Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Art in Johnstown

It was a great weekend, and the highlight was getting out of Pittsburgh for a day trip to Johnstown PA. If I had bothered to do a little research before we left, I would have been a little better prepared for the trip. Johnstown has an annual Ethnic festival, taking place on Labor Day Weekend, which takes over blocks of the city with food and music.

But we had gone to Johnstown for an art event, a satellite exhibit curated by Box Heart Gallery at the Venue of Merging Arts (VOMA).

VOMA is housed in a former church, located in the Cambria City section of Johnstown. The pews have been removed, but some of the original details are still in place. VOMA offers support to art makers in sound, visual and literary disciplines, conducting events and exhibits that showcase community arts. Warning: shameless plug! Box Heart took a few of my works, along with works by Shawn Watrous and several other gallery artists, to Johnstown for the exhibit. I'm not sure how long the pieces will be installed, but if you are in the area, stop in and say hello.

307 Chestnut Street
Johnstown, PA 15906

There are a few other arts venues located in close proximity to VOMA. Art Works in Johnstown is a beautiful space, open and light. The venue showcases the work of local artists and provides working studios and classrooms. As you enter through the garage doors, you'll find an open multi-use space. During the festival, this space was set up as a cabaret, with tables and a stage area. On exhibit in the main gallery are the landscapes of Jim Salem.

On the trip back to Pittsburgh, I was so much more aware of Pennsylvania's landscapes after seeing these paintings. The colors were beautiful, and the exhibit was very lively. As a counterpoint to the rich surfaces and lush subject, visitors to the center are greeted by this mural --

Art Works in Johnstown is representing the different expressions of visual arts produced by local artists. Alongside the gallery were several small studio/shops, where artists were producing, showing and selling their wares. During the festival, and I am sure at other times, Art Works had several artist vendor tables set up. You can find out more at their site, or by dropping in for yourself.

Art Works in Johnstown
413 Third Avenue
Johnstown PA 15906

We also visited the Bottle Works Ethnic Art Center, a few steps away from VOMA and Art Works. Check out that mosaic, very cheering on a dreary, rainy day. From their site: "The mission of the BOTTLE WORKS is to preserve and celebrate the cultural diversity of the peoples of this region through their arts - such as music, dance, costuming, foodways and literary traditions."

The center houses working artist studios, classrooms and two galleries. The front gallery was very crowded, with tables set up for festival activities. They looked like they were having so much fun, I didn't want to roust the out just so I could look at the small works group show, mounted in the front gallery. It looked like everybody was having fun, making flowers, getting their faces painted, and dressing up a dog statue!

The real showcase, though, was the Abandon the Frame exhibit, a collection of quilts in the main gallery. The quilts were created by Kerry Larkin, a local artist, and were an display for the Ethnic festival You can read more about her and the quilts here.

The Bottle Works has a lot going on, with small tribute displays and an earnest interest in supporting the efforts of its artist community. You can't miss the building, with its bright facade.

BOTTLE WORKS Ethnic Arts Center
411 Third Avenue
Johnstown, PA 15906

All said, it was a very satisfying outing. Having these three venues in such close proximity to each other, as well as other cultural attractions, makes Johnstown a great destination.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your enthusiasm for our Cambria City Arts District in Johnstown! So nice to see our world represented in the blogosphere.
Beth Elston, Activity Director,
Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the blog post on your recent visit to Cambria City. The Venue of Merging Arts (VOMA) is glad to have Box Heart as part of their gallery show which will run through mid October.

Karen A. Mesaros