Westmoreland Museum keeps Greensburg’s growing arts scene open to students

Greensburg might be a small city, but it is home to a growing arts culture that gives Seton Hill University (SHU) students plenty of big opportunities.
One of the most influential hotspots in the local arts scene, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, is located less than a mile away from the university in downtown Greensburg, and offers students the chance to experience world-renowned art exhibits and interact with the community in social events that both educate and entertain.
“I’ve been there. It’s pretty cool,” said freshman Christopher O’Brien.


By Chris Ulicne,
Alumni
Greensburg might be a small city, but it is home to a growing arts culture that gives Seton Hill University (SHU) students plenty of big opportunities.
One of the most influential hotspots in the local arts scene, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, is located less than a mile away from the university in downtown Greensburg, and offers students the chance to experience world-renowned art exhibits and interact with the community in social events that both educate and entertain.
“I’ve been there. It’s pretty cool,” said freshman Christopher O’Brien.
According to the Westmoreland’s website, the museum opened in 1959 after a local woman, Mary Marchand Woods, gave up her entire estate to support its construction. It was later renovated in 1999, after a four-year initiative to expand the museum’s visitor services raised $4.7 million. Since the renovation, the museum has continued to be a focal point for the local arts culture, and in 2007 a strategic plan was created to preserve the museum’s tradition in the future.
Exhibits at the Westmoreland include the works of American artists and often focus on an exploration of the regional themes of southwestern Pennsylvania.
The exhibit “Born of Fire: The Valley of Work,” which debuted at the museum in June 2006, has earned international attention and is currently on tour abroad.
“It ended up being a really big thing. We even got a local band to do some music for it,” said Laura Zorch, marketing and development assistant at the Westmoreland.
The exhibit chronicles the artistic and historical traditions of Pittsburgh’s Big Steel Era. The “Born of Fire” international exhibition started out in Oberhausen, Germany in February 2007 and will continue to make its way across Europe through 2010.
Current and upcoming exhibits include “Bill Wade: Waterfall Spirits,” a collection of black and white photographs of water in motion, “Painting in the United States,” a recreation of a World War II Carnegie Institute exhibit, and “Intimate Landscapes: The Gouache Paintings of Thomas Paquette,” a series of tiny landscape paintings.
Along with the exhibits, the Westmoreland frequently offers “brown bag lectures” on Wednesdays which are free and open to the public, including SHU students. Visitors can bring and eat their own lunch while members of the museum staff, art critics, and other scholars deliver lectures that examine critical and cultural perspectives on the works and artists included in the exhibits.
Of course, the museum offers more than just exhibitions of classic works of art. Family events, art classes for children, musical performances, a museum shop, and a full-service coffee bar are all part of the experience at the Westmoreland.
The museum also hosts an “Art Student Night” every year in September, according to Zorch. SHU students can enjoy live music while they mingle and watch local artists demonstrate their work. These events also include poetry readings and free giveaways sponsored by local art supply stores.
“It’s open to students all over the region, it’s great. That’s always a fun night,” said Carol Brode, assistant professor of art and director of the Harlan Gallery at SHU.
Students who like working with children or who plan to pursue a career in education might want to consider the numerous volunteer opportunities at the Westmoreland. Volunteers frequently assist in the museum’s summer art programs, open to kids ages seven to twelve, but there are many other ways to get involved.
Docents or tour guide volunteers, for instance, learn more about the history behind the art at the museum and give visitors-including groups from schools, the local community, and clubs-information during guided tours or as part of outreach programs.
More volunteer opportunities are available, too, including work in areas such as marketing, for groups like the Women’s Committee and the Westmoreland Jazz Society, and at the museum shop.
SHU students even helped with the Leap Year party at the Westmoreland this year, according to Zorch. Two student volunteers dressed up and acted as “living art installations” at the celebration.
“It was a lot of fun, definitely geared towards student-aged people,” said Zorch.
The museum also offers internship opportunities in the curatorial department for students who are interested in earning college credit while learning to apply new skills to a variety of challenges in the areas of clerical work, marketing, and research. Students must submit a resume to be considered for these positions.
“The Westmoreland is a good place for our students to volunteer or do an internship to gain experience. The practical experience helps a lot,” said Brode.
Regular business hours at the Westmoreland are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, except Thursdays, when the museum is open until 9 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults. Children under 12 and students with a valid ID get in free.
To learn more about the Westmoreland or to apply for volunteer or internship opportunities at the museum, call 724-837-1500 or send an email to info@wmuseumaa.org.
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