The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art is celebrating a special milestone this year.
Thirty-five years ago, on June 12, 1976, the museum opened its doors to the public for the first time. Since those humble beginnings, SAMA has grown to number four separate museum facilities in Johnstown, Ligonier Valley and Altoona, as well as the main Loretto location, and has amassed a permanent collection numbering nearly 4,000 works by many of the nation's most prominent artists.
"The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art began in 1976 and over the years has grown to become a respected fine arts museum," said SAMA Executive Director G. Gary Moyer. "The realization of our visionary mission to bring museum services to rural Pennsylvania has benefited thousands of people in the region."
SAMA will celebrate the anniversary with a Founders' Day dinner at 6 p.m. April 16 at the Loretto facility. The program begins with a champagne and cocktail reception and is followed by dinner. Later in the evening, there will be presentations by Moyer; John K. Duggan, Jr., president of the the museums's board of trustees; and Dr. Scott Dimond, the museum's curator for visual arts. The evening's keynote speaker will be Dr. Philip Eliasoph, art history professor at Fairfield University and author of "The Enchantment of Realism," the museum's forthcoming monograph on artist Colleen Browning.
The evening will also include the unveiling of a special sculpture - the details of which will be revealed during the ceremony - in celebration of the 35th anniversary. Cost is $80 per person, and seating is limited to 200. Reservations must be made by April 13. For more information, call 472-3920.
"SAMA should be glowingly praised and acknowledged for its visionary role and its leadership in presenting outstanding examples of American art," Eliasoph said a in a phone interview from his home in Fairfield, Conn. "In particular, SAMA has developed a national visibility for its remarkable collection of magic realist artists - highly skilled artists in classical Renaissance methods and techniques. In time and perspective, the artistic and market value of these works is rising dramatically."
If you go
What: The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art's 35th Anniversary Founders' Day Dinner
When: 6 p.m. April 16
Where: SAMA-Loretto museum facility
Admission: $80 per person
More information: Reservations must be made by April 13. To make reservations, call 472-3920.
The museum, nationally accredited through the American Association of Museums, has received a number of prestigious awards, including the National Award for Museum and Library Service, Moyer said.
He added that the museum also facilitates an Arts-in-Education program for schools throughout Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties. Through the program, museum educators take works from the permanent collection into the schools to provide programs designed to enhance students' understanding and appreciation of art.
"I think it's impressive that an institution that's really not all that old in the grand scheme of things has been able to go from having a small core collection to what we have today," Dimond said. "That's very substantial considering the size of the museum. And we've continued to focus on artists in our region along with artists in the national canon. It's nice to have a balanced picture here."
SAMA-Loretto's 2011 exhibition calendar was designed to also help commemorate the museum's long and heralded history, Moyer said.
Currently on view in Loretto is the exhibit "A Decade of Paintings, 2000-2010: Selected Works by Michael M. Strueber"; Strueber was the museum's founding director. Opening April 15 at the Loretto museum, "The Sullivan Family: Legacy Exhibition" features nearly 200 works donated to the museum through the Frank and Margaret Sullivan Fund and the individual gifts of family members.
The exhibition provides examples of paintings, drawings, photography, prints and sculpture by many of the nation's greatest artists, such as Albert Bierstadt, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent and Gilbert Stuart, Moyer said. Later in the year, the museum will mount special exhibitions celebrating the art of American master Will Barnet and the museum's Rezk Collection of Tibetan and Nepalese art.
"The special exhibition calendar over the years has been exemplary, hosting exhibitions for some of the best known artists in America including one-person exhibitions for Andrew Wyeth, America's most popular 20th century painter, and George Nakashima, its finest furniture maker," Strueber, of Hollidaysburg, said. "As well, exhibitions such as the Soap Hollow Exhibition, the William Rau exhibitions and the Biennials have certainly contributed to promoting our regional heritage."
Mirror Staff Writer Jimmy Mincin is at 946-7460.