BreAnna Kirkland Liberto, 23, founder and director of Clarion Center for the Arts and a 2014 graduate of Clarion University, has been named the Small Business Administration’s Pittsburgh 2017 Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

She will receive the award during a ceremony and open house from noon to 2 p.m. May 20 at Clarion’s 800 Center complex, where her business is located. As part of the celebration, members of the community are invited to enjoy face painting, karaoke, magnetic poetry, a photo booth, art and pizza, and “everyone will learn some dance steps, because moving makes people happy,” Liberto said.

A Clarion native who has been dancing since age seven and also plays piano and sings, Liberto initially majored in musical theater and minored in business. Her plans changed when, at age 19, her vision for an arts center piqued community interest.

She changed her major to business administration and earned a full academic scholarship, and she turned to Clarion University SBDC for help with finding a location and securing funds for the arts center.

CCA opened in 2013. Liberto’s mission is to partner with families in nurturing aspiring artists to grow into compassionate, confident and creative young leaders by providing quality instruction in a safe, professional and fun environment, fostering discipline and a love for the arts. The center offers classes in dance, music and theater.

Cindy Nellis, director of Clarion University SBDC, nominated Liberto for the award.

“I nominated BreAnna to recognize her and her accomplishments in just a few short years of being in business,” Nellis said. “BreAnna has created a unique business that strives to impact her students in more ways than just performing arts.”

Along with fostering creativity and self-expression, Liberto also instills the concepts of helping others and making a difference.

At the center, students receive Sparky Bucks as a reward for working hard during class, encouraging each other and resolving conflicts. Dollars can be used to buy items such as hair ties and stickers at CCA’s Sparky Store, or students can donate their dollars toward the purchase of a goat to help a family in need.

“My daughter has been dancing at Clarion Center for the Arts since she was three years old, and we couldn’t imagine dancing anywhere else,” said Erin Lewis of Clarion, whose daughter Lacie is a CCA student.  “The quality of instruction is superior, and the teachers always focus on the center’s mission to educate, empower and engage. CCA does not just teach my daughter how to plié and relevé – CCA fosters an environment of love, growth and support.”

For more information about CCA, visit

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