Lancaster County Art Association marks 85th anniversary with colorful exhibit

Written by corres2

The Lancaster County Art Association is a good example of the phrase “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Over the course of its 85 years in existence, Lancaster County’s oldest art organization has seen global art movements rise and fall in popularity, the invention of new ways to create and present art, and big changes to the city and landscape of Lancaster County.

The Lancaster County Art Association has seen success of longtime members, organized hundreds of exhibits and, in 1998, relocated from a historic building at 22. E. Vine St. in Lancaster to its current home at 149 Precision Ave. in Strasburg. But, despite all these changes, the organization’s goals have remained the same: to promote local artists, welcome and encourage professional and amateur artists of any age and increase the interest of art in the area.

The Lancaster Art Association in Strasburg marks its 85th anniversary this year.

“(The LCAA) is one of the few places where an artist, at any level from amateur or professional, can be a member and sell or not sell their work,” says Patricia Keller, a 78-year-old East Hempfield resident and a member for more than 30 years. “It’s important to keep the arts going in the area. We’ve contributed a lot.”

The Lancaster County Art Association marks its 85th anniversary with an exhibition called “Lancaster County Color,” which opened on June 12 and is on display in the building’s Kauffman Gallery through July 7. The exhibit features 186 5-by-7-inch artworks mounted on 8-by-10-inch acid-free mats organized on the walls by color groups. For example, pieces that feature yellow prominently are grouped together on one wall, while those with blue as its main color are arranged on another wall.

LCAA Lancaster County Color exhibit

“Violet Trees”, (Oil) by Carol Herr is one of the paintings featured in the LCAA’s Lancaster County Color fundraiser exhibit on display through July 7. 

“Our gallery is like one giant color wheel,” says gallery director, Carol Herr. “The subjects range from landscapes to people to animals. There’s a nice variety of things. I think over the last few years the exhibits are getting better and better. We have a lot of professional artists, but our nonprofessional category has been really up there. A lot of times you can’t tell the difference between who’s professional and who isn’t.”

The work is available for sale for $55 or two pieces for $100. According to Keller, the group typically has about 10 shows a year and artists retain 70% of their sales with 30% going back to the organization. But for this show, all the work was donated by many of the Lancaster County Art Association’s 250 members. Proceeds from this exhibition will help fund the organization’s ongoing mission of local art education with a variety of classes from plein air painting to pottery, community building with activities for members and promotion with exhibits and sales.

“We’ve had a number of sales,” Herr, 64, says of the fundraiser so far.

And after challenges presented by COVID-19, the funds are more appreciated now than ever.

“The pandemic really hit us hard as far as our class enrollment. That was really down over the past two years.”

Members keep it going

The Lancaster County Color exhibit celebrates local art and features many works inspired by the natural beauty of the area, but Lancaster County Art Association members also made sure to include a nod to the group’s long and colorful history.

“We have scrapbooks that we put out that feature different newspaper articles and photos of different people from over the years,” says Herr, of East Drumore Township. “In the last couple of years, we’ve unfortunately lost long time members, so looking back I see a lot of members who we miss.”

LCAA Lancaster County Color exhibit

“Mom’s Favorite # 4” (watercolor) by Carol H. Dale is part of the Lancaster County Color exhibit. The pieces are arranged on the LCAA gallery walls according to color. 

Herr, an oil painter and Lancaster County Art Association group member for more than 40 years, says the group is about a 50-50 mix of professional and amateur artists ranging from seniors to artists in their 20s. Lancaster County Art Association members are able to talk about their craft during classes, social gatherings and critique groups.

“It’s terrific because as artists, we’re sort of by ourselves in most cases, painting in our studios,” Herr says. “And it really gives you an outlet, other people you can talk with about art that know what you’re talking about.”

The Lancaster County Color exhibit isn’t the only art show currently on display at the Lancaster County Art Association. True to their mission of supporting their members, another exhibit, the George Chapman Benefit exhibit is on display in the smaller Steinmetz Gallery. The exhibit features work available to purchase by George Chapman, a Lancaster County Art Association member who is in nursing care.

It’s that sense of community that Herr says sustains the group.

“I think it’s the members that really keep it going,” Herr says.

Lancaster’s colorful art history

Throughout the organization’s 85 years, its mission has always been to enhance the Lancaster County art scene, build upon local art traditions and support local artists.

LCAA Daniel Witmer

In a 1985 Sunday News article Daniel Witmer, then president of Lancaster County Art Association wondered “Why should local businesses be going to New York City to buy interior paintings for their offices? They could support their own local artists and get some fine art.”

And more than 30 years before that, in a 1950 Lancaster New Era article, Grace Steinmetz, who founded the organization with Mary Black Diller in 1936, took a deep dive into Lancaster County’s art history and its traditions the group wanted to build upon.

“The Lancaster County Art Association … has as one of its aims the heightening of interest of art in this community,” Steinmetz wrote and then proceeded to outline the area’s rich artistic history.

Grace Steinmetz

Steinmetz cited pioneering Lancaster County artists such as Jacob Eichholtz, a coopersmith, born in 1736, who painted and drew in his spare time and learned the art of portraiture from Gilbert Stuart — the man who famously painted George Washington’s portrait. Steinmetz went on to write about one of Eichholtz’s contemporaries, Robert Fulton. Fulton, best known for developing the steamboat, started his career as an artist. Steinmetz also mentions sculptor and painter Blanche Nevin, who among other subjects, sculpted a bust of Woodrow Wilson as well as the lion sculpture in Lancaster’s Reservoir Park. Poet and painter Lloyd Mifflin and Charles Demuth were also named by Steinmetz as being part of Lancaster County’s colorful art history.

As the oldest art organization in the area, the Lancaster County Art Association has seen a number of its members such as painters Myrtle Tremblay, Constantine Kermes and others find acclaim beyond the area’s art scene. The group aims to continue building on the artistic traditions of Lancaster’s past as they look to the future.

“Lancaster County is a special place for art,” Keller says. “No matter what your medium, you can never run out of subject matter. There’s always something that can catch your imagination. It’s an artist’s dream here.”

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