Six years ago, I relocated to the Wyoming Valley to usher in the next chapter for the Sordoni Art Gallery at Wilkes University. Our institution was renewing its commitment to the arts and the crown jewel of this initiative is our new space within the Karambelas Media and Communication Center on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre.
For almost five years, our state-of-the-art space has hosted the art work by pillars of art history such as Andy Warhol, Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso, and introduced artists who are central to the contemporary art movement like Nicholas Galanin, Kara Walker and Angela Fraleigh to our Northeast Pennsylvania community. Celebrating art is what we do.
While our mission is to present high-caliber, scholarly exhibitions, central to our focus is to establish an appreciation of the arts through both accessible programming and experiential learning experience for Wilkes University students. Not only do we contemplate history and contemporary culture within our walls, each exhibition is a reflection of hours of preparation by our team made up of students in programs across campus. We are an incubator for creativity with the common goal of visual storytelling.
The exciting thing about the Sordoni Art Gallery is that it is driven by ideas — ideas that might challenge your own thoughts or provide an opportunity to take in another perspective. Our students at Wilkes University tackle these narratives in their course load every day and at Sordoni Art Gallery, we provide an avenue to utilize that knowledge. Students research, design, write, and educate in our space.
The arts allow for us to reflect on our experiences and I have been fortunate to be in the position at the Sordoni Gallery to be a catalyst for our students to gain knowledge in a way that they cannot in the typical classroom or lab. Stop by the gallery and you might see the nursing program conducting grand round exercises or creative writing students drafting their newest works. Of course, you also might see a sketch pad or laptop from students designing the latest print media, too. The bottom line is that every curriculum, every person can gain something from experiencing art.
Over the past few years, this newcomer to NEPA became part of a community welcomed by many through a love for art. I have watched our community grow together as they rediscovered the Sordoni Gallery. Intrinsic to that has been ongoing collaborations with the Diamond City Partnership (DCP).
The gallery and DCP have joined together over these years to provide fun and accessible programs such as the Keystone College Mobile Glass Studio micro-residency or the large scale temporary tape mural by The Tape Artists from Rhode Island. More recently, our Cocktails & Culture happy hour events blend the love for art with a light hearted atmosphere of live music, mixed drinks, light cuisine, and fun. And believe it or not, I have met even more new people as they visit the gallery for the first time because of their appreciation of art.
As the gallery aims to continue building, we look forward to introducing family programs at the gallery and in the community. Diamond City Partnership has provided wonderful avenues for children to take advantage of what downtown has to offer from its cultural institutions. We are delighted we will once again be a stop on the Downtown Discoveries Passport program and provide free art-centered activities during Kidsfest. I cannot imagine a better way to instill the appreciation of the arts with children.
Every day I arrive at the gallery, I am reminded of the potential our community has to continue to grow. Next year the Sordoni Art Gallery will celebrate 50 years in existence. We certainly look much different then we did 50 years ago, but one thing is certain, the gallery continues to be a source of inspiration and excellence, providing the type of programming typically seen in metropolitan cities. With my colleagues and students, we present stories that reflect who we are and teach us empathy for others. I am proud to be a part of that ongoing story.
I urge you to visit the gallery — not just for the Warhols and the Picassos but for every exhibition. By doing so, you are supporting the future. Not just future artists, historians, and creatives, but also nurses, writers, entrepreneurs, and scientists. While you are here, take in what downtown has to offer. I know you will enjoy and appreciate it.
Heather M. Sincavage is an Associate Professor and Director of the Sordoni Art Gallery at Wilkes University.