The 36th annual Unionville Art Gala transformed the Unionville High cafeteria into a thriving art exhibition, displaying the work of over 175 artists
By P.J. D’Annunzio, Staff Writer, UnionvilleTimes.com
EAST MARLBOROUGH — The Chester County art scene extends beyond the pastoral works of the old masters, and the Unionville Art Gala—in its 36th year of operation—exemplified this, showcasing established as well as emerging artistic talent in the area last Saturday.
“We have roughly 90 professional artists, 85 student artists showing off their curricular art,” Director Lele Galer said. “We’re here showing some Chester County original art. We also have some new emerging artists from the area; it isn’t just natural landscapes anymore…it’s nice to mix it up, because there’s just so much here that’s different in this area”
The gala incorporated two distinct areas of exhibition: the professional and the student.
The student exhibit, adorned with white Christmas lights and mellowed with acoustic background performances lent a decidedly Bohemian feel to overall ambiance. Strategically positioned lights were also in place to give focus to the avant-garde, multicolored self-portraits as well as the more traditional landscape pieces.
The event served students not only in terms of recognition for their artwork, but also to raise funds for extracurricular organizations.
“Every year we do something a little bit different,” Galer said, “Last year we added the silent auction and it’s currently doubled in size. This year instead of haranguing local restaurants for donations, the students are running tables are selling food to raise money for their clubs. That’s really preferable to car washes as far as I’m concerned.”
As for the professional side of the exhibit, a plethora of works were present showcasing the abstract to the traditional; from jewelry to metal sculpture. The gala’s featured artist this year was Jeremy McGirl, an oil painter who combines realistically incorporated images onto a superbly painted canvas environment.
“I’ve been doing it [art] since I’ve been growing up,” McGirl said. “I got a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in ’96. My wife and I moved out here from Colorado in ’99 and then I went back for my Master’s in 2005…I was working at DuPont at that time and was kind of getting tired of the desk job, but I always kept up the drawing: it’s one of those things that felt more like a hobby. I said ‘this is how I spend my time, this is what I want to do,’ so I went back to school and finished up my degree in 2008.”
As with all artists, there is an intrinsic passion, a raison de vivre for his craft. For McGirl, the inspiration is the landscape and a connotation in his work that denotes desire to keep naturally pristine scenery unchanged:
“When we go back to Colorado we see how the environment has changed and grown, and it makes you sad on some fronts,” he said “Sometimes you say ‘oh that’s great there’s a beautiful new thing,’ but then you remember what used to be there, the great open spaces that are starting to fade away.”
But beyond the tangible art itself, beyond the monetary value placed on the works and revenue from fundraising, there is a more intangible benefit for the art students of Unionville High: the chance to create.
In a time when art, music, and even academic programs such as history are being cut, now more than ever, the chance for self-expression has become increasingly more vital.
“It shows the duality of how everyone’s brain works,” Unionville High art teacher Lewis Stamos said. “It is very important to have the academics, but you also need other outlets for things to be expressed and to be taught. There are very logical things that need to be brought into the left brain but there are also other needs to be met to develop, not just academic automatons, but people.”