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Susquehanna Life

Photographs from the WPA Featured at Weis Center

Feb 21, 2017 09:05AM ● By Erica Shames
The Weis Center for the Performing Arts, in collaboration with the Samek Art Museum at Bucknell University, will host a free coal-themed photography exhibit from March 20-September 10 in its Atrium Lobby. Entitled “Dust and Light” the exhibit will include 38 photographs from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) showing candid life in coal mining communities in the late 1930s. The images are courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The exhibit is part of the year-long series, Coal Collections: Local, National and International Stories, coordinated by the Weis Center and the Place Studies program of the Bucknell Center for Sustainability and the Environment (BCSE).

Jack Delano emigrated from Russia as a child in 1923, settling in Philadelphia with his family.  After attending the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts to study both visual art and music, Jack proposed a project to the WPA to photograph coal miners and their lives in central Pennsylvania. The federal WPA program agreed to fund Jack’s project and the result is presented in this exhibit in its entirety.

Richard Rinehart, Director of the Samek Art Museum and curator of “Dust and Light” says of the exhibit, “These photographs blur the line between photojournalism and fine art. They offer a candid vision of life in and around the mines in 1938. At the same time, Jack’s skilled use of the visual language of photography reveals both his artistic sensibility and the mood of his subjects. With the support of the WPA, Jack was able to capture the spirit of a community and to preserve a chapter of American history written in dust and light.”

The exhibit will be a topic of conversation during a free lecture on Thursday, March 23 at 12 noon in the Weis Center Atrium Lobby.  “Arts and Visual Culture of the Anthracite Coal Region” will discuss the art and visual culture of the region, and how artists traveling to it both represented and misrepresented the area. Richard Rinehart will be joined by Steven Lichak, Managing Trustee and Curator of the WYSO Foundation, who will share the life and artwork of Frank Wysochansky, a self-taught artist of the coal region and son of a coal miner, born to Ukrainian immigrants.

The Weis Center’s Atrium Lobby is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. The exhibit is free and takes place on both the first and second floors of the Atrium Lobby. The Weis Center ground floor is fully accessible; however there is no elevator to the balcony level.

To request a hardcopy postcard about the spring Coal Collections series, contact Lisa Leighton, Weis Center marketing and outreach director, at 570-577-3727 or email and one will be mailed to you at no cost.

For more information about the Coal Collections series, please visit

For more information about the Weis Center for the Performing Arts, go to

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