Latrobe High School Students Collect Priceless Paintings

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September 8, 2011

Public high school hallways lined with paintings by western Pennsylvania artists

Art enthusiasts (from left) Barbara Nakles, Amanda Seanor, Alec Koluder and Jessica Golden are among supporters overseeing the student-owned Special Art Collection.Students in 1960 care for paintings that still hang in the school’s hallways.Student council members in 1949 dust the framed artwork.The second painting, also purchased in 1936, was Blossom Time by artist Martha M. Morgan. This choice features the dreamlike colors of how a happier time might look.Teachers Mary Martha Himler and James Beatty worked with the student council to start the student-owned collection in 1936 during the Great Depression.The collection’s first two paintings included Deserted Farm by Clarence McWilliams, which may reflect Depression-era life as the students saw it.Sailor’s Delight, painted by W. Benjamin Thomas, is the most recent addition to the Special Art Collection, which now includes more than 200 professional works. The painting was chosen and purchased by the student body in 2010.Nakles, a member of the school’s Class of 1952, and George Fetkovich, a 1976 alumnus, help preserve the paintings through the school’s Art Conservation Trust.Senior Maria Graziano pauses in front of Claustrophobia Sky, a painting acquired by the student body in 1998 from artist Clayton F. Merrell. Graziano says the collection has given her a greater appreciation for art.Students from Mountain View Elementary School in Greensburg, Pa., tour the collection, including a painting acquired in 1953 and titled Life by artist Constantine G. Kosak.Students walk daily past professional paintings displayed in the hallways of Greater Latrobe Senior High School in Latrobe, Pa.l-students-1962
Marta W. Aldrich
Courtesy of Greater Latrobe Senior High School
Courtesy of Greater Latrobe Senior High School
Courtesy of Greater Latrobe Senior High School
Courtesy of Greater Latrobe Senior High School
Courtesy of Greater Latrobe Senior High School
Courtesy of Greater Latrobe Senior High School
Marta W. Aldrich
Marta W. Aldrich
Marta W. Aldrich
Marta W. Aldrich
Courtesy of Greater Latrobe Senior High School
Art enthusiasts (from left) Barbara Nakles, Amanda Seanor, Alec Koluder and Jessica Golden are among supporters overseeing the student-owned Special Art Collection.
Students in 1960 care for paintings that still hang in the school’s hallways.
Student council members in 1949 dust the framed artwork.
The second painting, also purchased in 1936, was <i>Blossom Time</i> by artist Martha M. Morgan. This choice features the dreamlike colors of how a happier time might look.
Teachers Mary Martha Himler and James Beatty worked with the student council to start the student-owned collection in 1936 during the Great Depression.
The collection’s first two paintings included <i>Deserted Farm</i> by Clarence McWilliams, which may reflect Depression-era life as the students saw it.
<i>Sailor’s Delight,</i> painted by W. Benjamin Thomas, is the most recent addition to the Special Art Collection, which now includes more than 200 professional works. The painting was chosen and purchased by the student body in 2010.
Nakles, a member of the school’s Class of 1952, and George Fetkovich, a 1976 alumnus, help preserve the paintings through the school’s Art Conservation Trust.
Senior Maria Graziano pauses in front of <i>Claustrophobia Sky,</i> a painting acquired by the student body in 1998 from artist Clayton F. Merrell. Graziano says the collection has given her a greater appreciation for art.
Students from Mountain View Elementary School in Greensburg, Pa., tour the collection, including a painting acquired in 1953 and titled <i>Life</i> by artist Constantine G. Kosak.
Students walk daily past professional paintings displayed in the hallways of Greater Latrobe Senior High School in Latrobe, Pa.
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Walking along a hallway lined with paintings by professional artists, guide Amanda Seanor reminds members of her tour group that they are in neither an art gallery nor a museum.

“It’s definitely not boring here walking from class to class,” says Seanor, 18, describing the student-owned art collection at Greater Latrobe Senior High School near Latrobe, Pa. (pop. 8,338).

“Just look at the variety of subjects and styles,” the senior says as the school bell rings and other teenage students fill the art-adorned halls.

Every year since 1936, Latrobe’s student body has selected and purchased paintings by western Pennsylvania artists for its Special Art Collection, funded through concession sales at football games and other school events. Today, the collection includes more than 200 paintings on display throughout the school, which welcomes tours by community groups and students of all ages.

Spotlighted by more than a mile of museum-quality track lighting, the artwork has influenced thousands of students who have walked the school’s hallways during the last 75 years.

“Before I came to high school, I wanted to be a math teacher,” says Seanor, who plans to study art in college. “It’s inspiring to be surrounded every day by all these paintings.”

A greater appreciation for the arts was exactly what art teacher Mary Martha Himler had in mind during the Great Depression when she began borrowing paintings from the Associated Artists Show in nearby Pittsburgh to present to school assemblies at Latrobe High School.

“She was very concerned that her students were not experiencing original art,” says Barbara Nakles, 75, who studied with Himler as a member of the Class of 1952.

Within a few years, social studies teacher James Beatty, a fellow artist who served as student council adviser, proposed letting the student body vote on and purchase pieces for a student-owned collection, which the student council would manage.

“[Both teachers] were very interesting people, dynamic and stubborn,” recalls Nakles, who chairs the school’s Art Conservation Trust. “But it takes that kind of determination to start a project like this.”

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