Recent Exhibits at the Fire Hall Gallery
March 2013: Journey's Home by Rhonda Smith
Smith’s work is a combination of printmaking and collage. Rhonda Smith is the Chair of Shepherd University’s Department of Contemporary Art and Theater.
In 2008 Smith began making prints using sheets of Plexiglas that had been protecting table surfaces in her studio. After years of cutting and gluing on these Plexiglas sheets she was preparing to toss them out, when she realized the rich array of texture on these surfaces might result in interesting prints. By overprinting the various plates and creating somewhat specific images she found a surface that when printed produced a tangle of lines suggesting maps and coordinates.
Smith has been able to visit many places in the world. Travel and encounters with the art and culture of other peoples is a powerful motivator in the creation of her artwork. Her travels to West Africa led her to consider her work as a form of talisman or amulet. Among the Tuareg and Bamana people of West Africa there is an understanding that the amulets and talisman contain the power of knowledge attainable only through personal commitment. Smith feels that art is a similar investment that requires both the maker and the viewer to seek a greater understanding to appreciate the power within the object. For Rhonda Smith each print, each collage is a talisman, a prayer and a wish to share with the viewer.
Smith’s work is involved in the exploration of journey and destinations as a means of discovery, and/or reconnecting with the relationships one has with home and family. This exhibition “Journey’s Home” all deal with these concepts. “My work is a journey and it requires that I journey, seek, discover and rekindle my inspiration.” Smith’s next journey is to Italy and Spain with students from the Department of Contemporary Art and Theater.
September 15-October 30, 2011: Uncommon Vernacular
In Uncommon Vernacular, John C. Allen, Jr. details his expansive seven-year survey of Jefferson County's historic residences. By focusing on dwellings built from the mid-18th century to the arrival of the railroad and canal in 1835, Allen unfolds the unique story of this area's early building traditions and architectural innovations. The 250 buildings included in his book from the plantation homes of the Washington family to the log houses of yeoman farmers reveal the unique development of this region.
"The book is more than a catalog of the historic houses of Jefferson County; it is also a snapshot of a place in time," says Allen. "Jefferson County is blessed with so many wonderful historic sites and structures that sometimes, those of us who live here take it for granted. I want the residents to see their home with fresh eyes."
Allen's perspective illuminates the vibrant vernacular of architecture of Jefferson County, and connects the housing of this area to the rich history of the Shenandoah Valley. House siting, plan types, construction techniques, building materials, outbuildings, and exterior and interior detailing illustrate the blending of German, Scots-Irish, English and African cultures into a distinct, regional style.
The book includes over 700 photographs by Walter Smalling, Jr., a Washington architectural photographer, and drawings, floor plans and maps by Andrew Lewis, an illustrator and architect. The 384-page book includes 702 B&W images, 80 drawings and 120 floor plans. Allen works as a preservation coordinator and architectural historian near Shepherdstown, WV. He serves as chairman of the Historic Landmarks Commission of Jefferson County, WV.
June 5–September 15, 2011: Poetry Works on Walls 2011
This exhibit opened Sunday, June 5, with a reception and reading by seven of the fourteen poets featured in the exhibit. Printed poems selected for the show were exhibited in a large print format. An exhibit catalog accompanies the show. Additional copies are available at the Gallery. The show was co-sponsored by AHA! and Bookend Poets of Shepherdstown. The exhibit was produced by Nancy McKeithen, AHA! Administrator, and Poet Ed Zahniser, and curated Georgia Lee McElhaney, Poet Laureate of Shepherdstown.
April 26–May 16, 2011: Jefferson County Photography Project
Photographer Benita Keller takes the lead in a black and white film project for a group of 10 committed individuals. The project is sponsored by AHA! with funding from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.
March-April 2011: A Celebration of West Virginia Youth Art Month in Jefferson County
This exhibit featured pencil drawings, watercolors, pastels and collage constructions by young artists of Jefferson County. Organized by Judy Chesley, South Jefferson Elementary School art teacher, and assisted by art teachers Nena Stowell and Donna Hoffman, the exhibit opened Sunday, March 6. Skippers Downtown Dips & Deli, Charles Town, sponsored the reception to meet the artists on Sunday.
February 2011: Give Praise
A project of the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society in cooperation with AHA!, the photographic exhibit “Give Praise” tells the story of the life and times of the tri-county African American community in a presentation of 18 black and white photographs taken in 1993 by artist-in-residence Ann Zelle. Excerpts from interviews with the individuals accompany the photo exhibit. Color landscape photographs of Jefferson County taken during that time period by Zelle will also be on exhibit.
Exhibit curator Jimica Kenyatta said, “The exhibit is a way to honor individuals who have been important figures in the Black community. The three counties of the Eastern Panhandle are represented in the exhibit.” Included are photographs of Charles Branson, Shepherdstown, Jefferson County; Oscar Jones, Martinsburg, Berkeley County; and John Dick Powell, PawPaw, Morgan County.
Artist and photographer Zelle worked with the Carter G. Woodson Historical Association in 1993. Traveling across the three counties of the Eastern Panhandle, she met with individuals who ranged in age from 60 to 90. Some had lived in West Virginia their entire lives, and others were recent émigrés. The subjects were asked about their childhood experiences, where they were born and raised, their families, employment and education. They contributed memories of life in their community as a whole.
The original project was funded in part by AHA!, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, The West Virginia Commission on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. “More than a year was spent in interviews, talking with the county residents and getting to know them,” said Zelle in explaining her method of understanding her subjects before capturing them on film. Now retired from her professorship at American University, Washington DC, Zelle resides in Brevard NC and will be present at the reception.
January 2011: Eastern Panhandle Photography Project (EPPP)
November–December 2010: Paula’s Tuesday Morning Art Class Exhibit
The exhibit features pencil drawings, pastels and collage constructions by artist Paula Brunner Abelow and her students at the Anna Mae Reedy Senior Center in Ranson. Sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Alliance of Jefferson County, the exhibit is free and open to the public. Artist students participating in the exhibit include Betty Allen, John Allen, Mary Cook, Richard Keuroglian, Gail Klimes, Violet Meyer, Jane Scott, Maxine Shadroch and Phillip Tousignaut. Mrs. Abelow has been teaching art at the Senior Center since 2003.