Local centers showcase art, performance and more

March 8, 2012 12:00 am
  • A portraiture class at The Associated Artists of Butler County Art Center in Butler.
    A portraiture class at The Associated Artists of Butler County Art Center in Butler.
  • Mary Kay Richardson prepares for a show at The Associated Artists of Butler County Art Center.
    Mary Kay Richardson prepares for a show at The Associated Artists of Butler County Art Center.
  • Lynn Lynch, left, 49, of Latrobe, and Kathy Hochard, 56 of Homer City, share a laugh while taking painting class at Latrobe Art Center.
    Lynn Lynch, left, 49, of Latrobe, and Kathy Hochard, 56 of Homer City, share a laugh while taking painting class at Latrobe Art Center.
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The Benedum Center and Carnegie Museum of Art are well-known as two of the region's major cultural destinations. But the community art centers that dot Western Pennsylvania often are undiscovered treasures that showcase local talent and offer a chance for all to enjoy performance, exhibitions, classes and more close to home.

While such venues vary in size, offerings, audience and hours, they have in common a welcoming quality that extends to anyone who walks through the door.

Here, we highlight a few of them as a part of an occasional series on arts in the suburbs.

'Uncle Mike' in Butler

Mike Rehm is an example of someone who became involved through happenstance and is now central to The Associated Artists of Butler County Art Center, a sprawling former furniture store across from the post office on the town's Main Street. He arrived via AmeriCorps in 2004-05 and has returned as art education director.

"I refer to myself as Uncle Mike," he said. "I have 20 nieces and nephews, and I discovered I'm really good at entertaining them."

Mr. Rehm, 45, studied studio arts at Carnegie Mellon University, with the goal of becoming a "gallery artist." After a break to reassess, he earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh. A Butler native who moved back to help his mother, he is manager of Butler New Dimension Comics as well as a freelance designer.

He has been a driving force behind the renovation of the art center, which included removing hazardous display platforms from exhibition spaces, updating the kitchen and bathrooms, expanding the clay studio and organizing class and storage areas.

His inventiveness and affection for the center's smallest charges may be seen in the Kid's Art Center, a cheerful children's gallery where ceramic tiles painted by children and fired by Mr. Rehm have been used in bench seats and decorative trim.

The renovation was funded by a $15,000 community and economic development grant and achieved by two years of mostly member volunteer labor, said Paul Scanlon, author of "A Pictorial History of The Associated Artists of Butler County: 1934-2009" and organization president. He is an architectural engineer who also teaches at Slippery Rock University and finds avocational aesthetic expression in photography.


First Published 2012-03-07 23:13:53

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