Pete LeClair is surrounded by eggheads small enough to be put all in one basket before he hops a plane in Florida and heads north. That’s because he’ll be sharing his method of how wooden objects can be brought to life at a three-day caricature carving workshop he’ll be leading from May 23 to 25, at the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in Reading. Actually, LeClair’s subject for participants will be hobos, or faces with exaggerated features of bulbous noses, oversized ears, crooked teeth and expressive eyes. It begins step-by-step, starting with a good foundation and building on from there.
At age 76, LeClair, of Gardner, Mass., has been having the time of his life traveling throughout the country and sharing his carving methods for 30-plus years. He’s even authored three books on carving (Schiffer Publishing) along the way. In recent years, his methods have extended to carvers abroad in England and Australia. His workshops consist primarily of those in their 40s on up to those who are retired, like himself.
For 37 years, LeClair was employed as an operating engineer for a paper company in New England after serving with the U.S. Navy. He started carving caricatures as a hobby in 1973 and eventually found himself teaching carving classes in the adult education system of Fitchburg, Mass. In 1990, he began exhibiting his work at woodcarving shows and started gaining recognition and requests for teaching seminars. He is a member of the Caricature Carvers of America.
He said some of his early carvings included sea captains and nautical figures of the New England region before he tackled hillbillies and cowboys. His current basswood exaggerations, some standing no taller than 12 inches, range from eggheads to busts and full-bodied hobo clowns. He’s even created legendary figures “with distinct faces,” such as actor Humphrey Bogart and House Speaker Tip O’Neill. Even President Obama has come under the knife.
What LeClair refuses to become, he said, is a couch potato whittling away the rest of his productive years sitting in front of the television. Instead, he said he stays away from red meat and encourages other retirees to “stay active, even if it’s walking.” Guess you could say he whittles while he works. He’s a man of good humor who has found his niche in life by observing and interpreting the human race, one nick at a time.
“I’m a great people-watcher, especially at an airport where I watch how people carry themselves,” said LeClair, during this phone interview from Florida. He was on his way to Brasstown, N.C., where he would be teaching a carving workshop at the John C. Campbell Folk School.
A light reception with LeClair will be held at the GoggleWorks on May 22, from 5 to 7 p.m., the night before the workshop.
Also at the GoggleWorks: With April designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month, Berks County Children and Youth Services has collaborated with the GoggleWorks to launch the exhibit themed “Silence – because we don’t want to believe that adults hurt children Silence – allows the abuse to continue.” Work by local artists will be on display through April 30, on the second floor of the Berks County Service Center.
According to Brian Foreman, program director at GoggleWorks, Pa. Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks Co., was to visit the center this morning and recognize the artists and their work. She also was to recognize the work of Berks County Children and Youth Services staff and affiliates and review the status of child welfare efforts in Pennsylvania.
The award-winning musical, “The Music Man,” marches into Center Valley, Lehigh Co., on Wednesday at 8 p.m., when Act 1 DeSales University Theatre presents the family-friendly production through May 4, on the main stage of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts.
With music and lyrics by Meredith Willson and book by Willson and Franklin Lacey, “The Music Man” tells the story of fast-talking con man, Harold Hill, who poses as a boys’ band organizer and leader, selling instruments and uniforms to the naïve townspeople of River City, Iowa, vowing to musically train their young boys and promising to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. Things don’t go as planned, especially when librarian Marian Paroo sees through him and begins to fall in love.
The score, alone, is a show-stopper with tunes such as “Goodnight, My Someone,” “Till There Was You,” “Gary, Indiana” and “Seventy-Six Trombones.”
The DeSales cast has Matt Kleckner as Harold Hill and Marie Pfender as Marian Paroo. The ladies of River City include Ashleen Rowan, Caitlin Dailey, Monica Handwerk and Amanda Steckerl.
Director is DeSales Performing Arts division head John Bell, who conducts the orchestra. Choreographer is Stephen Casey, who recently choreographed Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s “Oklahoma!” Musical director is J. Bennett Durham, coordinator of choral activities and liturgical music at DeSales. The design team includes Will Neuert for set design, Amy Best for costumes, Elizabeth Elliott for lights, and Matthew Given for sound design.
For info: desales.edu/act1
Easton artist Nancy Bossert’s mixed media work, “May I Carry the Icon,” recently earned top honors in the Bethlehem Palette Club’s 66th annual Spring Juried Exhibition at the Crayola Gallery at the Banana Factory in Bethlehem. The exhibit runs through May 25. Awards were presented earlier this month during the First Friday celebration.
Linda Anderson’s oil, “Christmas Musing,” took second prize, followed by Li-hsien Price’s oil, “Royal Hawaiian,” placing third.
Juror was Ross Mitchell, executive director of the Violette de Mazia Foundation.
Other winners are: fourth place, oil, “Apples, Mums, and Grapes” by Ed Brazee of Bethlehem; fifth, watercolor, “City Rhythm” by David Lee of Whitehall Twp., Lehigh Co.; sixth, oil, “Boat at Rest” by Maria D. Kasakia of Hellertown, Northampton Co., and seventh, watercolor, “Descending” by Arlene B. Ginsburg of Emmaus, Lehigh Co.
Honorable mention went to: Oil, “Touching Light” by Karen Krimmel of Nazareth, Northampton Co.; collage, “Waikiki Windows” by Susan Levin of Allentown, and pastel pencil, “Maria” by Louise Arlen Cosgrove of Allentown.