Young artists’ works on display at SAMA-Loretto

Education programs help art students think creatively

This untitled work was created by Altoona Area High School’s Coby Bernhart-Horton.

Coby Bernhart-Horton found a wood-burning tool while helping her mother clean out the family basement several years ago. So when her Altoona Area High School art teacher offered her a piece of wood as the canvas for an art project, the senior accepted and went to work.

Bernhart-Horton’s untitled, mixed-media piece is one of nearly 200 works in an exhibition featuring student art from Bedford, Blair, Cambria and Somerset counties now on display at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Loretto.

“Artists of the 21st Century” will show through April 7.

For students to have their art displayed on the same walls where works by Picasso and other major artists have hung is impressive, said AAHS art teacher Eric Hoover.

Bernhart-Horton agreed.

“It’s sort of exciting when you think about it,” she said during her Advanced Placement Art class under Hoover last week. “You don’t think something like this is a possibility, but when you see it happen, you wonder what else there is” that can be accomplished.

She won’t make a career out of art — she plans to study pre-veterinarian medicine at Juniata College after graduating from AAHS in June — but it is her favorite hobby.

Her fellow student, Madison Saylor, said she took every art class she could as she plans to study art, architecture and design at Mercyhurst University in Erie to become an interior designer.

Hoover said regardless of whether his students choose art as a vocation or avocation, studying it is meaningful.

“Art is as important as anything else they study,” he said. “If you don’t know how to use creative thinking, how can you solve other critical problems? If you can’t plan and think outside the box, you will never create anything new.”

Taking art also is a “release” for the students, “a break from all the stuff that is in social media, life in general,” Hoover added, referring to school shootings that have dominated recent news.

“They find out a lot more about themselves through their art,” the teacher continued. “It’s not just coming in and painting or drawing. It’s how it relates to your life and how you are as a person.”

SAMA has two educational programs — Arts in Education and Artist in Residence — and schools must participate in at least one to have the opportunity for students to show their work in the museum’s annual show, explained Jessica Campbell, SAMA education coordinator.

Through the programs — the largest of their kind in the state — SAMA educators and professional artists travel to public and parochial schools to provide lessons designed to enhance students’ understanding of art creation, technique, history, criticism and aesthetics, she said.

Bob Zabrosky, the current resident potter at Old Bedford Village, will visit Hoover’s classes at AAHS in April, to work with students at the pottery wheel and likely create a large, group project, the teacher said. Last year, that project was a large sculpture that is part of the current exhibition at SAMA-Loretto. It was made from scrap insulation board, a building material.

“We try to make the best out of the materials we have. We try to find a use for things,” said Hoover.

His students also have other shows this spring: at Station Medical Center, the Blair County Arts Festival at Penn State Altoona and an in-house show near the school’s auditorium.

Campbell, who has conducted the arts program for years, said she is impressed with area art teachers “always expanding their lesson plans and experimenting, trying to keep up with the times.” But she also has noticed more drawings using graphite pencil.

“While these teachers are trying to stay on trend, they’re also staying with the classic, pen and paper, focusing on realism,” Campbell added.

In addition to AAHS, schools represented in the Loretto exhibition from Blair County include Altoona Area Junior High School and Bishop Guilfoyle High School.

A similar show featuring art from schools in Westmoreland and Fayette counties is exhibited at SAMA’s location in Ligonier Valley through April 22, bringing the total to 240 student-created works for both exhibitions. Each student gets a certificate of participation, recognizing them for having the art on display.

Also currently on display at SAMA-Loretto is “A Pennsylvania Artist Goes to War: Milton Herbert Bancroft in France, 1918-1919.” Featuring nearly 40 works on paper from the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition is on view through April 7. It includes vintage Liberty Loan and recruitment posters from the World War I era.

Mirror Life Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.


If you go:

What: “Artists of the 21st Century”

Where: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, on the campus of Saint Francis University, Loretto

When: Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, through April 7

Admission: Free

More info: (814) 472-3920 or