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Women of Achievement: A new exhibit at the Bellefonte Art Museum celebrates exceptional women

by on February 28, 2020 1:03 PM

They may be teachers, they may be activists, they may be pastors. They may be anything in between. To the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County and beyond, they are unique, powerful contributors to our community. They are women.

The museum will be hosting an exhibition, Celebrating Our Women of Achievement, from March 1 through April 26. The opening reception is Sunday, March 1, from noon to 4:30 p.m.

Twenty-four women from around the area were chosen to have a piece of art created in their honor, to showcase all they do for the community and beyond.

“Our motto is to show things from around the corner and around the world,” says Patricia House, founder of the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County.

In addition to the main exhibition, there will be an accompanying one, Celebrating Your Women of Achievement. This exhibit will give the public the opportunity to add portraits of inspiring women in their lives to the exhibition wall. Visitors should write the name of the woman being honored on the photo, and they should also be aware that the photos cannot be returned, House says.

The main exhibition, in addition to honoring women in the community, will shine light on the importance of having women in the arts. House points out the lack of inclusivity for women artists over time, saying, “There wasn’t a woman included in an art textbook until the end of the 1960s.”

“By having all these portraits done by women artists, we’re also celebrating women in the arts,” House says.

For artist Brienne Brown, the idea of helping another woman tell her story through the process of art is one that can bring about noteworthy, personal connections. Understanding the “unique challenges women have,” Brown says, can work to bring us together. It’s “exciting to be able to do a show like this.”

Brown, who doesn’t usually refer to herself as a “portrait painter,” escaped her comfort zone and decided to paint a water-color portrait of mostly red, yellow, and blue, to showcase Bonnie Kline Smeltzer, pastor of University Baptist & Brethren Church. Over tea, Brown worked to depict Smeltzer “not so much as her as a pastor, but her as a woman.” She wanted their shared experience of getting tea to be the premise for the piece, to bring about Smeltzer’s personality and characteristics that shape her as a person, in general.

Brown calls the portrait Tea with Bonnie.

Artist Jeanne Stevens-Sollman has similar feelings regarding her piece of art. She honored Donna Marie Fick, director at the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence and Elouise Ross Eberly Endowed Professor in the Penn State College of Nursing. Stevens-Sollman made a four-piece sculpture, she says, each piece showcasing something about Fick’s “extremely diverse” life.

The first piece of the sculpture, according to Stevens-Sollman, is a portrait of the honoree. The additional pieces work to show her personality aside from just her prestigious career, “as a human being,” she says.

The second piece includes a poem by Mary Oliver that discusses nature, as Fick has a love for both poetry and nature, Stevens-Sollman says. The third depicts her hands embracing a nest with an egg, meant to be symbolic of the hope that she projects within her career. The fourth piece, according to Stevens-Sollman, embodies Fick’s love for running marathons with a personal twist, depicting her running feet in a pair of slippers.

Stevens-Sollman also notes that a “little red maple leaf” has been included in the sculpture. Fick told her that she picks up these works of art in nature, while running.

In creating this sculpture, it was important to Stevens-Sollman to show “a person who is not just unique or singular in their career,” she says. “I want to present a whole person.”

Other women being honored, with artist, include Sharon Barney/Manya Goldstein; Ann K. Ard/Cecilia Rusnak; SeriaShia Chatters/Pat Dolan; Charima Young/Marianne Fyda; Cathy Dauler/Jenn Tucker; Carol Eicher/Stacie Bird; Shih-in Ma/Roxanne Naydan; Mimi Barash Coppersmith/Beverly Klucher; Mary Lou Bennett/Nancy Brassington; Elizabeth A. Goreham/Nancy Brassington; Jennifer Shuey/Cinda Kostyak; Mary Robert/Dotty Ford; Cynthia Ann Young/Linda Hale; Erica Dambach/Joan Koester; Michelle Saylor/Kitty Savel; Diane Toyos/Marty Edmunds; Victoria Sanchez/Wendy Snetsinger; Nel Kopp/Holly Fritchman; Georgia Abbey/Jennifer Tucker; True Talley Fisher/Stacie Bird; Robyn Graboski/Cynthia Nixon; Judy Sieg/Melinda Curley.

While this exhibition is meant to highlight exceptional women, both in the pieces of art, as well as those behind the masterpieces, it has also brought about an experience of allowing them to connect, to form bonds, and to never forget what it means to be a woman.

House says the message is, “Look at all these women that are doing amazing things from all parts of our culture and society, in this county.”

 

Contributors that helped to make the show possible include The Mimi Barash Coppersmith Women in Leadership Fund, Helen Fox and Company, Confer’s Jewelers, and the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts.

For more information, visit bellefontemuseum.org.

 

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