CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — It’s never too late to pursue a creative endeavor. That is one of the key messages behind the Arts Project, a program at Penn State Lehigh Valley that offers noncredit, beginner through advanced art courses to nontraditional students.
Not even a global pandemic could keep a dedicated group of artisans from their weekly advanced jewelry and metalsmithing class. Even when the rest of the PSU-LV campus was shut down and engaged in virtual learning, a group of five students continued to meet on campus during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, with a sixth student joining the class during the Summer I session.
Ann Lalik, artist and Penn State Lehigh Valley gallery director instructed the students and praised their commitment to both the course and their craft.
“When we had to go virtual, I said ‘I can’t do it.' Metalsmithing is too hands on, so I just wasn’t going to have the course. Some of the students emailed me and really wanted to keep meeting,” Lalik said.
The class continued to meet in person while adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines — practicing social distancing, wearing masks and sanitizing work areas.
The students will be part of the Art-in-the-Park event this September, an annual showcase of local artists and crafters in Allentown’s West Park. The showcase returns this year after being canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Art-in-the-Park is a tremendous opportunity for established artists as well as up-and-coming student artists to display their work. Rather than pay a registration fee to secure a table, Lalik explained, artists must now submit applications and participants are chosen through a juried selection process.
“I was invited to participate, and I was asked if I had any students who could participate. Penn State Lehigh Valley doesn’t have a studio arts major, so I told them I didn’t have traditional studio arts students, but I had the continuing ed jewelry and metalsmithing students,” she explained.
The class will be displaying their collective wares at Art-in-the-Park; Lalik is assisting the students with choosing their best work. “Any of these students could put together a body of work that would be fantastic. I am honored that the [West Park Civic Association] trusts me to curate each student’s body of work. I think that reflects well on the students and reflects well on Penn State,” she said.
Lalik said she is also excited to give continuing education students the opportunity to share their talent.
“This generous invitation from the West Park Civic Association encourages the continuing education model — it shows respect," said Lalik. "These students are really serious. They’re passionate. There hasn’t been a place in this environment for the continuing education student. There’s a place for student artists and professional artists. The continuing education students are somewhere in between, and this event at Art-in-the-Park is making space for them and celebrating them.”