Michael Allison simply wanted to get frustrated artists off his back.
At the time, he was a curator at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Loretto.
He often heard artists complain about the lack of opportunities to show their work.
The solution, he believed, was for local artists to organize and launch a contemporary arts collaboration.
“Let’s face it, if one person walks into an organization, that’s one person,” he explained. “If 20 people walk in, people start to pay attention. There is strength in numbers.”
So he had a meeting that welcomed about 75 people – artists and others with a passion for art.
They decided the next step would be to have another meeting to more formally organize a group.
With that, Art in Common was born.
“And now, 35 years later, it is still going along,” Allison noted. “It’s still there, and it’s still thriving.”
Comprised of artists, photographers, and sculptors from around the region, Art in Common offers several benefits.
According to Allison, it shows artists that they are not alone.
“Making art is a solitary activity, so it’s good to have a support group and an organization like this provides that,” he reminded.
Also, members are producing a real diversity of art work, and young artists will not be locked into a style that is not appropriate, he added. They can grow with the group.
Art in Common members show their work at local venues including UPMC’s Station Medical Center, the Altoona Area Public Library, the Blair County Arts Foundation office, and Tavern 27 at the Park Hills Golf Club.
Those are all non-juried exhibitions, said Lynn Marchetti Heverly, the business manager/treasurer of Art in Common, noting that the Station Medical Center is a prime traffic location for viewing artwork.
A juried exhibition – Artists in Our Midst – is currently featured at the Altoona location of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art through February 9.
Another juried exhibition is featured each year at the Blair County Arts Festival at Penn State Altoona.
Membership to Art in Common is $20 per year. More information is available on the group’s Facebook page. Those interested in contacting the group can email email@example.com.
Heverly, an artist and photographer, has been affiliated with the organization since 1997. She said the advantages are many.
“It gets your name out there,” she stated. “Once the public sees your name and your work, they see it again and again. It’s not too long before they start recognizing your work.
Artists affiliated with the group extend well beyond Blair County, she added.
“There’s nothing like walking into a room where everyone shares their passion,” Heverly continued. “We’ve had that passion probably since childhood and now, as adults, we have the benefits of sitting with a group.”
Allison, who now works in fine arts and commercial art, is proud to be a “founding father” of Art in Common.
“People have to be proactive,” he insisted. “I think that’s the primary message here. And for people who buy art to buy regional artists and get to know the artists. It has been successful in those areas because people do collect work from Art in Common members.”
Membership has fluctuated, Allision noted, and the group has gone through changes over the years like any organization. One thing has not changed.
“It has consistently been an enthusiastic and truly wonderful group of people who have been part of Art in Common,” he said. “They are as fine a bunch of people as you would ever want to be with.”