This past Sunday we attended church at Zion’s Reformed UCC Church in Allentown. I usually attend my Catholic church in Orefield (and lately I’ll admit to wanting to spend the whole morning in bed reading newspapers instead of going) but the invitation looked too good to pass up so we went to check it out. I thought Mark Twain might be right: “A change is as good as a rest.”
Well the service and everyone we met were wonderful! We got there after the opening music, unfortunately, but it was fun and interesting to learn about the history of the Civil War. Attention was paid to many details, including even the typeface on the program, which was “Civil War Press.” The Prayer for Confession, Prayer for Unverstanding and General Prayer came from the Soldier’s Prayer Book. The 96th PA Regiment re-enators were there and Pastor Bob Stevens gave a stimulating sermon about the legacy of humble religiosity left by Abraham Lincoln. Don Nixon sang a fantastic rendition of Dixie Land and I even got to ring the replica Liberty Bell housed in the museum beneath the church. It was an inspired way to spend a Sunday morning.
Another event dealing with war and its heroes is part of Penn State Lehigh Valley’s 100th anniversary celebration. The Gallery at Penn State Lehigh Valley is recognizing the role of women in the campus’ history with a new exhibit, “Homefront Heroes: Women of WWII,” from Feb. 27-Apr.28. An artist talk will be held at 3 p.m. on March 1, followed by a reception from 5-7 p.m.
In the early 1940s during WWII, women were needed to support the war effort. During this time Penn State Lehigh Valley, then known as the Allentown Extension, offered courses in drafting, chemistry, management, defense training, and more. Thousands of women enrolled in courses and became employed by local companies.
This exhibition features the work of ten artists who have participated in the art educational programs at many Penn State campuses. The works displayed are their interpretations of this period in the campus’ history using diverse materials such as graphite, paint, fiber, found objects, wood and acrylic, as well as printmaking and photography processes.
For example, one local company that hired campus students was Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation located at Queen City Airport. There, women enrolled at the campus became involved with the Seawolf bomber project. One of the exhibit’s artists, a former information systems instructor at Penn State Lehigh Valley, Jane Noel, has used archival materials to create a piece that tells this particular story.
Other artists featured in the exhibit are Holly Trostle Brigham, Allyssa Eve Csük, Marilyn J. Fox, Rosemary Geseck, Bonnie Levinthal, Yvonne Love, M. Camille Eaton Romig, Harriet Rosenberg, and Heather Sincavage. Their interpretations are really interesting. For example, Yvonne Love
Yvonne Love’s work explores issues of identity, memory and self and the conversations that take place between juxtaposed images and materials. This series places familiar objects in unfamiliar settings, change the functions of the objects from utility to anxious memory and are often laced with ambiguity.
Artist M. Camille Eaton Romig recognizes the rapid geographical, social and technical changes that occurred during World War II that ushered large numbers of women into areas that were previously gate with an apron. Her apron suggests the complex social expectations of women as wives and mothers. But aprons represent a larger metaphor, as the first mythological garment of Adam and Eve it covered one’s sexuality. It is this sexless quality of the apron that lends meaning to the ways women were asked to serve for the duration.
The exhibit, artist talk, and reception are free and open to the public. I’m really looking forward to helping my campus celebrate our 100th anniversary by remembering how women stepped it up to help our nation and the incredible art that it inspired. Join us for the free artist talk at 3 p.m. on March 1, followed by a reception from 5-7 p.m. Come to Penn State Lehigh Valley and just imagine what the next 100 years will bring for all of us!