Tag Archives: Lauren Nye

Natural Expressions: Breathtaking landscapes, focused on America, highlight new SAM exhibit

Frederic Edwin Church and DeWitt Clinton Boutelle, “Cotopaxi,” 1862, oil on canvas, 34.5” x 56”

“Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.”

The current exhibit at Susquehanna Art Museum—“In Nature’s Studio: Two Centuries of American Landscape”—is like the opening sentences of “America the Beautiful” come visually alive. The exhibit zeroes in on the rich bounty of American landscapes from the early-19th century through the late-20th century.

“In Nature’s Studio” encompasses early depictions of bucolic American vistas—intimate forest interiors, sweeping panoramic views of natural wonders and dramatic images of the untamed land and sea—with scenes of Europe, western Asia and South America, said Lauren Nye, director of exhibitions at SAM.

The exhibit, consisting of 43 works, begins by exploring how the Hudson River School of painting—a leading voice in American art until 1900 and the first uniquely American artistic movement—emerged. Founded in the mid-1800s by Thomas Cole, the movement grew out of the determination of American artists to become independent from the traditional European schools of painting and set off on their own.

Another new style embraced by artists in the 19th century was “tonalism.”

“It was inspired by the tone and rhythm of musical compositions and utilized a carefully chosen palette of colors,” Nye added. “It adapted a theatrical form of expression while working within the subject of landscapes.”

Another trend emerged at the turn of the century, when some artists delved into the popular European impressionist style. They used unique color combinations to capture the fleeting qualities of light by adapting French painting techniques to the American countryside.

One striking painting in the exhibit is Jasper Francis Cropsey’s 1846 “Passing Shower on a Spring Afternoon.” Perhaps due to his early career as an architect, Cropsey became a successful landscape painter known for sophisticated precision in rendering nature and capturing changeable, dramatic weather conditions.

George Wesley Bellows, represented in the exhibit by “The Launching,” was known for action paintings that depicted figures in motion. He was one of the organizers of the “Armory Show” of 1913, which introduced European modernist art to American artists and critics.

Although he remained a painter of realism, Bellows later demonstrated interest in modernist abstraction. He incorporated a greater range of color, experimented with composition and became increasingly taken by seascapes, Nye said.

Frederic Edwin Church sketched his first view of “Cotopaxi” in 1853 while on a tour of Colombia and Ecuador. He described the volcano as “one of the most majestic and awe-inspiring views I ever beheld in either hemisphere.”

Perhaps the best-known representative of the Hudson River School, Church studied with founder Cole. The two regularly toured the Catskill Mountains and the Berkshires of Massachusetts to create drawings and paintings.

According to SAM’s winter 2022 intern, Sylvia Menci, historic factors played a part in art. When the Americans defeated the British in the War of 1812, it brought about the end of British rule and the start of autonomy.

“This period was marked by economic growth, booming industry, and a growing middle class becoming more interested in art,” she said.

The exhibit underscored the belief that artists of the period had in such concepts as “natural religion,” “the magnificence of nature,” and “the significance of the fresh, untamed American scenery reflecting our national character, as opposed to the civilized European landscape,” she said.

Throw in the concept of Manifest Destiny, a phrase coined in 1845, the idea that the United States is destined—by God, its advocates believed—to expand its dominion and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent.

Native Americans often occupied the land featured in the exhibit’s paintings, but they themselves were largely absent from the works of the Hudson River School. When they did appear, they seemed to represent “primitiveness, a group of people from a bygone era, and something as old and wild as the landscape itself, “ Menci said.

“But artists generally preferred to portray the land as empty and ready for exploration,” she said.

“In Nature’s Studio,” organized by the Reading Public Museum, runs through May 22 in the Beverlee and Bill Lehr Gallery of the Susquehanna Art Museum, 1401 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit

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Bob’s Art Blog: The Year in Art 2021

 January brings annual “Best Of” lists, and Bob’s Art Blog fondly looks back in reviewing the myriad moments of art in 2021. The intention is to cover as many exhibits and artists as possible in this two-part blog. Categories abound, so I hope you enjoy hopscotching down memory lane. Even the Art of Vegetables, The Art of Making What’s Old, New Again and the Justice League of Art were covered.


Art in the Wild & Blue Yonder

Art from Art in the Wild

April heralded the return of Wildwood Park’s art opus, “Art in the Wild.” Seventeen installations were created, featuring 21 artists for the ninth edition. Carlisle newcomers came away this year’s winners with art activist Carrie Breschi and fiber artist Carol Reed, both of the Carlisle Arts Learning Center, taking first and second place. Veterans of all nine years, Beau and Jana MacGinnes and Aubrey McNaughton, as well as returnees Eve Gurbacki, Jill Lippert, Brook Lauer, Kareena Stellar, Chip Hitz, Richard and Maria Cary Joel, Lorayn McPoyle, Stephen Reinhart and Isabel Patterson comprised two thirds of this year’s participants.

The year 2021 marked the third edition of Sprocket Mural Works’ Mural Fest that ran from May through November, bringing the organization’s mural count to over 50. Thanks to the Sprocket team led by Megan Caruso and Jeff Copus, as well as over 300 volunteers and the ever-growing roster of marvelous muralists who continue to grace Harrisburg and York’s skylines.


Director, Director: “Action” from the Top

Photograph by Kim Love, part of AAH’s Community Exhibition Program

Art Association of Harrisburg: For a Harrisburg landmark institution approaching its century mark, the AAH has benefited greatly from the stellar leadership of Carrie Wissler-Thomas and her 42 years at the helm as CEO and president. When one considers that she has commandeered this “art monolith” for almost half its existence, it becomes all the more remarkable. It is through her vast experience that Harrisburg has been shaped by vehicles of her implementation like Gallery Walk, as well as new initiatives like the Community Exhibition Program.

Susquehanna Art Museum: As Alice Anne Schwab enters her seventh year as executive director of the only dedicated art museum in central Pennsylvania, SAM continues to provide timely and topical exhibitions under her tenure. Drawing upon her richly diverse resume, including institutions like the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, SAM’s commitment to culturally inclusive exhibits and events has flourished.

Carlisle Arts Learning Center: Executive Director Becky Richeson’s guidance has proved invaluable in steering the Carlisle art scene at CALC to become a leading nonprofit organization. Starting her ninth year at CALC, Richeson has led this art magnet as it proudly anchors Pomfret Street’s corridor of commerce, serving as a cultural hub for Carlisle residents.


Kicking Off Spring in Style

Designer Carley Furlow took the show’s title to heart, “Figuratively Speaking,” at the AAH in March. In a nod to the first full year of the pandemic, she fashioned a blouse out of black COVID masks and a skirt out of newspapers. Whoever said old news is just that hasn’t strutted the catwalk.

Art by Tina Berrier

Meanwhile the art director at Millworks, Tara Chickey, mounted the first new show for spring on Millworks’ lobby walls with a fab four of female impressionists and a guy thrown in for good measure. This erstwhile group made quite a statement, from Pamela J. Black’s palette gushing garden greens and cherry tomato reds to Tina Berrier’s cultural communiques with wildly imaginative interpretations of indigenous tribes. Amie Bantz paid tribute to her Korean heritage with on-point folk art. She took cues from the past and put her own unique spin on recognizable motifs, making magic happen. Tristan Bond let his imagination run wild with fantasy paintings, incorporating his interest in Manga and comic art. Not to be outdone by her colleagues, Chickey reached for the stars with a sunset-washed palette, simmering in shades of soft pink and turquoise, which follows a dancer’s dream.


Shows of the Year

Art by Stephen Dolbin

The Carlisle Arts Learning Center started spring with “I’m Fine,” a community-wide project that addressed mental health. Late summer found a blockbuster again at CALC, both upstairs and down. “Left Behind,” a two-man show from photographer Michael Hower and sculptor Stephen Dolbin, was impactful beyond words. The visual and tactile impressions made by these talented men paid testament to time immemorial, with a nod to society’s decay and discarded past. In viewing “Left Behind,” Stephen’s art made one consider the Native American’s role on this planet in paying tribute to the indigenous tribes as well as the birds of the sky and beasts of the land. Coupled with Michael Hower’s thought-provoking “Abandoned,” a series of photographs, this made for a powerhouse presentation.


Art by Amie Bantz

Art impresario, Amie Bantz mounted “Lunchbox Moments” in the upstairs gallery to an overflow crowd of patrons. Bantz took literal quotes from the Asian and Pacific Islander communities and presented them on lunchboxes to share the potent and poignant views that many from this population dealt with as kids in the school cafeteria. Often, heartbreaking and hurtful barbs were directed at them. Having grown up with years of negative comments about her traditional lunch fare, Amie knew that the feelings of shame were shared community-wide and the hundreds of lunchboxes mounted on the wall attested to that. The artist herself stated, “The only way to reduce hate is if we find common ground.”

St. Stephen’s Riverfront Gallery produced a heavenly body of art, receiving commissioned works from 28 artists throughout the country for its show, “Decolonizing Christ.” The art depicted Christ as a person of color and demonstrated individual interpretations both of this realm and beyond our earthly grasp. Lori Sweet, artist of distinction, won the Bishop’s Award for her beatific painting, “The Healer.”

Art by Kelly McGee Curran

At the same time, Kelly McGee Curran mounted her “Purify” show in a series of paintings for the Millworks exhibit that was a year in the making. The spiritual tribute to her native heritage shown forth as her journey resulted in a spiritual quest to obtain a level of purity in spirit.

The Art Association boldly brought “lowbrow art” to its main gallery walls with a quartet of four “artistic gunslingers” who shook up the status quo with the exhibit, “Nothing Pretty.” Desperadoes Krissy Whiski, Tina Berrier, Sean Arce and Ted Walke faced off with sheriff Carrie Wissler-Thomas and gallery curator, Rachel O’Connor. Who was left standing at the end? They all rode off into the sunset together.


Curator, Wherefore Thou Art?

Shows of the year become just that under the skillful hands of the gallery curator and in the unique paring of artists and themes. In recognition of Black History Month, the Susquehanna Art Museum’s director of exhibitions, Lauren Nye, continued the museum’s tradition of showcasing the legacy and breadth of the African American experience, with art pertaining to the history of the African diaspora. From Romare Bearden and Alma Thomas to the museum’s “Sun + Light” exhibit in February by South Carolinian artist Charles Edward Williams, Nye featured the cultural contributions of the Black community.

Lauren Nye, Susquehanna Art Museum’s director of exhibitions

Rachel O’Connor, curator at the Art Association of Harrisburg, was cooking on all four burners at the city’s longstanding art institution. She started with the 93rd Annual Juried Exhibit, then came “Nothing Pretty” at the AAH, and she closed out the year in grand style with “Situated: Confronting Identity.”

Cathy Stone, curator at the Carlisle Arts Learning Center, waited over half a year before the first artist reception was held, but it was well worth it. A blockbuster doubleheader at the gallery, both upstairs and down, opened in August to a packed house. “Left Behind” and “Lunchbox Moments” made for an over-the-top visual knockout punch. Stone is adept at creating unique parings, often juxtaposing disparate artists to create a frisson that complements each other perfectly.


Masters of the House

Jackson Boyd and Vivian Sterste

Gallery owners Vivian Sterste and Jackson Boyd celebrated eight years in Midtown at their Vivi on Verbeke art haven. There is a balance between the two partners, with Vivi’s pottery and paintings seesawing in tandem with Jeb’s photography as the gallery’s main focus. Vivi’s “River Series” mugs pair perfectly with Jeb’s images of bridges and the Susquehanna River. A highlight of the gallery has been community paintings completed by neighbors and friends that are part of the Broad Street Market.

Gallery at 2nd reopened for July’s 3rd in the Burg for a four-month run and will resume hours sometime in April. Owners Ted and Linda Walke filled the studios with the art of sculptor Chad Whitaker, mixed media artist Keegan Beinhower, cartoonists Sean Arce and Rance Shepstone. Adding a female trio of Johanna Martin, Angelica Rios and Ashley Russo helped to bring a different perspective to the fall season.

An important addition to Harrisburg’s gallery scene, Nyeusi opened the day before Gallery Walk in September, and its reception has been overwhelming. Partners Dr. Dale Dangleben and Michelle Green have dedicated the gallery to African, Caribbean and African American art. The upscale gallery features many local artists as well as global contributors to this sparkling gem. Cultural events are a mainstay on the calendar monthly.

Art by Paul Nagle, showcased at Metropolis Collective

Metropolis Collective of Mechanicsburg is often considered the alternative gallery whose reputation is synonymous with the avant-garde and cultural cognoscenti who march to a different beat. Its discordant rhythm comes from Richard Reilly, rock and roller, as well as Hannah Dobek, gallery director and artist in residence. Together, they unleash musical performances, artists a plenty and their own brand of hipness. 17 W. Main St is the address for finger-snapping beat approval.



Maestros of Midtown

Anyone who lives in Harrisburg knows there is only one true maestro and that is Stuart Malina, long-time conductor of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra. I affectionately named a contingency of emerging artists the “Maestros of Midtown.” The diverse group, always in flux, occupied the venerable Civic Club four times over the course of the year with seasonal art shows. Initially led by Reina Wooden and Charlie Feathers, the leader’s baton got handed to Brad Maurer of The Cercus insect cartoons.

The “Maestros of Midtown” at the Civic Club

The consistent core group was comprised by Harrisburg Magazine’s co-artist of the year, Bethany Nicholle, painter Grace (colorursoul) Robinson and mixed media artist, Nora Carreras. The full roster included no less than 31 members, equal to, say, a small symphony. There were a number of repeat performers in the orchestra including Claudie Kenion, sculptor Chad Whitaker, painter Jonathan Frazier and photographers Larry Washington Jr., Jelani Splawn and Jemar Sweets. Entrepreneurs Darius Davis, Quincy Yates and Jamie Earle all enhanced the mix of products offered.

Art by Nora Carreras

Keegan Beinhower and the HuckleBuckle Boys, Zack Rudy and Garrick Dorsett, brought their own unique brand of art. Douglas Beard created artisanal lamps, and painter Tyler Minnich demonstrated his work in progress. Beyond the aforementioned female artists, the other mainstays were Carrie Feidt, painter, Jeannine Marie (savagehabitexchange.com) and her upcycled clothing, Nicole Herbert and her ceramics, Lily Roque and Ghost Bae tattoo artists and painters, joined by artist Ruby Doub. A special guest appearance was made by “La Petite,” Estella McNaughton with her one-of-a-kind clay bead bracelets.



3rd in the Boro: Forecast; A Wintry Mix VI

Detail, “January” By Hannah Dobek

The letters “HD,” the abbreviated form for “high definition,” also are the initials for Hannah Dobek, gallery director for the Metropolis Collective in Mechanicsburg. In her case, HD means highly detailed as she is always thinking of the slightest ingredient needed to complete the bigger picture. For the Metropolis upcoming annual event on Jan. 21, the entire frame almost comes into focus for a 3rd in the Boro evening at 17 W. Main St., from 7-11 p.m. And yet due to her penchant for holding back surprises, the art previews for “A Wintry Mix VI: Tangled Up In Blue” only reveal portions of the art selected. Hannah shrewdly shared “glimpses as in detail shots only…because if we show the entire piece people have no incentive to come see the work in person.” For this Friday’s event, masks will be required with social distancing strongly urged. The show’s title borrows from Bob Dylan’s 1975 hit song “Tangled Up In Blue,” the featured cut from his 15th studio album, “Blood on the Tracks.” The attention to detail in framing the event in its entirety is what sets Ms. Dobek apart from other gallerists. Her partner in chime is the musical half of the duo, owner Richard Reilly, who commandeers the backstage. Performing her poetry and song ballads is the modern folk singer, Donna Jean Foster. She has produced an album rich with high production values showcasing luminescent lyrics with a voice that puts the message and mood across in perfect harmony for the uncertain times we live in.

Detail, “Stupid Snake, You’re the Boss” By Jamison Eckert

“Tangled Up in Blue” offers the clue that the show’s theme centers around the color and, knowing Hannah, it will cover all the bases. Beyond the color, there is feeling blue, turning blue in the cold, nothing but blue sky and ocean blue, with all artist submissions needing to address an aspect of the color or mood. Creatives featured in the show include local artist of renown, Paul Nagle, and also throughout the continental U.S. They include Alexis Manduke, Emily Paige, Jude Screnzi, Jamison Eckert, Nina Rubin Mantione as well as artist-in-residence, Hannah herself. Ms. Dobek often finds herself in the universe of David Lynch, so will she be wearing “Blue Velvet” for the show? The original song was released in 1963 by Bobby Vinton and covered recently by Lana del Rey. Very possibly, when the doors open at Metropolis on Friday evening, perhaps blue velvet curtains will be drawn back to reveal art that is “tangled up in blue.” Don’t be left out in the blue as there may be a sense of loss for missing out on a surefire way to start 2022.

Stay tuned for Part II coming soon.

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Bob’s Art Blog: African American Art at the SAM, behind the scenes with Lauren Nye

The exhibit “Sun + Light” has opened at the Susquehanna Art Museum. Shown: “American Dream,” oil and gesso on watercolor paper, by Charles Edward Williams

Black History Month is an annual observance originating in the United States, where it is also known as African American History Month. It began as a way of remembering important people as well as the events in the history of the African diaspora.

The idea behind celebrating African American achievements originated in 1915 by historian Carter S. Woodson, along with other prominent African American figures of that era. The group chose the second week of February 1926 to celebrate Negro History Week, which has since evolved to Black History Month. The week was symbolic in that it was the same week as the birthdays of former President Abraham Lincoln and of Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and prominent abolitionist. In the late 1960s, the week celebration became a month-long event.

Since the Susquehanna Art Museum (SAM) moved to Midtown in 2015, the vaunted art institute has featured numerous exhibitions that highlight the many contributions the African American community has made and continues to make in the art world. It has long been central to the narrative for SAM to prominently promote the myriad metamorphoses that the community of artists has undergone over time.

Starting in 2016, the landmark exhibit, “African American Art since 1950: Perspectives from the David C. Driskell Center,” showcased 49 works from 42 artists that included renowned creatives Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Chakaia Booker, Sam Gilliam and others. This moving tribute was followed up by the extensive “Romare Bearden: Vision & Activism,” drawn from the namesake’s foundation over the summer months in 2018. Bearden was one of the most important visual artists of the 20th century. Included in that exhibit were original collage, rare archival materials, watercolors and even magazine covers. That brings us to current day, in which SAM shares two exhibits incorporating the African American point of view from New York-based painter Felrath Hines and Philadelphian Alma Thomas with “The Modernists: Witnesses to the 20th Century.”

Additionally, with a one-man show by South Carolinian Charles Edward Williams, entitled “Sun + Light,” the museum has embraced its mission statement of inclusivity as almost an institutional imperative, making art accessible to all. Case in point was the recent special opening to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, during which SAM offered free admission and parking to the general public. Executive Director Alice Anne Schwab related that the daylong event was “extremely well attended and the responses one of appreciation and thanks.”

A wall featuring portraits in “Sun + Light”

Anyone who has stood before a monumental work of art at the Susquehanna Art Museum at the Marty over the past seven years has indirectly admired the professional purview of Lauren Nye, the museum’s director of exhibitions. Part curator, part administrator, part conductor, Nye is also the magician behind the scenes who makes memorable art just appear–were it that simple! Truth be told, it’s not, but Nye makes it look that way. The ebb and flow of art arriving in a meaningful manner on gallery walls is a well-devised plan that takes an inordinate amount of thought. Rarely does the director of exhibitions/curator ever hear the round of applause at the end of a museum visit. So, it’s a measurable tribute when accolades are generously given by art patrons.

We experienced that firsthand after a preview through the museum for the most recent exhibit. Lauren led the tour, adding the art’s backstory. Over the years, numerous exhibits at SAM bear revisiting under the watchful eye of Nye and her poetic placement of art. Selecting and procuring the art takes the job description to a whole other level. This is where the art history education plays a pivotal role, so crucial in completing the puzzle.

A 2010 graduate from Millersville University, Nye holds a BFA in sculpture and art history. Stints at Tellus360 and at the now-defunct Isadore Gallery led to her current position at SAM, where she’s about to begin her eighth year. A Lancaster transplant, she now calls Midtown Harrisburg her home professionally and personally.

Social relevance, part and parcel, has always been a mainstay in the approach that Nye uses in bringing art to the forefront. In conjunction with the current exhibition upstairs in the main gallery, “The Modernists,” Nye features the art of Charles Edward Williams, a visual artist from South Carolina in the lobby gallery. This must-see exhibit is taken from the Williams series, “Everyone Loves the Sunshine,” which “strikes a balance between both the peaceful and violent protests of the Civil Rights movement.” The artist drew inspiration from that era of the 1960s. The new exhibit, entitled “Sun + Light,” runs through April 11.

“Sun + Flower” by Charles Edward Williams, oil on watercolor paper

“Sun + Light” was organized by the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College. The Williams exhibit takes an uplifting approach, framing the Civil Rights movement in an ethereal light. Its luminescence bathes the subject matter, as well as the viewer, inviting them to participate in the triumphant spirit of the American dream. A grouping of three portraits is “Yellow (Freedom Riders),” a study in commitment to the cause. Williams shared that his grandmother’s belief was to “stay in the light, stay positive.” As a contemporary artist, Williams embraces her philosophy consistently through his timely art.

On a global stage, 2021 promises us more social discourse regarding equality across all borders and fronts—when and where all races, colors and creeds need to be treated equally for the betterment of the human race. That marathon has been run since the dawn of time, one that none of us can afford to lose. If the past year has taught us anything, it is how very precious human life is regardless of our color and beliefs. In the end, we are truly all the same, one heart that beats and breaks, just like that of our neighbor. That is a cause worth keeping in our collective heart working towards justice for all. Only then will the picture be complete and the masterpiece as it should be.

PA Auditor General Tim DeFoor sits in his office next to “The Keystone Kings,” a painting by Reina Wooden (R76).

It is noteworthy to acknowledge the recent swearing in of Timothy L. DeFoor as the 52nd auditor general of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which took place on Jan. 19. Mr. DeFoor’s political career encompasses a number of firsts. He was the first African American to win election to a county row office in Dauphin County as its controller, serving two terms. In his new role as the state’s auditor general, he is also the first African American to hold that position.

Artist Reina Wooden (R76) met Mr. DeFoor years ago at a gala sponsored by the Latino Hispanic American Community Center. In congratulating Mr. DeFoor on his recent swearing in, Reina sent him the Black Wall Street magazine featuring her painting, “The Keystone Kings,” on its cover. Today, her original painting hangs on the wall in Mr. DeFoor’s office in the state Capitol complex.

It is with great pleasure that Bob’s Art Blog announces the recent news that local artist Natalie Dohman (pictured) has been accepted as an artist in residence at Chateau d’Orqueveaux in Champagne’ Ardenne, France. Its mission is to select artists who desire to grow and continue their journey of artistic expression. Look for Natalie’s upcoming one-woman show at the Paper Lion Gallery in Lemoyne opening on March 6.

For more information on the Susquehanna Art Museum, visit their website.

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Bob’s Art Blog: “The Modernists: Witnesses to the 20th Century,” an Exhibition Review

“Moon Forms” by William Baziotes, 1947, oil on canvas

The landmark exhibit, “The Modernists: Witnesses to the 20th Century” at the Susquehanna Art Museum at the Marty breaks new ground in revealing a modern point of view felt worldwide in its approach to art.

When the curtain was raised on the 20th century, dramatic transition was under way in virtually every facet of life. During the first half of that century, inventions would include the automobile and the airplane. Revolution and political upheavals became commonplace, and the world bore witness to two major wars as well as the pandemic of 1918, which took a huge number of lives all over the globe. A blanket of pathos covered the earth over the loss of those lives.

The arena of art proved to be no exception and was rife for bold new means of expression. The realism that had pervaded for nigh on 200 years was supplanted by abstraction in its use of shapes, color and form to achieve its effect. Abstract impressionism produced a zeitgeist all its own, pushing new territories that later led to cubism, Dadaism and surrealism. These avant-garde branches of art defined the new era. Art opened avenues for political discourse and civic engagement crossing geographical divides.

Lauren Nye, director of exhibitions at SAM, has collected a survey of art from the dawn of the 20th century and pushes that forward to the early 1960s, stopping short of postmodernism in its presentation. Nye has assembled an international grouping of acclaimed artists that includes Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and encompasses Americans Albert Bloch, N.C. Wyeth, Alma Thomas and Felrath Hines among others.

Serving as prime example is artist Hines, with his oil-on-canvas work entitled, “Church” (pictured, photo by Greg Staley). In this painting, he adeptly straddles the worlds found between realism and cubism with an overlapping of the two. The subject, a church, is recognizable as such, but cubist elements encroach in the rendering of the sun rising on the horizon. Hines came to prominence in the New York art scene both as an artist and conservator.

Pittsburgh-born William Baziotes, a painter of abstract expressionism and surrealism, was fascinated with the element of mystery found in many of his works. “Moon Forms,” an oil on canvas from 1947, tackles an icon, the moon, but his take pushes abstract interpretations to a whole new level, depicting the night sky friend as a pastiche of color, shape and intrigue. Baziotes immersed himself in both forms of art, often blurring the lines between the two in creating a universe purely of his own making.

Art exhibitions are often scheduled two years in advance, allowing lending institutions the necessary time to wrap and ship major works of art to a specific destination, albeit the museum in receipt of the materials. In addition to the art, guest speakers and consultants to the exhibit need to coordinate specific dates for in-house panels and dialogue with museum patrons. Given that Alice Anne Schwab, the executive director, and Nye could not have guessed that a global pandemic would have the world in its grip just months before its latest offering makes “The Modernists” all the more timely. The exhibit runs through May 16 in the Lehr Gallery.

Rewind the clock to 100 years ago, and the Spanish influenza of 1918 created the same deadly results the world is faced with today. These international idealists addressed social injustice on a grand scale and a global stage, much like what is now occurring. You have the basis for what artists faced then and now. History has a certain way of repeating itself. “Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos” wrote Stephen Sondheim. Who knows, maybe 100 years from now, there will be a new exhibit with fresh art created set against the backdrop of this pandemic, just as powerful and poignant as “The Modernists” is today.


Millworks Artists Return – Shop Small Saturday for the Holidays 

It is said “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Sometimes, you don’t know how much you miss something until you don’t have it. It was with great joy when the announcement was made that the Millworks would reopen on Nov. 11. A major draw, outside of eating and drinking as well as socializing, the Millworks holds a haven of artists housed within its interior. Tara Chickey, art director, now has a full roster of 41 artists that reside in 17 studios, including five new artists to welcome to the fold. New to the Millworks mix are Amie Bantz and Tristan Bond, joining Lauren Castillo in Studio 322. Phil Wells moves into Studio 213 with Lyes and Lathers. Over in 318, Reina Wooden (R76) joins artists Andrew Guth and Erik of Owl Greek Supply. Art of the Earth finds rich soil with Rachel Lowe in 214.

Artist Amie Bantz in her Millworks studio

What better time of year than the holidays to shop local, support homegrown talent and to tell these artists on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28, that they mean the world to you. And while you are supporting them, stop in and relax at the Millworks with its new fall menu of food, drinks and brews. Starting on Small Business Saturday, the Millworks gift shop, brew shop and studios will be opening at noon every Saturday through Christmas.

And if you are on the West Shore, two more veteran galleries are perfect for holiday shopping. Carlisle Arts Learning Center (CALC) at 38 West Pomfret St. is a veritable, visual and tactile feat of art with gifts galore from its members for its “Art For the Holidays” shop, which runs through Dec. 30. Be sure to stop in and meet Curator Cathy Stone and Director Becky Richeson on your visit.

Village Artisans Gallery in Boiling Springs has become an institution at 321 Walnut St. in the heart of the village. It is the dream child of P.J. Heyman. The gallery represents over 200 artists with gifts artistic and unique.

Shop local, shop small and stand tall. Happy holidays to all.

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Comfy, Clean, Arty: Dustin Taylor elevates his Airbnb with a curated, rotating collection of local art

Local art hangs on the walls of Dustin Taylor’s Airbnb.

Bread gets stale. Relationships can become boring. Even home décor has a shelf life.

That’s why Dustin Taylor, who works in technical sales for Microsoft but is a recreational real estate investor in his off-hours, decided he needed something different to keep one of his Midtown Harrisburg Airbnbs fresh.

Inspiration came just a block away when he walked into Little Amps at Green and Muench streets. While waiting, he was drawn to the local artwork for sale on the walls of the coffee shop. It was a “eureka” moment.

“I thought, ‘I can do that,’” he said. “There’s got to be plenty of local artists looking for places to exhibit their stuff.”

Taylor continued to ponder the idea.

“Traveling, your spirits are elevated because you’re traveling, and you’re more open to seeing things like artwork,” he said. “You might think, ‘I might like to buy that.’”

He contacted several arts organizations before the Susquehanna Art Museum put him in touch with its director of exhibitions, Lauren Nye, who is also a freelance art consultant, to help find artists and curate their work at his Delaware Street Airbnb.

Taylor asked Nye to put together work by 12 local artists for the first exhibition at his Airbnb. They are thinking of rotating artwork every six months.

“So many artists responded positively saying, ‘I have so much work sitting around’—about 30 to 50 artists,” Nye said. “I told them this is sort of an experiment.”

Artists were eager to help prove the hypothesis.

“When Lauren invited me to participate, I was immediately enthusiastic,” said Gail Coleman of Mechanicsburg. “It is important to be open to new and creative ways to exhibit visual art. The idea that original local art can be an attraction to potential Airbnb visitors makes so much sense.”

After selecting the pieces, Nye writes a label to describe the art and the artist, how they’re connected locally, artists’ websites, the cost of the work and shipping information.

“It’s a little bit like an integrated gallery experience,” she said.

She hangs the pieces and handles sales, if any guests request to buy the art.

“The person who is going to plunk down $100 [some pieces go for more than $500] on a piece of artwork isn’t everyone,” Taylor said. “I don’t know what I should expect.”

As of this writing, no pieces had sold in the five months since the art was hung, but that isn’t their only goal.

“Even if their work doesn’t sell, the artists get a little self-promotion,” Nye said, adding that the experience of “living” with art is much different than viewing it in a gallery.

For that reason, Coleman said that she usually looks for “art” Airbnbs when she travels, as does photographer Deb Schell of Harrisburg, another artist whose work is exhibited. She recalled an artist’s small house where she stayed outside of Denver, Colo., last year that featured work by the artist, her daughter, lots of plants and light that was just “so unique and interesting.”

“So, when I saw the call for artists for this, I thought that would be cool,” Schell said.

Taylor and Nye both note that artists are protected by Airbnb’s insurance, so they don’t have to worry about damage or loss. Additionally, Taylor said he priced his property to attract “pretty responsible” guests.

Nye’s typical freelance work as an art contractor includes installing art in people’s homes and offices and helping facilitate art sales, but she’s never done something like a whole house.

“I think there’s lots of types of spaces that would benefit from original artwork,” Nye said. “People often default to inexpensive things when dealing with a space.”

Cheap, commercial pieces become “background noise,” Nye said, little more than something to fill an empty wall.

“Having original artwork that is eye-catching enriches your space,” she said. “You’re actually experiencing something that someone has put a lot of time and love into.”

That Taylor was the visionary for an arty Airbnb makes him chuckle a little.

“I have an appreciation for the general arts community as a whole, and I’m certainly glad to foster that,” he said. “This is my first foray into art.”

His Midtown Airbnb is promoted as an “Airbnb Plus,” which means he has a checklist to ensure that guests get a top-of-the-line experience. He stocks the kitchen with food and drinks—including alcohol—has a computer and printer, bicycles and other amenities not always found in your average Airbnb.

Even with COVID cutting into travel, Taylor’s two units (he has another around the corner on Susquehanna Street) are booked.

“The house is decorated with local art, has all the amenities you could think of (bikes were a huge plus), and is extremely clean,” wrote a guest named Christine, who stayed at the Delaware Street house in May. “We… are so grateful to have had such a beautiful home to stay in during our time in Harrisburg.”

Taylor recently considered that, along with local art, he could add local charm by stocking Little Amps coffee, alcohol from Midstate Distillery, Hershey bars and other local products to really give his guests a “taste” of the region.

“The only problem now is I wish people would buy it,” Taylor said of the art on the walls of his Airbnb. “I was thinking I should buy some for myself.”

Dustin Taylor’s Airbnb is located at 266 Delaware St., Harrisburg. To find out more, visit www.airbnb.com.

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Diamonds are Forever: SAM exhibit honors Negro Leagues centennial.

Painting by Graig Kreindler, “Quiet Confidence”

The answer: Visibility. Status. Power.

The question: What can art restore to our collective memories of Negro League ballplayers, their careers and significance often lost in time?

The Susquehanna Art Museum’s “Separate and Unequaled: Celebrating the 100th anniversary of The Negro League” revives the images of the men—and a few women—who played baseball when legally sanctioned prejudice kept them off Major League diamonds.

The exhibit, suggested by Harrisburg-area Negro Leagues researcher Ted Knorr, commemorates the centennial of the Negro National League, formed to provide high-level opportunities for African-American players.

Just like sports, art breaks boundaries by raising awareness of overlooked cultures and moments, said SAM Executive Director Alice Anne Schwab.

“Harrisburg had one of the preeminent Negro League teams here, and I don’t think that’s so well known in all walks of life,” she said. “It’s so cool to be able to tell that story.”

The exhibit spotlights 11 works from four artists.

Graig Kreindler’s Josh Gibson seems about to stand up and stare down any pitcher who dared test the legendary slugger. Phillip Dewey’s Hank Aaron takes a mighty swing, while peepholes reveal images of Little Rock High School’s raucous desegregation and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In Paul Kuhrman’s portrayal of three women uniformed players from a novelty exhibition team, Mamie Johnson, Toni Stone and Connie Morgan, link arms like Raphael beauties.

And Herbert “Rap” Dixon strikes the classic ballplayer’s pose, right hand on knob of bat like a cane, left hand on hip. Dixon’s image, framed by Dewey in ornate wood, represents the Harrisburg Giants, a team whose 1920s iteration played a brief but crucial role in Negro League history.

“Though they were world-class athletic talents, because of segregation, they were not given the same opportunity that equally talented or lesser white players had,” said SAM Director of Exhibitions Lauren Nye.


Giant Footprints

Around 1890, Harrisburg newspapers started referencing the baseball team formed by the civic-minded, entrepreneurial Colonel William Strothers. Strothers (“Colonel” was his given name) was once a police officer in his adopted city of Harrisburg. He founded a pool hall, cigar store, lunchroom and barbershop.

Through it all wove baseball. Organized play by African-American players on segregated and integrated teams in Harrisburg dated to 1867. When creation of the National Negro League and the Eastern Colored League division introduced organization and an elevated stage to African-American baseball’s patchwork of teams, Strothers made up his mind to compete.

Dixon was a key selection. He started as a 13-year-old slugger in 1916 for his hometown Keystone Giants in Steelton. Playing around town, he caught the eye of Strothers.

“Dixon doesn’t have to go to New York or Baltimore to play,” said Knorr. “The Major Leagues are coming to him.”

Then there was Oscar Charleston, considered one of the greatest ballplayers of all time. Charleston had power, hitting, fielding, throwing and running equal to the all-time greats on both sides of the color line.

In September 1922, Charleston and his Indianapolis ABCs played the Harrisburg Giants. This may have been when he met a young, widowed, Harrisburg preacher’s daughter named Jane Blalock Howard. They married in 1922. So, when Strothers came calling with an offer to serve as player-manager for the Giants, Charleston was ready.

Strothers bankrolled the highest-paid team in the Negro League, and, from 1924 through 1927, the Harrisburg Giants are “Major League-equivalent,” said Knorr. Charleston, Dixon and teammate Fats Jenkins comprised what Knorr called “the greatest outfield ever to play the game, certainly in the Negro Leagues.”

Before leaving the soon-to-fold ECL in 1927, the Giants amassed the league’s second-best record but never won a pennant. Strothers died in 1933, but the Giants reemerged in various versions over the years.

How good were those 1920s Giants? Five former Harrisburg players, including the intact Dixon-Charleston-Jenkins outfield, played in 1932 for the Pittsburgh Crawfords, considered one of the greatest teams in Negro Leagues history. Charleston and Giants teammate Ben Taylor are among 35 Negro Leaguers in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Others, including Dixon, have been nominated.

Dixon would go on to become the first African American to hit a home run at Yankee Stadium. That was in the first game of a 1930 Negro League exhibition double-header. In the second game, he hit two more.


In Their Eyes

Exton, Pa.-based artist Dane Tilghman submitted two works to the SAM exhibit, including the Larry Doby painting. His work has incorporated African-American players for about 30 years, since his flea-market find of baseball cards dedicated to Negro League players.

In Tilghman’s travels, he met surviving players, seeking out details for the stories he wanted to tell. He felt blessed to meet many players in their final years, soaking up their wisdom and seeing “how they would gleam when they started talking about the particular players they played against and how they fared against the Major League guys.”

“They brought everything they had to the game,” Tilghman said. “A Negro League game on a Sunday afternoon would fill any of the Major League stadiums. You could see it in their eyes.”


Harrisburg Hits

A few “Harrisburg, who knew?” moments in African-American baseball history include:

  • The 1868 meeting of the National Association of Base Ball Players that yielded the first written rule against integration was held in Harrisburg, said Harrisburg historian Calobe Jackson, Jr.
  • The powerhouse pitcher Rube Foster traveled to Harrisburg for games early in the 20th century. After retiring, he founded the Negro National League to recast a system that shuttled African-American teams to inferior venues and put them under the financial thumb of booking agents.
  • Most of the players in the SAM exhibit played in Harrisburg, where the strategic convergence of roads and railroads attracted top teams, said Jackson.
  • As a child in the 1930s, Warren, Pa., native Robert Peterson witnessed the Harrisburg Giants barnstorming against a white team. That game sparked Peterson’s curiosity about African-American baseball, according to Jackson. The historian’s landmark 1970 work, “Only the Ball Was White,” helped trigger the movement that enshrined Negro League players in the Hall of Fame.
  • During World War II, Pittsburgh Pirates great Honus Wagner managed the Harrisburg-St. Louis Stars on a fundraising tour for the war effort.

 “Separate and Unequaled,” runs through July 19 at the Susquehanna Art Museum, Pollock Education Center Gallery, 1401 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. This schedule may change due to COVID-19 restrictions. For more information, visit www.susquehannaartmuseum.org.

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Bob’s Art Blog: SAM’s Surprise & Millworks Saturdays

A big celebration was afoot recently at the Susquehanna Art Museum.

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you are over the age of 5, unless you are my granddaughter, who is precocious. I know what you’re thinking, “She’s your granddaughter.” That aside, someone much bigger, think grand-scale big, just celebrated their birthday.

Founded in 1989 by a group of arts educators, the Susquehanna Art Museum (SAM) today provides a perfect anchor to the 1400-block of N. 3rd Street. All the more reason to strike up the band in celebrating SAM’s fifth Midtown birthday, which was on Jan. 23.

There is an old saying from the days of dime novels, “Will it play in Peoria?” That query was code for—will it be well received by mainstream America? For years, Peoria was a test market for you-name-it, due to its representation for middle America.

Having lived most of my life in this area, I can honestly say that central PA is on the cusp of being a metropolitan hub, branding its own taste for culture. This is represented by the handsome addition five years ago of the new Susquehanna Art Museum and its neighbors, such as the Millworks, Midtown Cinema, Midtown Scholar, Elementary Coffee, HMAC’s revitalization and the list goes on.

The growth of SAM under the leadership of Executive Director Alice Anne Schwab and its board of directors has taken what once could have been viewed as a risky venture and turned it into a jewel of the 3rd Street corridor. It links Midtown Harrisburg to downtown through events like its summertime partnership with the State Museum of Pennsylvania. Its educational art mobile, Van Go! On Wheels, reaches 20,000 students annually, and SAM brings major art shows to its grand galleries.

Its biggest asset, consistently on point, is the groundbreaking art exhibits that take center stage. From Romare Bearden to “Picasso: A Life in Print,” there have been an array of outstanding shows in its recent history. In 2020, stay tuned for more.

They say that, in business, the first five years are crucial, and it takes reinvestment to grow. Knowing Alice Anne and her team of Lauren Nye, Tina Sell, Ross Tyger and an outstanding group of volunteers behind the scenes, SAM will continue to give back to Midtown, creating even more avenues for art, and you can take that to the De Soto Vault.

So, to answer the question—will it play in Harrisburg? Most definitely, yes. SAM, besides being open  six days a week, offers amenities that major museums in metropolitan areas like New York and Washington, D.C., also offer. These include members-only art salons on summer evenings, special gallery tours by exhibition artists and visits by art aficionados such as John Szoke of his world-famous New York City gallery. Most important of all, SAM is the only dedicated art museum in central PA.

At the birthday bash, Dauphin County Parks and Recreation Director Carl Dickson made the opening remarks. Speaking on behalf of the county commissioners, he read from a proclamation declaring Jan. 23, 2020, as Susquehanna Art Museum Day in Dauphin County, commending SAM’s “enduring impact in the region.”

Keynote speaker J. Randall Grespin, chair of SAM’s development committee, then revealed noteworthy news to all, a crowd of over 150 staunch supporters and art patrons who gathered to celebrate. He announced that the successful “Bridge to the Future” capital campaign raised more than $3 million.

“Now we can think about not just surviving but thriving,” Grespin said. “We can explore how to expand our programs’ reach beyond the museum’s walls. We can envision a beautiful art and event space in our adjacent courtyard or a new VANGo! to replace one that has served more than 55,000 children.”

Philanthropist Marty and Tom Philips of Lemoyne (and Naples, Fla.) pledged a total of $2 million over 20 years if the museum could raise $1 million in matching funds by the end of 2019, which they accomplished. In recognition of this generous gift, the museum now is proudly referred to as the Susquehanna Art Museum at the Marty and Tom Philips Family Art Center, or in its abbreviated form, SAM at the Marty. Perhaps the most exciting news, beyond the campaign’s success, is the mission going forward for inclusion to go well beyond the city limits and to enlighten every visitor to the wonders of art.

Peoria—that is so 19th century. I have seen the future, and it resides firmly planted at 1401 N. 3rd St. Play it again, SAM.

The Susquehanna Art Museum is located at 1401 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.susquehannaartmuseum.org.


1st Saturdays at the Millworks

The art part of the Millworks, under Director Tara Chickey, is experimenting with expanding opportunities for exposure (to the arts).

In speaking with Chickey, she informed me that the Millworks’ eat+art experience has been well received since the venue opened in 2015, with people patronizing the artists before or after they grab a bite. This innovator, with her hive of artists, now has sweetened the pot, enticing patrons with a window “to dine and mine” the rich treasures found among the artists’ offerings, every first Saturday of the month from 2 to 5 p.m.

It’s hard to believe that January is almost over, which means the next “1st Saturday” is coming up on Feb. 1. Chickey, in consort with the artists, will have the studios open for gazing (and purchasing) before or after grazing. This special window of time affords customers an opportunity to grab a drink, then meet and talk to the artists firsthand, learning about their processes and their works.

It sounds like a perfect pre-Valentine’s date to me—lunch or dinner and a chance to discover that special piece to wear or hang on a wall. And if you are unattached, what better place to meet someone new at the bar or strolling the avenue of art at the Millworks? The perfect icebreaker being, “Would you look at that?”

The Millworks is located at 340 Verbeke St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.millworksharrisburg.com.

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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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Bob’s Art Blog: “Dreams” at SAM

“Pink Line” by Peter Ydeen

There is a creature that inhabits Easton in the manner it approaches its prey, the cover of night allows it to hunt unnoticed.

Photographer Peter Ydeen claims nocturnal Easton as his territory. His home turf of the past number of years comes alive under the gossamer gaze of his lens. It is like Ydeen is using night goggles while the rest of the world is experiencing tunnel vision.

The captivating results create a world of atmospheric abandonment and eerie enchantment. He is both an urban landscape photographer and an artist of abandonment. His nightscapes are infused with an internal yearning for a city that has gone missing. His photographic portrayals of emptiness give an otherwise static universe an umbrella of “underground” uniformity. A surreal script, non-linear in its narrative, and the dragnet it throws create “colors and contrasts” and places of substance and shadow.

No one knows better than the Susquehanna Art Museum’s (SAM) Director of Exhibitions Lauren Nye that, when one door closes, another one opens. She was responsible for not only bringing Valeri Larko’s “Hidden City” painted paradise of abandoned spaces to SAM but curating it, as well. Filling the lobby gallery over its three-month run, that exhibit closed on Sunday.

As it became history, Ydeen’s urban landscape photography opened nearby, and I saw it for the first time during last Friday’s 3rd in the Burg. Nye rightfully placed it like a jewel in the DeSoto Family Vault. Ydeen’s “Dreams,” like Larko’s before, share the thread of longing and loss with things and places once inhabited and imbued with life that have become mere relics of the past. Under her steady hand and gimlet eye, Nye showcases “Dreams” in the most intimate of spaces at SAM. When you enter the Vault, you enter a world from another dimension, one that pays homage to isolation and interpretation, to imagination and idylls.

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

Snapshots from the Vault include “Pink Line,” which derives its title from the neon glow capping the top of the frame. A used car dealership is romanced in its depiction as “Car Heaven” with its pop of pink doubling as a halo. Another, “Garden of Eden,” takes place in nearby Bethlehem, which occupies a space of lush green foliage leading to an open area. The only thing missing are Adam and Eve. Ydeen’s self-deprecating humor is evident in his photo titles like “Tree Eats Mall,” “Digestion,” and “Vogue Couture, Paris, Pennsylvania.”

In producing a sobering study in languid landscapes, Ydeen does not take himself too seriously. He shoots when the lights come on, giving his stage sets life. Swathed in a sodium vapor that is admitted by streetlights, his images cast an ethereal essence that evaporates as night lapses into day. Any semblance of those who once danced and dreamed have been wiped clean, leaving only the props for posterity. The exhibit is a testament to time’s mutability and matter over memory. Ydeen’s photography is both poetic and potent, allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks, populate the portraits or not and wander through the city and landscapes haunted or in harmony with the present state of being.

While at SAM, venture upstairs to see the Main Gallery exhibits—painter Inka Essenhigh’s fantastical “Other Worlds” and the thought provoking “War Is Only Half the Story,” an exhibit from 40 photojournalists that depicts war in all its myriad meanings.

Art in its purest form is meant to fire the imagination, open up new worlds, inspire and challenge, stir emotion and create a connection between art and life, even if landscapes are the only sign of life in the frame.


Art This and That:  Upcoming events of note in November

Nov. 22: “Picturing a More Perfect Union: Violet Oakley’s Mural Studies for the Pennsylvania Senate Chamber 1911 to 1919,” opens at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Nov. 30: The Odd Ones Bazaar, with over 50 artists and vendors, takes place at the Millworks in Harrisburg. Small Business Saturday is on this date, so support your local galleries, merchants and museums. Shop small, think big!

“Dreams” by Peter Ydeen shows through Jan. 12 in the DeSoto Family Vault at the Susquehanna Art Museum, 1401 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.susquehannaartmuseum.org.

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Thrill of the Show: Harrisburg Sketchers make their debut as exhibiting artists.

 Creating art is fulfilling. Showing one’s art is more fulfilling still.

The Harrisburg Sketchers are about to discover the thrill of the show as they prepare for their first exhibit, which starts this month in the DeSoto Vault of the Susquehanna Art Museum.

Not that they haven’t been busy with their art before.

“Harrisburg Sketchers is a group of local artists drawing the city environment we live in, on location, in any medium, one sketch at a time,” said Brian Zeiders, co-founder of the group, along with Ben Cohen. “We meet monthly to sketch and socialize, to learn from one another, and to bolster the local artist community.”

People around Harrisburg already may have seen the Sketchers at public events, at the Broad Street Market, at ArtsFest or just sketching on a street corner. In fact, they’ve become known for taking their creating on the road.

Appropriately, then, the exhibit title is “On Location Harrisburg Sketchers.”

“Now, [visitors] will get a chance to share in the perspectives of the artists,” said Lauren Nye, SAM’s director of exhibitions. “Each artist works in a different style, but often the sketches depict the same location or event. Visitors will be able to compare and contrast them, seeing the city from new vantage points.”

Inspiration for the Harrisburg group came from the Urban Sketchers, founded in Seattle 10 years ago. Since then, similar groups have mushroomed in many major cities, but not in Pennsylvania’s capital until 2012, Zeiders said.

Since the group’s inception, interest in the Sketchers has grown quickly.

“We’ve gained momentum in terms of the number of people who are part of us,” Cohen said.

Harrisburg Sketchers meets every third weekend, usually on a Saturday morning, with the simple mission of sketching what they see. They have sketched on the Capitol steps and in the Capitol itself, the Broad Street Market, the Market Street Bridge, Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Wildwood, Italian Lake and Negley Park, among other venues.

Taking a cue from the plein air movement in art, the Sketchers often work outdoors—weather permitting. During winter months, they can be found in restaurants or coffee shops.

The Harrisburg Sketchers have diverse backgrounds, but they converge in their love of drawing and their pursuit of it in a social context.

Julie Dlugolecki, who uses her design skills in the auditor general’s office, has a bachelor’s degree in drawing and painting and has taught figure drawing at the Art Association of Harrisburg.

“I love the city, the people and sketching as a group again,” she said. “I hadn’t drawn in a very long time.”

She also enjoys the social aspect, chatting with her fellow Sketchers as they make art.

For John Davis, teacher and coordinator of art at the Milton Hershey School, joining the Sketchers had several motivations.

“I wanted to stretch myself with my own sketching abilities and be accountable to myself,” he said. “And I definitely enjoy networking with other artists, whether amateurs or professional—with like-minded, creative people.”

There are no rules about media to use or styles, which gives the Sketchers a sense of freedom. And traveling doesn’t mean missing out, since a Google search helps members locate similar groups in many locations.

Because a museum is hosting the Harrisburg Sketchers’ first exhibit, there will be no selling of members’ works.

“But that’s something to think about in the future,” said Cohen. “Meanwhile, our artists can benefit from contacts they make with visitors to the exhibit. Since this is our first exhibit anywhere, I’m really glad to see it in the heart of Harrisburg.”

Harrisburg Sketchers’ exhibit runs Aug. 23 to Oct. 27 in the DeSoto Family Vault of Susquehanna Art Museum, 1401 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. Special events connected with the exhibit are 3rd in the Burg (free admission) on Fridays, Aug. 16, Sept. 20, and Oct. 18. For more information, call 717-233-8668 or visit www.sqart.com.

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