition team in flame working.

Sarah Beth Tanner

Artist/Instructor

Sarah Beth recently joined the ICG team as a fused glass instructor and places a key role in leading educational demo’s for ICG youth. Sarah Beth received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Musical Theater from Birmingham-Southern College, while also studying Studio Art (printmaking, design) with a focus on Art Glass. Her theater background encourages her instructor role while engaging ICG’s young artists and allowing them to think creatively when designing their art pieces.