Category Archives: Reporting

Open arts studio in Beaver Falls allows children, adults to follow artistic passions

Photo by Emily Matthews

Link: http://www.timesonline.com/community/news/open-arts-studio-in-beaver-falls-allows-children-adults-to/article_cc7e537c-6276-11e7-9853-e36c23d60b50.html

By Luke Furman for The Beaver County Times

BEAVER FALLS — An open arts studio in Beaver Falls allows residents of all ages to express imagination and creativity long after the school dismissal bell rings.

For over a decade, the Center for Creative Arts Expression has provided children and adults of Beaver Falls the opportunity to channel creative energy into artwork.

Geraldine Jackson McCorr, 61, of Beaver Falls, founded the center, or CCAE, in 2006 in addition to her job as an art teacher at Beaver Falls High School.

Now the nonprofit’s executive director, McCorr first encountered the idea of an open arts studio when visiting one in Chicago during her studies for a graduate degree in arts therapy at Seton Hill University in Greensburg.

“I thought, ‘that would be something I would want to do,’” McCorr said. “The goal is to contribute something positive to the community.”

The CCAE operates in a building previously owned by Reeves Bank. McCorr said on opening day of the CCAE, she briefly locked herself in the vault that now serves as a very secure pottery studio.

Along with pottery wheels and a kiln, the CCAE also includes several desks and tables with arts and crafts supplies for open studio time and the many classes and summer camps it offers. Already, the center has held two camps that conclude with a field trip either to The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington or Gateway to the Arts in Pittsburgh. McCorr said these trips act as “a nice bonding experience for families.”

The CCAE also has a music annex two doors down with several keyboards, a piano and a drum set. The annex provides a performance space and the center offers piano lessons there.

“We have different teachers for different things and we create new classes whenever we need,” McCorr said.

Vickie Gant, of Beaver Falls, who volunteers at the center and attended high school with McCorr, expressed her admiration for the center’s contribution to the community.

“I think it’s beautiful,” she said. “There are all different crafts and it gives the kids something to do.”

Betty Kirkland, of Beaver Falls, also volunteers by leading “one or two” arts and craft classes per week, like one that involved transforming soup cans into Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax-themed pencil holders during open studio time from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

McCorr stressed the community aspect of CCAE with most of the work there being undertaken by volunteers. In 2015, WQED awarded McCorr with a Volunteer in the Arts (VITA) award for her work.

The center has only one paid employee, Anita Underwood, who has worked as the center’s receptionist for three years. Underwood said the center “is a wonderful place and everyone should take advantage of it.”

CCAE runs on $15 and $20 membership fees, donations and allotted money from the county. McCorr said she has a core of around 15 frequent visitors, but camps, classes and events like “Art in the Park” draw in around 40 or more participants. Seasonal sports causes enrollment to fluctuate, however.

“We didn’t want cost to be a deterrent, but we need to keep the lights on,” McCorr said.

“There’s part of me that doesn’t want grants. Everybody has a stake in it and you should have to give something so you can appreciate it.”

McCorr grew up in Beaver Falls and her family owned both Jackson’s Barber Shop, founded by her grandfather in 1923, and Jackson Transport.

Her husband, Walter McCorr, died in March. She said he believed in her and helped run the center every step of the way.

“A lot of people helped and supported me and I couldn’t do it without volunteers,” McCorr said. “Everybody pitches in and works to give back to the community.”

Mary Beth Leeman, principal of Beaver Falls High School where McCorr has taught general and fine arts for the last 18 years, said McCorr is a “phenomenal” teacher with “great rapport among students and staff.”

McCorr has scheduled educational field trips for art students, including one to Europe in 2015 and one to China in 2016.

Leeman said some of McCorr’s students volunteer at CCAE, and faculty at Beaver Falls High School have helped the center by donating art supplies.

“Whether it’s pottery or drawing, she gets the kids interested,” Leeman said.

Along with a fluid relationship with the high school, the center has collaborated with nearby Geneva College holding “Crafternoon” events from 2011 to 2015. McCorr said she looks to work with the college again in the future.

She said she plans to make efforts to make more arts and craft supplies available in the community to spark interest in art. Two of her students at Beaver Falls High School will help with the enterprise.

Beaver Falls senior Maddi Frishkorn and junior Ethan Funkhauser will assist McCorr for the rest of the summer as part of a job-training program for non-profit. Their tasks include organizing, helping children make crafts and participating in community outreach programs like the new “Art on the Move,” which looks to bring art supplies to area parks and playgrounds.

“I think it’s nice to see people engaging in the creative aspects of their lives,” Frishkorn said.

In addition to the job-training students, Liz Pagley and her son, Cameron, a sophomore at Beaver Falls, often volunteer their time at the center. Cameron took one of McCorr’s general arts classes at the school and helps at the center during summer and fall.

“(Ms. McCorr) makes sure you’re on task but also lets you go your own direction creatively,” Cameron said.

The center will continues its “Art in the Park” series throughout the summer and continue to incite creativity among the city’s residents.

“Art is for everyone,” McCorr said. “Everyone has some kind of creativity in them. I think that’s what we are about here, creating a safe place for people to express themselves.”

‘Queen Aliquippa’ returned to family of painter

Photo by Sylvester Washington

Link: http://www.timesonline.com/community/news/queen-aliquippa-returned-to-family-of-painter/article_4ae38868-578c-11e7-9e1c-8f990aed9f4d.html

By Luke Furman for The Beaver County Times

ALIQUIPPA — Alice Kirby never thought she would reunite with a particular painting her father created early in his life.

At 19 years old, Charles Williams, Kirby’s father, painted a portrait of Queen Aliquippa on a noncanvas pressboard and donated it to Aliquippa High School, his alma mater, in 1933.

The swirling painting depicts the eponymous Native American woman from the 18th century, who led a Seneca tribe in western Pennsylvania. Significant enough to have George Washington seek her company, Queen Aliquippa now primarily lives on through the town to which she gave her name.

Williams’ “Queen Aliquippa” remained on display in the school building’s entrance for the next 76 years.

During the painting’s extended exhibition, Williams worked at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, an art institution, during the Great Depression before returning to western Pennsylvania to work at J&L Steel Corp. as a roll grinder.

However, despite taking on a trade to support his family, he valued art and painting above all else, Kirby said.

Along with “Queen Aliquippa,” Williams created paintings of his daughter, his wife, also named Alice, and his father-in-law using charcoal, landscapes and still lifes. He partook in plein air, or outdoor, painting in scenic local spots, as well.

Williams died in 1972, with his paintings and sculptures going to his son and Kirby’s brother, Bill Williams, in Spokane, Wash.

Alice Kirby and her friend Rose John, whom she now travels here to visit from Atlanta, grew up in Center Township and attended Aliquippa High in the early 1960s, when they experienced the painting of the Native American leader firsthand each morning.

“As you walked in the main entrance, you could see it hanging on the wall. You were so used to seeing it that you almost didn’t notice it,” Kirby said.

Recently, Kirby traveled back to Pennsylvania and wanted to see if she could buy the painting from the school. She contacted the junior and high school building secretary, Kathleen Dulaney, to try to make an offer.

“She was trying to get a hold of it for years,” John said. “We didn’t know where it was.”

After the district razed the old high school building in 2009, it kept the painting in a storage room for eight years, Dulaney said. But after some searching, the painting resurfaced.

“She called up asking for the picture,” Dulaney said. “I asked the superintendent if she could buy it, and he said we could just donate it to her.”

After nearly 30 years of perseverance, Kirby finally gained ownership of her father’s painting from Aliquippa Principal Alvin B. Gipson on Tuesday.

“They were kind enough to donate it to us,” Kirby said. “Instead of throwing it away, they stored the picture for eight years, which is unusual since it was in bad shape. It’s really something.”

John, who will ship the painting to Georgia for Kirby, said it is in decent condition but is “rough around the edges with a couple of cracks.” Kirby said she plans to have it restored to recapture its former effect.

“I never thought I would get that painting back in my wildest dreams,” Kirby said. “I have a lot of paintings but none mean as much as this particular painting. It was my father’s past, and I just feel elated.”

In addition to Williams’ past, Kirby said the painting captures the cultural significance of its namesake town.

“To me, it resembles Aliquippa itself,” Kirby said. “It was the (school’s) mascot, and everybody knew the painting. It makes me proud, and it was a wonderful feeling to be given it.”

Shortly after the donation, “Queen Aliquippa” even drew immediate recognition from a former Aliquippa teacher.

“When I took the painting (to John’s house), (Rose LaSala), who was a music teacher at Aliquippa, came in and said, ‘That’s Queen Aliquippa. How’d you get that here?’” Kirby said.

Kirby said she plans to give the painting to her son, Chucky, so that it can pass down through a third and eventually a fourth generation in her family.

Oram’s Donuts owners recount 79 year history for Beaver Falls Historical Society

Link: http://www.timesonline.com/community/news/oram-s-donuts-owners-recount-year-history-for-beaver-falls/article_d34fa9c2-6cc5-11e7-9fa1-03ae2623d7e6.html

By Luke Furman for The Beaver County Times

People normally use words like “sprinkled,” “glazed” and “delicious” to describe doughnuts, but what about “historical?”

Brian Booth and Dave Bicksler, who co-own Oram’s Donuts in Beaver Falls, spoke to members of the Beaver Falls Historical Society in the Beaver Falls Carnegie Free Library on Wednesday, presenting the business’ history, its doughnut production and what the shop means to the local community.

The two purchased the business from its third owner, Jon George, in November 2014. Originally, they planned to license an Oram’s franchise location, but ended up buying the singular Beaver Falls shop, Bicksler said.

While Bicksler comes from Washington, D.C., Booth grew up a native to the region with his father and grandfather both teaching history and government in the Big Beaver Falls School District, adding to the local connection.

Betty Anderson, the director of the society’s museum and vice president of the society, said the presentation came about when Booth and Bicksler visited the museum to research their business’ background.

“We wanted to know the history of Oram’s and hopefully their secret recipe,” Anderson said. “Once you have an Oram’s doughnut, other doughnuts don’t compare.”

Anderson said that along with J’s News, Oram’s Donuts is one of two businesses in Beaver Falls that places donation jars for the historical society on its counter.

In the past, the Beaver Falls Historical Society, founded in 1944, has hosted Beaver Falls residents from all walks of life at its meetings, Anderson said.

On the third Wednesday of each month, the group holds a meeting in the downstairs of the library, where a portion of the 40 members meet. Over the 40 years worth of meetings, the society has learned about crocheting, bagpipes, tattooing, bluegrass music and much more.

“When I was growing up, I walked past Oram’s twice a day,” Tom Lesnick, a member of the society, said. “You always learn something new here.”

The members of the group learn about meetings through postcards that they place into a bag at the end and raffle off prizes. However, at this meeting, more people eyed up a table with two boxes of doughnuts than the table with prizes.

The two owners led a casual talk, chock-full of audience interjection, detailing how the business first opened 79 years ago in January 1938 as a doughnut wholesaler for other shops and bakeries. The store opened at 912 Seventh Ave. before relocated to its current building at 1406 Seventh Ave.

Booth said the large green “Oram’s” letters on the interior came from Schomer’s Bakery, long since closed.

The two credited the shop’s second owner, Tom Bradshaw, as “the father of the modern day Oram’s” and said he implemented a process to making the doughnuts. Booth and Bicksler updated the shop with modern technology like iPads instead of punch cards and an internet presence through a website and Facebook.

The shop employs about a dozen people full-time, Booth said, and uses 1,000 lbs. of dough each weekend with the most popular being cinnamon roll, the cream-filled doughnuts and the custard-filled doughnuts.

“Some people come in from out of town on the weekends to buy doughnuts and most of the feedback we get is that our staff is very friendly,” Bicksler said.

Booth and Bicksler said they take into account the historicity of the business they own and know residents have grown up eating extra large cinnamon rolls. The two have only created one new doughnut in their time owning the business, but plan to unveil a new doughnut with mango-flavored filling in the near future.

“We visit a lot of other doughnut stores to compare and I start to understand what makes this place special,” Bicksler said.

“Oram’s Donuts is larger than us. We are simply the caretakers,” Booth said.

Athena to screen award-winning police documentary ‘Do Not Resist’

http://www.thepostathens.com/article/2017/02/do-not-resist-documentary-athens

As national security shifts its focus from the threat of drugs to the threat of terrorism and a resurgence of protests, Craig Atkinson’s award-winning documentary Do Not Resist sheds light on how policing in America has followed suit.

The Athena Cinema, 20 S. Court St., will hold a free screening of the documentary Wednesday at 7 p.m. sponsored by Ohio University’s Students For Liberty, a campus group that promotes individual liberties. Arts For Ohio is also sponsoring the event.

“Throughout discussion with us, the producers (of the film) eventually reached out to Alden Library who, in turn, reached out to the Athena on Court Street,” Conor Fogarty, an OU campus coordinator of Students For Liberty, said in an email. “The theater agreed to screen the film while we got funding to have both free admission and pizza.”

Do Not Resist won Best Documentary at The Tribeca Film Festival last year in Tribeca, New York. The 72-minute documentary tackles the subject of growing police militarization, increased SWAT raids and changes in law enforcement strategy and training. The film also marks cinematographer Atkinson’s directorial debut, who sought to capture a subject close to home.

“My initial intent was that my father was a police officer, so I always paid attention to police and was surprised to see the response after the Boston Marathon bombings,” Atkinson said. “It was a hot topic in the national conversation. I wanted to know what had changed since my father’s time and (Do Not Resist) captures the transition from policing during The War on Drugs to The War on Terror.”

Atkinson said he and his crew gained access to police training and SWAT operations by going to police conventions and engaging officers in conversations.

“We promised an honest portrayal, which was all we had to promise,” he said. “What we were hoping to do is put the camera in situations where policing is unfolding and let the audience decide for themselves. People were shocked that we were given such access.”

Atkinson discovered that police raids had become far more common than during the 13 years his father spent on a SWAT team. Atkinson said his father had served 29 search warrants over his career whereas modern police departments, like the one captured in the film from South Carolina, conduct raids more than 200 times per year.

“The one we covered in South Carolina was one of three during that day,” he said.

In 2014, $5.1 billion was seized from Americans by police, overshadowing the $3.5 billion taken from Americans through burglary, Atkinson said.

“There are some rays of hope in states passing laws requiring convictions before seizing criminal assets,” Atkinson said, pointing out California as one. However, he said the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions “thinks asset revenue is the best thing ever,” which complicates the matter.

The documentary will be shown one night only in theater three on the upper floor of the Athena Cinema, Alexandra Kamody, director of the Athena said. Theater three is the only theater in the building that has both film and digital projection.

“The significance of one-night events I think is about is to generate a good discussion and have a large crowd,” Kamody said. “Sometimes it helps to make it a special event because it does not divide the audience.”

Kamody organized the event with Students For Liberty, who both had an interest in showing the film that has generated some controversy with Netflix.

“Our organization works to focus discussion on college campuses in regards to maximizing personal and economic freedom,” Fogarty said. “Students for Liberty gives funding and support to … hold events such as this aimed at promoting awareness of issues like police militarization and criminal justice reform.”