Destination ARTS! brings more than 1,000 pieces of art to Waynesboro, PA
By David Thompson
Once known chiefly for the production of machine tools, the south-central Pennsylvania borough of Waynesboro would seem an unlikely place for a vibrant art scene.
But thanks to an inspired volunteer effort led by a local arts alliance, Waynesboro is in the midst of Destination ARTS!, a 15-week project that has turned empty downtown storefronts into professionally curated art galleries.
A “second opening” of the Arts Alliance of Greater Waynesboro’s Destination ARTS! was held Sept. 6-8 as the project reached its halfway point. Many of the art exhibits, which include paintings, sculptures, jewelry, ceramics, photography and fiber arts, were changed in seven galleries and eight storefront windows.
More than 1,000 pieces of art, produced by more than 100 artists, are on display and for sale. To date, sales have now totaled more than $20,000, with visitors coming to Waynesboro from 25 states and 13 countries.
Like Waynesboro, exhibiting artist Charles Brown of Chambersburg, Pa., has a background not normally associated with fine arts.
Trained in mechanical engineering, Brown worked for Aerojet General in California. Projects included rocket engineering and high-energy chemical lasers.
But Brown, a native of Hagerstown, Md., just to the south of Waynesboro, had long been interested in art.
“I took a course at the Washington County (Md.) School of Art when I was young. I think I was somewhere around 12 to 14 at the time,” he said.
Brown, 83, confined his art to drawing until 1968, when he decided to take up painting. He started with watercolors.
After retiring in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1994, Brown moved to Chambersburg to pursue art full-time. There he got together with local artists such as Becky Dietrich, well-known as the former owner of A Little Gallery in Mont Alto.
“I’ve known Becky Dietrich for a long time, and we’ve painted together,” Brown said.
His local memberships include the Franklin County Art Alliance of Chambersburg, The Valley Art Association of Hagerstown and the Studio Club of Waynesboro. He has been associated in the Members Gallery of the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and is a signature member of the Niagara Frontier Watercolor Society.
In recent years, Brown has expanded his painting horizons to include more acrylic works. Located in an area that’s the home to several Civil War battlefields, he’s also turned to the conflict as a subject for his art.
“I went to re-enactments in the area, started talking to people and taking photos,” he said. “I got interested and decided to do more Civil War painting.”
Brown said Civil War paintings can be difficult to sell because so many talented artists have done them. He mentioned Mort Kuntsler as one artist whom he admired for his work on historical subjects.
“I actually stood in line at one of his book signings and had him sign the book for me,” Brown said. “He must have talked with me for about 10 minutes. I was flattered.”
Brown’s Civil War works on display in Waynesboro include “Confederate Calvary” and “Battle at Cedar Creed,” both acrylics, and watercolors “Rebs in Pursuit” and “Diversions in a Reb Camp.” Other watercolors include “Nawlins Jazz,” “Sorting the Catch,” “Burkholder and Chickens,” and “New Orleans.”
Marjorie Tressler, lead curator for Destination ARTS!, said the quick transformation of Waynesboro into an arts center has been difficult, but satisfying.
“All in all, it’s been a good experience,” she said. “Artists have been very supportive. People have taken a real chance here to exhibit in temporary galleries. We’ve been able to get top-notch artists to commit enough works for galleries in several stores.”
Tressler, herself an established artist, has used her connections to help bring works from local and regional artists into the show. Her studies at the Schuler School for the Fine Arts in Baltimore brought her in contact with the husband-wife art team of Hans Guerin and Beth de Loiselle. Both are graduates of the Schuler School, which was founded by Hans’ maternal grandparents, Hans and Ann Didusch Schuler, and his mother, Francesca Schuler Guerin, is the present director.
Guerin and de Loiselle are exhibiting a variety of oil and scratchboard works in Waynesboro.
Destination ARTS! is scheduled to end Oct. 27, but some aspects of Waynesboro’s recent cultural resurgence will definitely continue beyond that date.
The Ceramic Arts Center of Waynesboro is being established in the Grove Building at 13 S. Church St., just off Waynesboro’s square. The building has served as a gallery for ceramic pieces by local artists during the festival and will continue to function as a center for pottery classes and ceramic production after Destination ARTS! ends.
Mary Ashe-Mahr, an Arts Alliance of Greater Waynesboro board member who is instructing classes at the center, said one objective of the center is to encourage area residents to buy local goods made by local artists.
“It will be awesome to have a permanent art fixture in downtown,” she said. “We’re looking forward to making this a vital location.”
Guild members of the center will have 24-hour, seven days a week access to the facility, which will include six potters wheel, two kilns, a ceramics library, and pottery for sale.
Ashe-Mahr said about $49,000 had been raised toward a goal of $77,000 for the center’s preliminary budget. The funding will help purchase a gas kiln, ventilation, potters wheels, cabinets, tables and many other items.
The center’s first program, “Coaster and Pendant Making Workshop for Kids,” taught by Nickole Bricker, was offered Sept. 28. The first adult class, “Introduction to Ceramics Studio,” was taught by Ashe-Mahr in early October. New classes for both adults and children will be starting November 3 and December 1. Children’s classes will be offered on November 23 and December 14. For more information email [email protected].