BY VICKI TERWILLIGER
Jacqueline Engel espouses that combining community and the arts connects people in a unique and personal way.
As the new executive director of the Walk In Art Center in Schuylkill Haven, Engel is preparing for the center’s future programming and has also announced a new project calling on home-bound artists during this COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve seen the arts bring shy kids out of their shells, give struggling veterans means to repair their souls and bring older folks out of retirement (in a good way). I hope to guide the Walk In Art Center to be a place where people not only create art, but where art helps people recreate themselves,” she said in an email.
The latest center effort is “Art is Healing — The Art of the People of Schuylkill County,” a community-wide art event and exhibition. The center’s artists, at 220 Parkway in Schuylkill Haven, invite the public to share art that they’ve created at home during the novel coronavirus crisis.
As the entire state is under Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home mandate, artists may find time for introspection, reconnecting with family (from a distance) and “expressing pent up emotions, frustrations and joys,” according to the center’s press release.
On Sunday, the state Department of Health reported there were 90 positive COVID-19 cases confirmed in Schuylkill County, up 13 more from the 77 reported Saturday. There were no deaths reported in the county. Statewide, however, there were 150 deaths; with 11,510 people testing positive and 66,261 negative. A DOH update is expected today.
“Instead of this time being strictly one of isolation and aloneness, the Walk In Art Center wishes to facilitate the healing that’s available through art,” Engel said.
It’s hoped the center’s Main Gallery will be home to a giant public art exhibition on a date to be determined. People of all ages who live in and around Schuylkill County are invited to create a work of art using any medium, including drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, clay, wire, weaving, embroidery, crocheting, knitting, collage, stained glass or sculpted wood.
Engel, who came from Williamsport with 20 years of theater management experience, wants to help the center expand into the performing arts. That includes the “healing” exhibition.
“If you’re a musician we’d love to see some home grown music represented as well. Musicians can post their performances via the Walk In’s Facebook Event page. With permission, we will make a soundtrack for the event to be played during the exhibition. The WIAC wants you to be part of this incredible project,” she said.
“The project sprang up organically from the artists at the Walk In. The artists were chatting in their Facebook group about how art can provide activity and healing during a time of confinement and how great it would be to encourage everyone to create something, anything, and be part of a large community exhibition. It was awesome to see all their ideas come together into such a project.”
When an end to the social-distancing guidelines is in sight, the center will post dates and directions of how to bring the art in for a grand public exhibition. For more information, visit the Walk In Art Center at facebook.com/WalkInArtCenter and click on the event page. For updates on proposed summer classes and events, visit walkinartcenter.org. Engel can be reached at 570-732-3728, Ext. 301.
Engel assumed her WIAC post in March. She spent the last decade as the artistic director of the Community Theatre League in Williamsport and for the last two years, while finishing a master’s degree in arts administration, taught voice and piano at the renowned Uptown Music Collective.
She has directed, or served as music director, for more than 170 productions in North-Central Pennsylvania in community theatres, high schools, summer stocks and universities. While at CTL, she also served as their marketing director and youth programs coordinator, developed their summer theatre camp program, directed the large-scale ACT UP productions in collaboration with the Community Arts Center and created the Ray of Light Awards Program for Excellence in High School Theatre, serving more than 20 school districts and televised annually on WNEP2.
“The Walk In Art Center is such a cool space and perfectly situated to be the epicenter of the arts south of the mountain,” Engel said. “It’s amazing for a small town to have such a facility, with its artists’ studios, classrooms where artists can work and collaborate, a gallery/event hall and a unique capacity to invite the public in to participate in this creative community. I’m so excited to help extend the Walk In’s reach into the community and beyond.”
“Eventually you will see plays and musicals, cabaret nights, murder mysteries, summer theatre camps and other performance and family events,” Engel said. “I’d love to have an in-house vocal group eventually and get the community to start thinking of the Walk In as a place for all kinds of art — visual and performance.”
Outgoing Executive Director Lisa Robinson and Chairman of the Board Bert Evans are both looking forward to adding some performing arts to the Walk In Art Center programming and said they are putting the art center in capable hands.
“Jacquie brings to the Walk In many years of experience with a 501(c)3 organization as well as a new dimension with her background in the field of performing arts,” Evans said. “We’re excited to add Jacquie to our team and know she’ll be a true asset to the Schuylkill County community.”
Robinson, who will transition back to her role as a board member, agrees.
“Jacquie brings a wealth of knowledge from her nonprofit background that is necessary to take the Walk In Art Center to the next level. Her performing arts background and experience will complement our strong visual arts program.”
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