Cultural Experience: Art Society Nurtures and Enriches Lives
Un Giorno Perfetto
By Stephanie Kalina-Metzger
One of the first meetings of the Susquehanna Art Society included a talk on Ukrainian Easter eggs and demonstrations of the silk-screening process and the craft of brass rubbing. This eclectic mix underscores the organization’s overarching goal to promote the advancement and enjoyment of the visual arts in Central PA. The organization celebrates its 40th birthday this year.
Art Society Nurtures and Enriches Lives
The Susquehanna Art Society’s first regional art exhibition in June 1980 attracted approximately 30 artists from a 40-mile radius. The first-place winner was Ken Hunter’s oil painting, “Roots.” Celebrated artist Bradley Shoemaker’s watercolor, “Laid Back Patriot” took second place.
Shoemaker, who was born and raised in Sunbury, earned a Masters of Fine Arts in painting from Penn State University. His award-winning paintings have been featured in numerous juried, group and solo exhibitions; he was involved in SAS early on. “Many of the members were my friends,” he recalls. “I have fond memories of being part of the group of talented artists.” Ultimately, Shoemaker’s focus turned from exhibiting to publishing his prints.
The society works to involve artists at every level. SAS Member Sharon McCuen, a resident of Selinsgrove and Port St. Lucie, FL, is a working artist with a Master of Fine Arts degree from Penn State University. Her inspiration for art began in graduate school when she heard a philosopher speak about the “stuff of water” in Greek mythology.
“He suggested that artists have the ability to reach into the pool of memories where all of one’s thoughts and deeds are deposited on their journey through life and bring back to others the valuable truths deposited there,” says McCuen. Her hope is that people will glimpse these life-truths in her work.
McCuen served as the Susquehanna Art Society’s first treasurer, and is mystified by the swift passage of time. “I can hardly believe that the Susquehanna Art Society is celebrating its 40th anniversary,” she said. “Originally, a group of us decided to get together to share ideas and talk about our art and that evolved into monthly meetings in people’s homes. We eventually developed a constitution and filed for non-profit status.”
Annual regional exhibition
Marilyn Paul, Gathering Strength
The highly anticipated annual juried regional art exhibition held at the Degenstein Community Library in Sunbury has grown since its inception. Last year’s show attracted 228 entries from across Pennsylvania. Entry categories are Opaque, Watercolor and Photography. An Other category includes pottery, ink drawing, printmaking, stained glass and more.
“It’s an event that the public and participating artists look forward to each year,” said SAS President Marilyn Paul. “And beginners are welcome. Seeing the variety and the different levels of art at the show may encourage others to appreciate and try art themselves,” she said.
The SAS recently added another show to its calendar. “We determined that our members are most interested in sharing their art, so we added a show in October 2018 at the Packwood House Museum in Lewisburg,” said Paul. The show was well received by the public and will continue into the foreseeable future.
For the first time, the SAS exhibited at the Lewisburg Arts Festival this year to promote the society, share art with the public and support the festival. “Some of our members demonstrated their art and discussed their artistic processes,” said Paul.
To grant artists additional exposure, the SAS has partnered with the Milton Public Library to allow members to display art there on a monthly basis.
The fact that the SAS is still going strong after 40 years is a testament to its ability to attract members. “We try to understand their interests and accommodate them,” said Paul.
The society offers its members support and camaraderie with meetings, demonstrations and how-to sessions as well as the opportunity to participate in art shows and have work posted on its website. In addition, the society occasionally offers trips to shows, museums and other points of interest. Dues are an affordable $15 a year.
Current membership stands at 100 people who represent diverse backgrounds; some members have been involved since the group’s inception. “Our membership is comprised of artists of varying ages, occupations and artistic mediums like oils, acrylics, pastel, pottery, collage, stained glass, digital art and more,” said Paul.
The varied group of member-artists, from beginner to professional, hail from Northumberland, Union, Snyder, Columbia, Montour, Sullivan, Schuylkill, Lycoming, Centre, Cumberland and Dauphin counties. “We have a few out-of-state members from Maryland and New York, plus some of our members divide their time between Pennsylvania and Florida,” she said.
Cindy Dozpat has been a member of SAS for 15 years, and has served as vice president and president. Being a member, she said, has made a big difference in her art journey. “Most of what people do in this society is fine art and I found myself enthralled from the very beginning. I had already been studying fine art before joining and that was a springboard into my membership in the society,” she said.
Artists seeking honest, helpful feedback may also find a home at the SAS. “Education is an important part of the society,” said Paul. Members receive bi-monthly newsletters to keep them abreast of happenings, like social gatherings, gallery visits and artist demonstrations.
And the public learns from SAS events, as well. “Greeters at the juried show answer visitor questions and encourage them in viewing and understanding the art,” said Paul. “The Popular Choice Award gives the public an opportunity to participate in selecting an award. We hope to make the public aware of the variety and quality of art created in our area.”
The fact that the group lacks a “brick and mortar” location doesn’t seem to present a problem. SAS monthly meetings have been held in members’ homes, churches, schools, businesses and local galleries. Topics tackled at those meetings vary and can range from art history and learning the newest techniques in the artworld to hearing about member projects.
The board of directors holds meetings at the Degenstein Community Library, conveniently located across the street from the YMCA Arts Center where, as a benefit of membership, many enroll in classes. “We have a collaborative relationship with them to share activities and ideas,” said Paul.
The director of the YMCA Arts Center, Mary Jo Cicero, whose preferred medium is acrylics, has been a member of the SAS for about 30 years. “It’s always valuable to join a group of people with like interests, and it enables me to keep abreast of what’s going on in the art community in our area,” she said.
The importance of art
The Fruit of My Labor by Cindy Dozpat
The organization’s 40th anniversary presents an opportunity to take stock of the vital role the SAS plays in furthering the existence and appreciation of art. “Art enriches our lives; it tells our story. It provides a means of expression, stimulates curiosity and inspires us,” adds Paul.
Paul said she enjoys being part of an organization that values art and nurtures artists and hopes that the SAS will celebrate many more milestones. “I love the quote that has been floating around online, ‘Earth without art is just eh,’” she said with a smile.
To learn more, visit SusqueArtSociety.org.