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Artist of the Month: Jennifer Shuey

by on October 02, 2017 2:57 PM

Anyone who has attended any university anywhere has seen one. It seems as if every building features the prototypical bulletin board layer-caked and overstuffed with flyers for part-time jobs, academic studies, and lectures.

For local artist Jennifer Shuey, one of those flyers was a life-changer.

Shuey grew up in Hublersburg and graduated from Bellefonte Area High School. As an undergraduate at Penn State, Shuey had explored majoring in nutrition and psychology, but neither held her interest. Still unsure of what her future held, she found a temporary home in the Division of Undergraduate Studies. During that time, she saw a flyer for a talk by the head of the Department of Landscape Architecture. Intrigued, she attended.

Voila!

Shuey says the subject matter clicked with her and she finally had a major, with a minor in geography.

“I never really considered myself one of the artists of my class,” Shuey says. That self-assessment took several years, a testament to her humble nature.

The various facets of landscape architecture seemed to suit Shuey’s intellect. She says she was able to get a good grounding in design principles and graphics, which allowed her to visually communicate with others.

Once she had her bachelor’s degree, Shuey did not choose a typical path into traditional landscape and site design. Rather, she was drawn to larger-scale community issues. Her first job was with the Centre Region Planning Agency doing comprehensive planning and water resource/waste water planning for the area.

Her next job took her to ClearWater Conservancy, where she served as executive director for nearly 15 years.

When Shuey left ClearWater, it was with the intention of devoting more time to her art. She moved on to a position as director of fundraising and development at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, which draws more than 125,000 people to State College each July.

“I left to do more art, but I backfilled my spare time with more fundraising!” she says with a laugh.

Shuey says she finds art in landscapes and nature. One of her earlier experiences with art was an oil painting class at the Art Alliance with another local artist, Jennifer Kane. Shuey found her love of pastels by going to a local artist’s retreat. At the retreat, she met Susan Nicholas Gephart.

Her eyes brighten as she smiles at the memory.

“She loaned me her pastels and said ‘give these a try.’ It just kind of clicked. It was like, ‘OK, this is my medium,’” Shuey says.

She now has been using pastels for 12 years and is a member of the Central Pennsylvania Pastel Society.

Art, she says, is her escape.

Shuey describes art as “using completely different mind muscles. At work, it was either analytical or social.”

Arts allows her to be more introverted rather than extroverted, “being in the zone,” she says, much like how athletes are. Her favorite painting, of the 120 pieces she has created, is one she made in central Maine of a cottage on one of the lakes in the fall. Her current stock is somewhere between 40 and 50.

Shuey says that her inspiration to give to young people who are interested in art is that “there are so many ways to express yourself. Explore. Don’t get focused on some plan for your life or your major. I never would have heard of landscape architecture had I not been exploring.”

She notes that sometimes people are afraid to try. She suggests that individuals should be open to possibilities. You may not know why opportunities show up in your life, but when they do, say yes, she advises. Even though Shuey began her adult life as a planner, she doesn’t quite know what her future will be. She is happy to be going with the flow for a while.

Shuey says she uses her art to feed another passion, supporting local charities, “to be able to reach to people who are moved at an elemental level by the beauty of nature. Reach them with what moves them.”

She has donated her work to a number of causes, most notably ClearWater Conservancy, Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, Centre Country Farmland Trust, and Mount Nittany Conservancy.

Her art will be featured alongside that of Cinda Kostyak at Cool Beans Coffee and Tea in Bellefonte during November and December. She will also be a featured artist at Schlow Centre Region Library in downtown State College in September 2018.

“I think sometimes people worry that they don’t know about art or art history, or what it is supposed to mean. To me, you don’t have to worry about all of that. It really just comes down to what moves you, what speaks to you in some way that’s more visceral,” she says.

“You don’t necessarily have to know why it does. Whether it’s music or a painting, it is good for people to be in touch with that personal and emotional side of themselves and to find ways to integrate that into what they’re doing every day.”

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