Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Bob’s Art Blog: Bill and Russ’s Excellent Adventures; “La Petite” at the Art Association

A glass piece by Ona Magaro

Does life imitate art or is it the other way around?

You may have thought for a second I made an error in the title’s characters names, and given the popularity that “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures” have garnered over the course of three films, you may say, “what gives?” The blog is not about those two “dudes of distinction?”

Hollywood hyperbole aside, the Harrisburg version actually includes adventures but the characters here are Bill and Russ, genial gentlemen about town. In their 27-year partnership, they have shared a penchant for glass objet’s d’art as their metier of choice and are passionate about collecting it in all its myriad forms. For some, the attraction may be coins, stamps, Pez dispensers, Fiesta Ware, you name it. If it can be categorically classified, it is a collection. In our admiration of beauty, whatever the form may be, one can develop a “love of” and from afar, bask in its glow. This may become crystal clear.

Present day finds Bill retired from the communications industry, having served as a field analyst for a major player over many years. Now, he fills his days preparing gourmet meals and maintaining order in their home. Russ is a claims supervisor, able to split his week between the office and working from the house. Bread-making has become his creative outlet with scheduling kitchen duties as fun, shared time together.

Over their nearly three decades together, the “souvenirs” that catch their eyes hold a certain luster. Sometimes, it’s the way the rays of the sun catch a prism of light; for others, the variety of colors or the way the object is formed with a distinct personality by its shape. No matter the piece, there is a story that brings it into their universe, often the journey taken to discover it or the memory attached. Not every adventure yields treasure, but the ones that do hold a deeper meaning. For what is a treasure without sentiment? Just a lofty, lovely, lonely work of art.

Light installation by Ona Magaro and Ira Cuehlo

The gallery tour began upon entering the foyer of their Harrisburg home. The overhead light installation was created by once local glass artist of renown, Ona Magaro, and Ira Cuehlo, who works majestically with metal. The illumination is an array of fluted multi-colored flowers that light the way in a cascading bouquet floating overhead. Magaro and Cuehlo’s works are museum worthy with artistry that defies description. Bill and Russ have culled their collection of glass art that ranges from ornate stemware to full-blown statuary found on their many trips. Being inveterate world travelers has taken them from the isles of Greece to the Islands of Hawaii, not to mention the great southwest. Favorite closer locales like Rehoboth Beach and the Finger Lakes draw the couple annually. Birthdays, anniversaries and even spur-of-the-moment, “lets-go-here” jaunts have resulted in unusual finds, many when least expected.

Their glass gallery grew out of a shared love of beauty and a fascination with artisanal blown glass. The first piece appropriated came from a gallery in Rehoboth aptly named Panache, French for “style.” The free-form, flower-like glass vessel purchased there is the centerpiece for their dining room table. Visiting Provincetown, Mass., a favorite destination of both, the two met artist Benton Jones, a highly sought after glass sculptor who specializes in recycled fabrications. He used glass from the first aquarium in the United States located in P-town. Out of his reconstituted art came a turquoise sea creature that “crawls” across their coffee table just as it once resided within the aquarium’s exhibit in different form. Another of his works was achieved by using a half sphere of an oceanic weather ball fired in a kiln just so to malleable perfection (pictured). Lastly, on a trip to a remote Hawaiian idyll named Volcano, a treasured piece was found at the 2400 Fahrenheit Gallery, named for the temperature where glass reaches the level to become molten. It was created by artist and owner Michael Mortara, whose creations grace Honolulu’s Contemporary Museum.

The calendar has flipped to November when the holidays take center stage. Entertaining for Bill and Russ this season means scaling back like for so many others. In years past they held an annual cocktail party of “create your own” with them supplying the ingredients. It was a gala their entire neighborhood looked forward to but, for now, it must remain a memory. They will be adhering to the “less is more” ethos for gatherings and keeping them small and intimate. Sound familiar?

The holidays are a time for reflection and for hope. Even in light of the year and its many challenges, there have been bright moments we cling to, the adventures of this journey we call life. For Bill and Russ, glass collecting is just one facet of their lives together, something they appreciate and remember when… On the surface, any collection holds value mainly to the collector. And yet the assemblage of glittering glass holds a fascination for friends and family, too. After all these years, the sparkle has not lost its shine. In fact, it reflects those many memories of their journey. Objects of beauty like glass come and go, but love lasts forever.


La Petite at the AAH

At what age does becoming an artist begin?

The youngest artist I met this year was all of 5 when I caught up with her at the Art Association of Harrisburg for its “La Petite Exhibition” for members only. The exhibit features smaller scaled works of art.

In human form, la petite Estella stood all of 39 inches tall and may very well be the youngest member at the association. She entered a shadow box of two clay figures, male and female, elaborately detailed and dressed in their finest. The couple looked like they were disco dancing underwater, complete with sparkly accessories. In fact, her piece is entitled “Under the Sea.” When I admired her work, she was modest to a fault, resting her head on her mother’s shoulder. Shy and a little embarrassed, she was hesitant to elaborate beyond her smile of appreciation and a polite “thank you.”

Her mother shared that the budding artist also creates and sells clay bead bracelets for kids and adults at the Tiger Eye Coffee Company/Art Gallery in Paxtang, with all proceeds going toward her college fund. Estella artfully blends all the colors used and forms intricate designs in round, cylindrical, oblong shapes, as well as creatures such as turtles and birds for the clay beads. In addition, she paints with wild abandon as well as plays the piano. Just starting kindergarten, this may be an artist to keep your eye on in the years ahead.

The Art Association of Harrisburg welcomes and encourages artists of all ages for membership and classes. For all young and young at heart, “La Petite Exhibition” is now in its final two weeks at the AAH running through Nov. 23, perfect for a 3rd in the Burg night on the town this Nov. 20. While you are there be sure to look for Estella’s shadow box. No snorkeling gear required.

The Art Association of Harrisburg is located at 21 N. Front St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit

Tiger Eye Coffee Co. is located at 3418 Derry St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

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