Art brings life to local library

Published Sep 20, 2013 at 12:01 am (Updated Sep 11, 2013 at 11:05 am)

The formerly empty walls on the second floor of Frank Sarris Public Library have taken on a new life. Library visitors can now admire an array of colorful pastel landscapes and portraits strung along the hallway leading to the children’s book section.

The Canonsburg library is hosting an exhibit featuring 59 works from 20 members of the Pittsburgh Pastel Artists League until Oct. 4.

“The light was on, shining on an empty wall,” library director Peggy Tseng said of her motivation to bring the exhibit to the library. “It looked nice, but it needed something there, so that’s how I started research on different kinds of art displays.”

Now, Tseng said the space, named the Athena Sarris Gallery, will be “a place for local artists, an avenue for them to display and to share their art.”

Jan Pini, chairwoman of the exhibit whose artwork also is on display, said the artists are thrilled to have their work shown at the library. Pini said she enjoys promoting pastel artwork because it is often misperceived as being nondurable.

“It is pure pigment, the same thing that’s used in watercolor and oil paint and acrylic paint,” Pini said. “It’s powder that’s held together with minimum binder to make a pastel stick.”

The exhibit features diverse styles and subjects, including historic landmarks, family members and even pets. Fran Marze, treasurer of the artists league – whose style Pini described as “Grandma Moses unleashed” – displayed her colorful works depicting Polish Hill and tourists in Germany.

“You get beautiful, lustrous colors, and it’s just a fun medium to work with,” Pini said. “It’s a cross between drawing and painting, so it appeals to people who like to draw as well as paint.”

Most of the works are for sale and are priced between $75 and $975, and many of the artists also work on commission.

In addition to hosting its first gallery, the library will hold its first “Frank Sarris Day” Sept. 21 to commemorate the benefactor’s memory. Visitors will receive a free cookie on this day, which will be held annually on the Saturday before Sarris’ Sept. 22 birthday.

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