Art - Twice as nice at Mercyhurst

Art begets art at Mercyhurst College as it celebrates the inauguration of a new president – and the unveiling of a newly renovated Cummings Art Gallery – with a pair of art exhibits opening Thursday, Sept. 14, as part of Inaugural Week festivities.

At the request of new President Thomas J. Gamble, Ph.D., the first show in the new Cummings Gallery showcases alumni of the college’s highly regarded art department. “From the Past to the Future – Alumni Art Teachers” includes the work of 17 Mercyhurst graduates who are career educators and also actively produce their own art.

Simultaneously opening in Old Main is “The Friends of Mercyhurst College Art Show” featuring the work of more than 20 artists who are in some way “friends” of the college, be they faculty, students, or longstanding supporters. The exhibit is an initiative of Dr. Gamble’s wife, Mary, whose hope is to use this as a springboard to create Mercyhurst’s first permanent art collection.

Both exhibits open from 5:30 to 7 p.m. with receptions and live entertainment provided by Marty O’Connor and Friends at Cummings Gallery, and the Jim Madden Trio in Old Main.

The Cummings Gallery show is a perfect example of how dedicated art teachers inspire and nurture their students: the show includes works of Mareanne Cole Simmons ’53 and of Tom Hubert ’77. Simmons, a watercolorist, taught Hubert as a child at Erie’s St. Luke School. He went on to study art at Mercyhurst, where he received the Sister Angelica Cummings Art Award. He later returned to his alma mater where he teaches ceramics and chairs the art department.

Also represented in the show are art faculty members Daniel Burke ’69, Jodi Staniunas Hopper ’89, and Peggy Murrell Brace ’71. Burke is the first male graduate of Mercyhurst and is one of the two most senior tenured faculty at the college, having taught there for 37 years. Staniunas Hopper directs the graphic design department, and Brace, a nationally exhibited painter, is Cummings Gallery director and fine art faculty at Mercyhurst.

Three art faculty members at Mercyhurst Preparatory School are also featured in the show: James Borowicz ’82, Chris Palotas Bowler ’81, and Dave Schroeck ’00.

Other teaching artists exhibiting at “From the Past to the Future” are Bill Chiodo ’73, art supervisor and director of professional leadership development for the Miami-Dade School District; Ron Mazanowski ’73, a noted ceramic artist and professor at Northern Illinois University; Shelle Lichtenwalter Barron ’74, a member of the graphic design faculty at Edinboro University; Jason Hillegas ’94, a ceramic artist who studied with Tom Hubert and now teaches at North Hills Senior High School in Pittsburgh; Ron Tenace ’76, another ceramic artist who teaches in the North Allegheny School District in Pittsburgh; Patricia Izbicki Gray ’71, who lives and works in Boston, Mass.; Amy Coe Fridrich ’00, a teacher in the Parma, Ohio, City School District who will be exhibiting photography; Adele Wilson Larsen ’72, a ceramic artist and watercolorist who teaches at Erie Day School; and Jonilee Monola Hlusko ’82, a painter who taught in the Millcreek School District before raising her family and now teaches at Erie’s Montessori Children’s House. 

The Cummings Gallery is located in the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center. An expansion project last summer approximately doubled the size of the gallery, while also expanding the lobby and office areas. The gallery redesign allows more hanging space, better lighting, more storage, and a direct entry to accommodate large exhibits.

A courtyard away, in Old Main, Mary Gamble has assembled an eclectic collection of paintings, sketches, photographs, and sculpture that encompasses the entire first-floor hallway of Old Main. The pieces are representative of “friends” of the college.

“As we prepare to inaugurate a new president, an appreciation for the beauty of Old Main and the talent of so many people who have become a part of the Mercyhurst community is utmost in our minds,” she said. “It is therefore only fitting that we should showcase some of this talent during the inaugural period.”

Exhibitors include Patty Baldwin, Jamie Borowicz ’82, Rachel Burke, Ken Burkhart ’74, Dan Byler, Gary Cacchione, Gary Cardot, Thomas Gamble, Hubert Haisoch, Shirley Passle Helminski ’76, Peggy Krider, Annoel Krider ’77, Mary Etta Mauthe, Kathy Merski, Richard O’Dell, Brian Pardini, Ashley Reitz, Mary Rosiak, Jay Scalise ’76, Fran Schanz ’71, Steven Symes, John Vahanian, Carol Werder, Robert Werder and Pat Yahn ’50. There are also three paintings by the late Sister Angelica Cummings, after whom Cummings Gallery is named.

Some of the exhibiting artists have agreed to donate their art, thereby helping to build the first permanent art collection for Mercyhurst College and lay the groundwork for what Mary Gamble hopes will become an annual Friends of the College exhibit.

If you miss the inaugural week debut of this pair of exhibits, they will remain on display for public viewing through Oct. 15. Cummings Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. and also Thursday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m.

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