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Home > SVCPulse > News Archive

SVC McCarl Gallery to Open Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Art Exhibit

Public Relations
Posted: Wednesday Jan 11, 2012

January 11, 2012

An exhibit of folk art of the Pennsylvania Germans, Distelfinks Among the Dutch, will open in the Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Gallery at Saint Vincent College on Wednesday, January 25 with a reception from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

The exhibit will continue through Friday, April 13 during regular Gallery hours of noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays plus 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays. Saturday and Sunday hours are available for individuals or groups by prior arrangement. The Gallery is located on the first floor of the Fred M. Rogers Center on the Saint Vincent campus.

The exhibit was assembled by Casey Wertz of Latrobe, a senior history major and public history minor at Saint Vincent, who has worked at the Gallery for the past two years.

The word distelfink is the German name for the European goldfinch which frequently appears in Pennsylvania Dutch folk art. They represent happiness and good fortune and are a common theme in hex signs and fraktur (elaborate illuminated folk art).

The exhibit will consist of 19 coverlets from the McCarl Collection, fraktur by local artists from the Westmoreland County Historical Society, a quilt made in York County in the 1850s from the Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum and a large wooden chest and several Mennonite Bibles from the West Overton Museum. In addition, contemporary fraktur by Marta Urban and freehand scherenschnitte (paper cutting) by Polly Winkler-Mitchell will be included.

“In working with the McCarl Collection, I noticed a number of coverlets with a Pennsylvania Dutch motif,” Ms. Wertz said. “The symbols matched those included in hex signs, fraktur and scherenschnitte and so I proposed that as a theme for the annual student curated exhibit. I started doing research in the fall of 2010 and completed it during the fall semester of 2011.”

“We wanted to show how the Pennsylvania folk art has continued to be an influence up to the present day,” Ms. Wertz noted. “The goal of the exhibit is to demonstrate the culture and legacy of the Pennsylvania Dutch through their folk art. I also wanted to show how coverlets can connect to other aspects of folk art, particularly Pennsylvania folk art, with connections of color, designs and different styles and techniques. I want people to enjoy looking at that historical legacy.”

In addition to her work at the McCarl Gallery, Ms. Wertz, a 2008 graduate of Greater Latrobe High School, works in the archive at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. She previously completed internships at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art and a summer fellowship at Historic Deerfield, a house museum in Massachusetts. A member of the History Club which she serves as vice president, she is also a member of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society and Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society. The recipient of an A,J. Palumbo Student Research Grant to study Joseph Brandt, she completed her senior thesis, entitled Wigwams, Wampum, and the Connecticut Valley Redmen’s Council of the Improved Order of Redmen, about a fraternal organization and a chapter in the Connecticut Valley. The daughter of Marjorie and Jeff Wertz of Latrobe, she has been a member of the Dean’s List every semester. She expects to graduate in May and future plans include graduate studies in either historical museum studies or library science at George Washington University, New York University or the University of Pittsburgh.

Further details are available by contacting Lauren M. Lamendola, curator of the McCarl Coverlet Gallery, 724 805-2188 or lauren.lamendola@stvincent.edu.

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Photo: Casey Wertz displays a quilt that will be included in the upcoming exhibit at the McCarl Gallery at Saint Vincent College which is on loan from the Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum. It was made in York County between 1850 and 1870. 

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