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New Kensington groups come together for exhibit promoting arts center

Rex Rutkoski
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Ateam of Belgian horses in show harness titled “The Lead Team” by Myla Pearce
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'Dragonfly' photo by Joyce Shellhammer
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A photo of a puppy who loves to hold the leash of an adult dog when out for a walk by Harry Shipman
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“Mademoiselle” by Peter Cehily
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Charcoal portait of her son, Brandon, by Cindy Downard
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Charcoal portait of her son, Brett, by Cindy Downard
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'Silent Echo' by Elizabeth Roseborough
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A wood intarsia work called 'Proud Parents' by Ted Scanga

It’s not lost on Robert Sudy that we are living in a vibrant place and time for the arts.

“I’m hearing more and more stories about artist communities popping up around the country, and the globe for that matter, and how they are helping revitalize their local economies. New Kensington is in dire need of something like that,” says the project director of the New Kensington Arts Center.

“Making people aware that we’re trying to do something along those lines and change the perspective of downtown New Kensington into a safe and vibrant area, through the arts, is the message I’d like to see come out of this event.”

The event is a showcase of the talents of three organizations — the New Kensington Camera Club, Allegheny Valley League of Artist and the New Kensington Arts Center. Sudy is a member of all three groups and on the boards of the Camera Club and Arts Center.

The exhibit, “Artists Supporting the New Kensington Arts Center,” runs from Nov. 1-30 in the gallery at Penn State, New Kensington, and is a blend of photos, paintings, drawing and more. A free meet-the-artists event will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 10

“Historically, the arts have always depended on strong benefactors in the community and we have examples of this in the great museums from Rome to San Francisco,” Sudy says. “But this all comes at a price and a strong commitment from local governments and patrons to realize the potential and benefits that can emerge from something like having the Arts Center.”

What might be best coming out of this would be the emergence of strong leadership with experience in taking fledgling organizations like the Arts Center and moving it to the next level, he says.

The Arts Center is an umbrella for painters, sculptors, photographers, writers and other creative people.

“Being a part of the Allegheny Valley League of Artists brings much satisfaction because there has not been a local artists’ group for many years,” says its president, Patti Giordano of Lower Burrell.

Having a creative outlet for his work is important to Don Henderson, Camera Club president. “The Camera Club has given me an outlet to share my vision, what I find interesting in the world around me. Shows like this take our work to another audience and helps spread the word about the incredible talent we have in the New Kensington Camera Club and the New Kensington Arts Center,” he explains.

Don Henderson, Camera Club president, would like to see New Kensington become a destination for photographers. “We have a lot of unique buildings and features here that photographers like,” he says.

“The Camera Club has given me an outlet to share my vision, what I find interesting in the world around me. Shows like this take our work to another audience and helps spread the word about the incredible talent we have in the New Kensington Camera Club and the New Kensington Arts Center,” he says.

Henderson says now that the camera club and arts center are designated as 501(c)(3) nonprofits, it allows them to seek arts grants and foundation grants. Also donations to the organizations are now tax deductible.

“We are actively going to be looking for a professional director to take the organization to the next level,” he says.

He envisions an Eddie Adams Museum and Photography Center in New Kensington, honoring New Kensington’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer; an Eddie Adams Roots Workshop for aspiring photo journalism students; and he wants to more firmly establish the club’s Cameras for Kids program and its f-Stop ALS campaign.

Having the New Kensington Arts Center as the nucleus, Henderson says, is a great bonus for all that to happen.

“The show at Penn State gallery is a wonderful opportunity for our organizations to call attention to the talent of our membership,” says William Hall, president of the Arts Center and a member of the Camera Club and the Allegheny Valley League of Artists. Many others are members of all three organizations too, he adds.

“What you will see at this show is the best work from many artists and photographers from our valley. What you won’t see is the combined efforts of these organizations and their many members to change the perception of our communities,” he explains. “They have created an Arts Center by sharing resources, skills and providing opportunities for residents of this area to realize their own talents and hone their skills through workshops, classes, shows and community projects that demonstrate our shared values and pride.”

The participants in this show have raised almost all of the money for utilities and rent for the building through annual memberships, workshops and classes, as well as entry fees for gallery shows.

“In return, we have realized the difference we have made to our community,” Hall says. “The greatest surprise to us was how much the Arts Center has changed lives in very personal ways. This was not done by showing a ‘right way,’ but by simply providing an opportunity for art and creativity to be a bigger part of their lives. Life is better with art. I hope people come and see the art created by their neighbors. This art represents a deeper meaning than meets the eye.”

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune Review contributing writer.

SIDEBAR:

MEET A FEW OF THE EXHIBITING ARTISTS:

* Elizabeth Roseborough, Upper St. Clair, whose art is displayed at the Latrobe Art Center year round and at Peoples’ Library, New Kensington, has an acrylic loosely based on the lighthouses on the coast of Maine, and an oil inspired by photographs taken at a relative’s garden in the Penn State show.

“I am a retired mathematics teacher (1989 Pennsylvania winner of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and honored at the White House) turned artist. I spent almost 40 years dealing with exactitude, and now I spend my time dealing with the opposite emotions. Now my love, nay passion, is art. After so many years without shading or color, I am in hog heaven!”

* Joyce Shellhammer, Parks Township, who has entered nature photographs in the exhibit:

“There is beauty in the things we take for granted… I believe that there is a need for art in our lives, whether viewing or creating, and as more people explore the artist within, our world can change for the better.”

* Harry Shipman, New Kensington, represented with a photo of a puppy who loves to hold the leash of an adult dog when out for a walk:

“I hope my work makes people feel good, and that they take pleasure in what’s around them.”

* Cindy Downard, Lower Burrell, two charcoal portraits of her twin sons: “I hope people see me as an artist as well as a graphic designer. There are so many talented artists in the Alle-Kiski Valley area that I’m glad there are more opportunities, such as this exhibit, for us to display and sell our artwork.”

* Ted Scanga, Lower Burrell, offers “A Dairy Farm in PA,” a painting in acrylic, and “Proud Parents,” a wood intarsia work. “I hope people take some joy in seeing art,” he says. “It is always good to show art in a public, multi-artist show.”

* Peter Cehily, Allegheny Township, who has three paintings: “One always hopes that people find something that speaks to them and their life experience or something they enjoy and appreciate,” he says. “Especially with my abstract work, I am always curious to hear people’s interpretations of what they see and what they think it means.”

* Shane Henderson, Tarentum, represented with his illustration of the Alcoa Research Laboratory in New Kensington: “I hope it will inspire people with an interest in architecture as well as those interested in the rich history of New Kensington, which Alcoa had a huge hand in shaping. I want to draw attention to the artistic side of buildings, not just their structure.”

* Jim Lloyd, Arnold, who has four photos of a trip to Ireland in September with his wife and six of their closest friends: “These photos represent the culture of Ireland, rich in history and tradition. Hopefully these images will inspire the viewers to either travel to Ireland or look into the history and culture of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. I have to thank the Art Center, Camera Club and Penn State New Kensington for offering the opportunity for local artists to display their work. I am honored to have my work included in this show.”

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