‘Friends’ fill Old Main once again

Gamble art

The Friends of Mercyhurst Art Show – one of the largest and most eclectic exhibits on the Erie art scene each season – now fills the first floor corridors of Mercyhurst University’s historic Old Main. It will remain on view through March 30, 2014.

Mary Gamble, wife of university President Thomas Gamble, Ph.D., assembled the first Friends show in 2006 during festivities surrounding her husband’s inauguration. The exhibit has grown each year and this year’s 8th edition features about 150 works by nearly 70 Friends of Mercyhurst. They include faculty members, alumni and diverse artists who share the school’s commitment to keeping the visual arts a vital part of its environment.

“People come out of the woodwork when we start planning this show,” Mrs. Gamble noted. “Everyone wants to be part of it.”

The position of honor – the alcove at the west end of Old Main – goes this year to a group of artists and longtime friends since high school. Deborah Sementelli, Jonilee Monola Hlusko, Janel Potratz Levin and Jay Scalise have created a mixed media installation titled “Cherished,” which incorporates antique wedding dresses from the collection of the late Lillian Zimmerly, lovingly restored, with art works based on details from the dresses, a Victorian pump organ donated by Jay and Darby Scalise, and masses of dried flowers.

In another show tradition, the exhibit actually begins outdoors, where a massive garden arch created by metal sculptor Evan Everhart was installed over a sidewalk leading to Old Main. It’s titled “Oh Beautiful.”

Some of the featured artists have long-established relationships with Mercyhurst and have been represented in many past shows. Watch for enchanting driftwood sculptures by Brian Pardini, pastels by Fran Schanz, oils by Joyce Perowicz and Tom Ferraro, mixed media by Jesse & Ricardo, and more.

Other exhibitors are showing at Mercyhurst for the first time, like Amanda Paproski, who’s showing both an assemblage titled “Walnut Creek Fish” and a photo; Lena Logvina, showing copper jewelry pieces; and Oat Rattanakorn, showing photos.

The show also features a number of unique works, including several colorful mobiles made from pool noodles by David Seitzinger and elaborate glass-beaded pieces by Barbara Thomas Yerace, including a dress she made to wear to an exhibit on American glass blowing at the Smithsonian Institution.

Displayed outside President Gamble’s office is an amphora, an ancient Greek vase recovered from a shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea. Undoubtedly thousands of years old, the piece has been donated to Mercyhurst by the family of Sam A. Novello, according to geology professor Scott McKenzie.

John Vahanian’s pencil drawing of Erie’s 15th Street railroad tracks is framed by a wooden window that once looked out on the actual scene. Woodworker Neil Donovan salvaged the window (complete with decades worth of grime on the remaining glass) from the artists’ studio building at 1505 State St.

The youngest artist represented this year is college student Caitlin Gleason, daughter of Mercyhurst dance faculty Tauna Hunter and Michael Gleason, who’s showing an acrylic “Skull Study.”

Faculty works on displays include ceramics by Tom Hubert, a mixed media piece by Daniel Burke, a collage by Mary Elizabeth Meier, and color photos by Gary Cardot.

Several artists featured in the Friends show are also taking part in an exhibit opening Nov. 16 in Mercyhurst’s Cummings Gallery. Works by John Bavaro, Ron Bayuzick, Brian Pardini, Suzanne Proulx, Fran Schanz, Deborah Sementelli and Jesse & Ricardo will be part of “Reused, Reclaimed & Repurposed.”

Well over half the works on display have been donated to Mercyhurst, adding to a permanent art collection that’s nearing an estimated $1 million in value. Even after this show closes in March, the collection will continue to be displayed in public areas throughout campus where students, employees and visitors can enjoy it, and be inspired by it.

The Friends of Mercyhurst Art Show is open for public viewing weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. while school is in session.

For more information about the show, or to arrange a group tour, contact Mary Gamble at 814-881-4123.

PHOTO: The mixed media installation “Cherished” by Deborah Sementelli, Janel Potratz Levin, Jonilee Monola Hlusko and Jay Scalise.

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