Photo: From Left, photographers Kelly Reene (Gladwyne), Alex Lowy (King of Prussia), and Debbie Laverelle (Villanova) stand before entries in the photography category.
GLADWYNE - It's been a minute since I've made the Gladwyne social scene. And yes, Gladwyne does have one, although you may need to pay attention to local community boards and posters in order to locate happenings. Let's just say we're "small but mighty." Personally, I long for music- and spoken word open mic night. I've already scouted the perfect spot for my pipe-dream venture. That, however, is a story for another article.
“I think art's power is the power to wake us up, strike our depths, change us. What are we searching for when we read a novel, see a film, listen to a piece of music? We are searching, through a work of art, for something that alters us, that we weren’t aware of before.” ~~ Jhumpa Lahiri
Speaking of 19035's social calendar, I was thrilled to meet Gladwyne Library League's Anne Foote as she was setting into the ground cheerful signs announcing the League's annual Arts and Crafts Show. I'd been walking my puppy when I encountered this "hooman," the aforementioned Anne. We chatted for as long as Tillie Rose would allow me a stillness respite (Ma, this is my walk time!). On parting, it was decided I would contribute both dessert item and event coverage for the show's opening night preview party.
Party night took place on a lovely spring evening. I arrived as attendees were trickling into the library's second floor meeting room, where the curated show was stationed. The room filled rather quickly. Folks were lockedown-lifted eager to be out and about, catching the warm feels that present when food, drink and people get together for a worthy cause or just because. Throw art into the mix, add a wealth of local talent, and it's a sure bet for a grand turnout. Attendees gathered in abundance to enjoy light bites, wine and desserts, socializing and art appreciation.
"The creative adult is the child who survived." ~~ Ursula Leguin
I thought about what it takes to stage such an event--not just the preview party but the entire nearly week-long show. Anne has been creating show masterpieces for many moons. But she doesn't do it alone. There's a massive contingent of volunteers who contribute time, energy and talent to ensure the show's ongoing success. Take, for example, Heidi Cooke, who designed the charming and whimsical centerpiece displays, one of which was positioned at the drinks and edibles area. An oval-shaped piece of plexiglass, fashioned after an artist's palette was dotted with circular paint splotches and festooned with three colorfully decorated brushes tied at the base with bandanas. A smear-shape of paint in the middle with text advertised the show.
Library staffer and social media overseer Emily Hutchinson fashioned eye-catching show flyers, while a panel of "distinguished professionals and accomplished artists" served as volunteer judges. Displaying their individual works in the "Judges Corner," Peter Seidel, Mickey Shumway, Lisa Herrmann and Alex Lowy comprised the formidable creative team of award pronouncers.
Others donated bottles of wine or provided light bites and sweet treats. The eatables' area was colorfully and invitingly presented--a work of art in its own right. While perusing show entries, guests enjoyed nibbles such as fresh fruit and cheese and crackers along with veggie platters and dip. Prior to showtime, curators had hung and arranged pieces, while artwork minders in varying shifts keenly kept watching over creative valuables throughout the entire event. Eva Kay Noone organized the wildly popular scavenger hunt.
Clearly, it does take a village and is the ultimate labor of love when so many rally behind-the-scenes, working tirelessly and energetically to bring this beloved event to fruition. Many more also share selflessly. These collective contributions are enormously appreciated. Gladwyne residents and others in Lower Merion Township (residency is a show submission entry requirement) express their gratitude year after year by turning out en masse and through donations and contributions that support and benefit the Library League.
"To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it." ~~ Kurt Vonnegut
To learn more about the League, I did some research and discovered that it was established to "foster closer relations between the Gladwyne Free Library and the residents of Gladwyne. Its mission is to promote knowledge of the functions, services, resources and needs of the library and to participate in the development of programs that will enhance and improve those resources and services,” states the library Web site. Monies raised to assist in "maintaining the library’s historic building and grounds and to help support the library’s extensive book collection." Additionally, the funding benefits a comprehensive roster of programs held throughout the year for library patrons of all ages.
It was thrilling to meet the artists and to hear them talk about their entries. I enjoyed discovering the inspired stories behind such creations as Beverly Kiefer's "Him" (see photo below). My series of captioned photos following this text is a visual representation of the event. Scroll for a look-see at the art and artists who facilitate our community's collective "soul growth" in the "Heart of the Village" (as Gladwyne Library has been called since 1931) while providing cultural stimulation.
One of my favorite spots at the curated show is the wall featuring entries in the children and youth categories. I am always impressed by the volume of superior talent exhibited. That same observation was echoed by a woman standing beside me. She stated that she'd expected to find popsicle-stick creations but was blown away by the level of skill and proficiency revealed. I jokingly told her she should have seen my entries from a previous year that would easily garner a blue ribbon in any popsicle-stick classification.
Another partygoing gentleman mentioned that he was surprised by the level of mastery demonstrated in each division. Again, the idea that one can find such depth and breadth of incredible artwork catches some by surprise. Apparently, there's an element of well-kept secrecy, although the home crowd knows better and more catch on with each passing year that the little village that could do has always been doing. It would not surprise me if some future show introduced a nationally prominent guest artist giving an opening night address.
Featured entry categories are numerous and diverse. If it can be created, there is probably a category fit. The more, the medium! Check out this roster: painting, drawing, and sculpture (including mixed media and collage), crafts such as jewelry, stenciling, pottery, decoupage, woodworking, weaving, rugs, macrame, basketry, dolls, calligraphy and furniture, photography, fabric art (needlepoint, cross stitch, smocking, quilting, sewing, knitting, crochet, thread art, spinning, felting, etc.) and group projects. Whew: that's a hella opportunity for just about anyone to engage in creative expression.
I subscribe to the notion expressed by Kurt Vonnegut, who said that "to practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it." And I did do! For the 2017 show, I grew said soul in the "etc." category by submitting three headpieces fashioned from materials purchased at a Dollar Store. None sold (nor did I expect them to); however, I deterred I wasn't and kept the photos to prove it. I further honed my etcetera "craft" and wore one of my designs to a Kentucky Derby Party, only to be photographed--much to my surprise--for the Main Line Times during a carriage ride. Oh, that Kurt. He gets me; he really gets me.
I've met so many people who insist they're lacking any semblance of creativity. I disavow that notion and maintain that we all possess a unique creative self. Maybe next year's show is already in the planning stages. If you're a township resident and have always wanted to nurture or discover your inner artist, here's your chance to tap that creativity well. What have you got to lose? Let loose. Awaken and strike your depths. Locate that which alters you. And by all means, "make your soul grow, however well or badly."
See you in 2023, Maker-willing!
For more information about Gladwyne Library and to learn about its upcoming programs, visit lmls.org