Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Bob’s Art Blog: A Year in Art

The painting of more than a dozen murals was a highlight of the year in art in Harrisburg.

With one year ended and another just beginning, “end of year lists” are a common feature in publications of all ilk. “Bob’s Art Blog” for TheBurg is no exception. In a year filled with great art happenings on both sides of the Susquehanna, there were many exhibits and events to choose from. So, here is a baker’s dozen—you be the judge.

Most likely to leap tall buildings: In September, Sprocket Mural Works’ unveiling of 14 spectacular citywide murals led right into the 31st edition of the Gallery Walk art tour. As always, Gallery Walk kicked off the fall art season under the auspices of the Art Association of Harrisburg’s CEO Carrie Wissler-Thomas, who celebrated her 40th year with the AAH.

Art tackles socially relevant issues in a way that words cannot accomplish. With just one painting or photograph, the collective conscious grasps the import and deeper meaning brought to light by its focus. In a year when social debate reached its zenith, art activist Carrie Breschi, at the Carlisle Arts Learning Center, mounted a show that resonates resoundingly almost a year later. Shining a much needed spotlight on the plight of the homeless and its ever growing population, Breschi, within her context of cardboard, “Home Sweet Home, The Real Faces of Homelessness,” struck at the very core of why art exists in the first place.

Right on CALC’s heels in terms of social awareness and its call for equality, the Art Association of Harrisburg’s dual show celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, which advanced the rights of the LGBT community. Curator Rachel O’Connor, with the blessing of Barry Loveland of the LGBT Center of Central Pennsylvania, presented a history in varied mediums of the community’s struggle for acceptance and inclusion. Paired with Maria Maneos’ “Brush With The Law” initiative, highlighting the opioid crisis through art, both exhibits struck home.

Beware the “Ides of March,” as March 15 began my journey in covering 3rd in the Burg art events. In the center ring upstairs at H*MAC, boxer Charles Bootleg Feathers met fellow avant-garde artist Gary Bartlett for a bare-knuckled brawl with the last man standing having bragging rights. In the end, it was a split decision. Both artists delivered a powerful punch with knocked-out art.

Earth Day was spent with Mother Earth, Vivian Sterste, and Father Time, Jackson “Jeb” Boyd, at Vivi on Verbeke, providing the perfect antidote from a long winter. Pottery, photography, pterodactyls and more brought the promise of spring, delivered to the door at 258 Verbeke St., Harrisburg. Over at CALC, an over-the-rainbow fantasy, curated by Cathy Stone, showed interpretive works from found-object sculptor, Sharon McCullough. It resembled Paris in the spring, with a darkly rich palette from painter Arlyn Pettingell’s advanced portrait studies of Parisian vocations. In the Upstairs Gallery, instructor Thomas Oakes’s collection of art from CPARC students demonstrated that disabilities have no bearing on creativity.

In the merry month of May, my birthday surprise was opening night for the Art Association’s 91st “International Juried Art Show.” Art from all over the world filled the upstairs and down, and curator O’Connor’s delightfully dizzying delivery of central PA artists made for quite an experience.

The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s 52nd edition of “Art of the State,” curated by Amy Hammond and Carol Buck, brought varied work from 100 artists selected statewide, representing 35 counties, to center stage for a star-studded awards ceremony, kicking off its three-month run in June. Pictured: “Best Seat in the House” by Donna Barlup.

Summer in the city brought “Picasso: A Life in Prints” to the Susquehanna Art Museum, which connected its Executive Director Alice Anne Schwab to the Big Apple’s John Szoke Gallery in New York City with serendipitous style. The erudite Mr. Szoke’s talk and gallery tour was one of the highlights of the summer season. Two late summer shows, one at the Carlisle Arts Learning Center with “This Place I Call Home,” featured the poetic photography of Lori Snyder and potent pottery of Kurt Brantner, providing a serious study in art appreciation. “Eclectic Energized,” across the river at AAH, presented the perfect counterpoint with psychedelic trappings from Enola artist Andrew Brodisch, as well as York-based portraitist Rone Del Galeone’s use of bold colors and brush strokes.

St. Stephen’s Riverfront Gallery upped the ante with its fall arrival of “Icons in Transformation,” a moving and monumentally meaningful show filled with a personal side of mourning, shared with the world by artist Ludmila Pawlowska.

What constitutes great art was shown to us on an August 3rd in the Burg, starting with the Millworks’ hive of activity. Artists were abuzz gearing up for the citywide Gallery Walk. Tara Chickey, art director for the Millworks, gave us the tour of artists’ studios, enabling us to meet a coterie of creatives. Venturing further up Verbeke, we experienced an Earth Day déjà vu, running into Vivi and Jeb out on their perfect-for-people-watching bench at Vivi’s. Capping off the night with a jolt of energy, Elyse Irvis, entrepreneur extraordinaire, elaborated at her eclectic enclave, La Cultura. On hand for the evening’s festivities was artist Dillon Mitchell. In the end, “Atmosphere, Relationships and Time” created the acronym ART for another memorable 3rd in the Burg.

Art displayed at Nyianga Store in Harrisburg.

October proved to be the busiest month on the art calendar. Paper Lion Gallery in Lemoyne opened it with a roar as owner Chuck Schulz brought an ancient Peruvian celebration in photographic splendor by Dilmar Santos to its freshly painted walls, displaying “Mamacha Carmen, The Festival of the Lady of Mt. Carmel” for its first new exhibit. Next was the celebration of American Craft Week at One Good Woman in Camp Hill with local painter’s Gail Coleman’s color-laden bursts of imagination, Toby Bouder’s wood-turned vessels in wonderfully wrought wood and Charlie Feathers’ teapot tureens in a highly creative presentation.

October’s 3rd in the Burg took us to meet Harrisburg’s newest gallery owner, Michael Hertrich, at his eponymous Hertrich Fine Art and Frame. In addition, Chantal Nga Eloundou, proprietress of her gallery/clothing and jewelry emporium, Nyianga Store, greeted us as we entered a bit of her native land, Cameroon. Closing out the 3rd, the Harrisburg Sketchers finished their run at the De Soto Gallery in the Susquehanna Art Museum. Also, Valerie Larko, artist of abandonedness, gave a tour of her paintings found off the highways and byways that she has come to know and love.

“It’s a Nice Night for a Picnic” by Peter Ydeen

November heralded a big top event, celebrating the 70th year for the Paxtang Art Association’s Annual Art Sale of over 3,000 paintings, led by ringmaster/instructor Nick Feher. Featured throughout, pop artist Michele Phillips, not of the Mamas and Papas but famous in her own right, displayed vibrantly colored and quirky character studies of people, places and animals. Over at SAM, Lauren Nye’s curation featuring Peter Ydeen’s haunting photographs of “Easton at Night” were safely locked up in the De Soto Vault with Inka Essenhigh’s “Other Worlds” showcased upstairs in the Main Gallery, which was like Dali meeting Disney. “War is Only Half the Story,” a photographic expose, rounded out the show.

December’s gifts came in small and big packages. One Good Woman’s original owners kicked off the month arriving back in town as Joe O’Connor, Poet Lariat, “roped” in a standing-room-only audience to hear his readings from his newly published book, “Why Poetry?” Joe and Holly were back for a one night only, closing out their fall book tour in their beloved Camp Hill.

The big red bow of a present waited to be untied at the State Museum of Pennsylvania as a gift to be treasured with its exhibit on muralist Violet Oakley’s preparatory sketches for her art depicted inside the state Capitol. As Midtown entered the new “Roaring 20’s,” the year-end icing on the cake was like an art salon of Paris in the 1920s with an open house by “Bootleg” Charlie Feathers and Reina “R76” Wooden, showcasing new works and admired by local luminaries and art lovers.

In the end, it was a memorable year and, judging by the exceptional works displayed, it is safe to say the art scene in central Pennsylvania is vibrantly alive and well.

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