"Getting to Know You"
Read any artist’s statement, and you may learn about the medium they prefer, the tools that they use, what inspires their art, and what their artistic philosophy is. You might discover what drove them to choose their current subject matter. Naturally, all these things relate to their art.
We as an art league value our fellow artists and have become familiar with their styles. But, we also think that it’s important to get to know them not only as “the guy that does the still life watercolors” or “the woman who paints the large abstract oils,” but also as individuals beyond the art world. In that light we bring to you, “Getting to Know You” – interviews with your fellow West Hills Art League members. (If you’d like us to get to know you better, contact Rita Wilson).
For our first article, Nancy Bush, one of the Art League’s original members, was kind enough to let us put the spotlight on her…
GETTING TO KNOW: Nancy Bush
On a soft spring day in late April, Nancy Bush takes a break from the painting class that she teaches at the Robin Hill mansion to sit down with me for a few minutes. She holds a worn manila folder with clippings and articles from the past several decades. Nancy is one of the founding members of the West Hills Art League. My first meeting with Nancy was in 1972, when I was invited to join as a student member. Only three teenagers attended the meetings in the Moon High School art room, and as high school students, we considered ourselves lucky to be part of an adult art league. Little did I know how much impact this would have on my life and little did Nancy know that, almost fifty years later, the league would be a viable professional organization that has touched so many lives.
Nancy hails from Altoona and began her education at the Altoona Campus of Penn State, where she also met her husband-to-be, Glenn. After two years she switched to the main campus, where she earned her degree in art education. She remained at State College and taught art in the public schools. She married Glenn, and moved to the Pittsburgh area, where she met Nancy Gorr, a fellow artist, at Sharon Church. The two choir members, having discovered a mutual interest in art, decided to submit entries to the Three Rivers Arts Festival. Nancy recalls taking the artwork to the Carnegie Museum in Oakland. Neither artist was accepted, and neither had any organizations to put on the application, so they decided to start one themselves. They contacted local art teachers John Miller, Bill MacFarland, and Thelma Fielder from Moon, in addition to teachers from Quaker Valley, and their early meetings took place at Thelma Fielder’s house before moving to the Moon High School art room.
Although Nancy did not continue a public school teaching career, she did continue to paint and to teach art. She held art classes for children in her home, and eventually began teaching art at Sweetwater Arts Center and Robin Hill. Her roots to Robin Hill run deep – Nancy Bush, along with Nancy Gorr, organized residents to save the beloved mansion from being razed, allowing Moon residents to enjoy the mansion and grounds for classes, festivals, weddings, and picnics.
Nancy’s art style has evolved. In the beginning, she painted realistically, but says that after a while “it felt boring.” She would demonstrate at outdoor art shows, sitting on the sidewalk and painting with oil. After seeing a demonstration of “lap painting” by an art league member, she started to dilute the oil with medium to pour it onto the canvas. Now she uses watercolor, ink, or mixed media, and finds herself painting outdoor subjects and abstracts – she still often uses the pour technique. She’s recently moved her art supplies from a well-lit studio in the basement to a large table in the family room – the more convenient to paint whenever she likes.
When she’s not involved in art, she may be reading a James Patterson novel, traveling to the shore with Glenn, or chatting with one of her three children: the oldest son is a gunsmith, the younger is a chemical engineer, and her daughter Kelly has inherited the creative spirit, painting pet portraits on stone when she’s not doing bookkeeping or yoga. Nancy is still an active participant in the Art League, although she’s noticed that “we don’t have as many demonstrators who actually show us their technique,” wistfully recalling a focus on the craft of art. “Now it’s more about showing what the members are doing. There seems to be more focus on promotion.” However, she sees this as a sign of the times, and hopes that the new young blood in the league will keep it going.
Suffice to say, Nancy’s students hope that she keeps going. With her refreshing attitude and wise advice (It’s only paper!), she has inspired generations of artists and remains a key figure in the local art community.
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