Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Deirdre Murphy's 'Sky Paintings' connect with traveling public

For Deirdre Murphy, the sky's the limit when it comes to her art – especially when the backdrop is the Philadelphia International Airport. That's where her installation, "Sky Paintings," is on exhibit for the next year alongside the moving walkway of Terminals C and D. For the thousands of passengers who board flights daily, a pause in the rush is in order to experience Murphy's dynamic and colorful panoramic vistas that were inspired by Hawk Mountain's birds and their collective movement in Berks County.

Murphy, who resides in Montgomery County, teaches drawing and painting at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where she earned her master of fine arts. It has been her love of travel combined with her art that focuses on an exploration of birds and the human connection to the larger natural world. Her "Sky Paintings" series features work that explores the patterns, murmurations and energy of bird flocks, much of which she discovered at Hawk Mountain.

It was fellow-artist Nic Coviello of Philadelphia who, back in 2012, whetted Murphy's artistic appetite for the Berks County site, one of his favorite places for artistic inspiration. At the time, his "Seekers" series of figurative landscapes was on exhibit at the Philadelphia International Airport and depicted people like himself who, as he explained, "used the outposts to wander, discover and record natural events and, in the process, refresh their own sense of self and with spirits soaring."

 Murphy said she literally "set up shop" in her room for three days at a stretch at a nearby bed and breakfast while exploring Hawk Mountain.

"I was doing plein air painting in 26-degree weather," she recalled, "and taking my art back to my studio in Philadelphia."

When she first saw her "Sky Paintings" on view at the airport, she said the biggest thrill was standing back and watching passengers make a connection by taking selfies, or digital self portraits, against the art.

"It's satisfying when a viewer walks away feeling like he or she just had a fabulous, seven-course meal," Murphy described. "They walk away and digest what they just took in. That's a connection. That's a success to me."

Leah Douglas, director of the airport's exhibitions program, said she had been aware of Murphy's art. Her original acrylic-on-panel paintings were 11-inches-by-36-inches, presenting Douglas with the challenge of enlarging them to billboard size. Douglas said she also knew she wanted to place them along the terminals' moving walkway. For the thousands of passengers who would tread it daily, Douglas said the art had to be "powerful and a quick read."

"Murphy's paintings, with their themes of nature and, in particular, the skyscapes accentuated with birds and kite-like elements in flight, are a perfect fit for the airport traveler," Douglas explained. "Her exhibition features work with color-filled compositions, rooted in a sense of motion that will captivate travelers as they ready themselves for their own experiences in flight."

According to Douglas, whose headed the exhibitions program since it was established in 1998, said there are 20 exhibit locations at the airport that rotate art in and in between its seven terminals throughout the year. She said art not only provides a nice diversion for its more than 30 million passengers each year, but also communicates to those passengers what the region has to offer.

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"Bravo Broadway" is the final pops program of the season for the Reading Symphony Orchestra on Saturday at 8 p.m., at the Santander Performing Arts Center, with special guest artists Doug LaBrecque, Christiane Noll and Anne Runolfsson performing favorites from the American Musical Theater. Guest conductor is Sameer Patel, associate conductor of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

LaBrecque appeared as The Phantom and Raoul in the Harold Prince production of "The Phantom of the Opera." He also was Ravenal in the revival of "Showboat." Noll is a versatile stage performer whose range extends from comedy to drama, and jazz to opera. Aside from theater, Runolfsson is a recording artist who has appeared in cabaret and concert halls worldwide. She was Carlotta Giudacelli in "The Phantom of the Opera" and was a standby to Julie Andrews and Liza Minelli in "Victor/Victoria."

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Guest violinist Karina Canellakis once again performs with the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church, 3231 W. Tilghman St., Allentown. The program, titled "All Nature Sings," features Frederick Delius' "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring" and "Summer Night on the River." Canellakis collaborates with the musicians for Felix Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op 64." The program also includes Dmitri Shostakovich's "The Chamber Symphony, Op. 110a."

Canellakis holds a master's degree in orchestral conducting from The Juilliard School and recently was appointed as assistant conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

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The youth of Civic Theatre School in Allentown will present "Annie, Jr.," a one-act adaptation of one of the world's best-loved and most-performed family musicals, with four performances beginning tonight at 6, and running through Saturday, at the Nineteenth Street Theatre.

"Annie, Jr." stars Hannah Whitson in the title role. The cast includes Mason Steltz as Sandy, Erin McGowan as Miss Hannigan, Jackson Haught as Oliver Warbucks, Aubree Williams as his secretary Grace Farfell, Dylan Gambos as Rooster, Malerie Razzis as Lily, Molly McGorry as Molly and Jonathan Krippe as FDR. The ensemble cast also includes 85 students from across the Lehigh Valley enrolled in Civic's educational programs this academic year.

Co-directors/choreographers are William Sanders and JoAnn Wilchek Basist. Musical direction is by Brian Foley.

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The inclement winter weather wreaked havoc on many artists and arts organizations who postponed and rescheduled events until now. One such group is the Pennsylvania Jazz Collective's "Lehigh Valley Jazz IDOL" on Tuesday at 8 p.m., at the Charles A. Brown IceHouse, 56 River St., Sand Island, Bethlehem. Regional middle and high school jazz band directors and local college music departments were invited to participate.

Judges are PAJAZZ artists Neil Wetzel, Wayne "Paco" Maura and Marlene Gilley. Master of ceremonies is Alan Gaumer, artistic director. PAJAZZ also will present awards. The first-place jazz combo winner will appear at the Mayfair Festival of the Arts in Allentown in May as the opening act for the recently named PAJAZZ regional All-Star Septet.

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Jazz artists Skip Wilkins and Tom Kozic also postponed their faculty recital to Tuesday at 8 p.m., at Lafayette College's Williams Center for the Arts in Easton. The program will feature standards and original pieces the duo recorded together.

Wilkins is an associate professor of music at Lafayette; Kozic is a jazz/contemporary guitar instructor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. The two have been performing together for more than 15 years in a variety of sessions.  As a duo, they performed numerous concerts and also played at the Blue Orchid Inn in Mertztown, Berks Co.

For further info: 610-330-5356


The eclectic work by emerging student choreographers of Muhlenberg College's Theater & Dance Department can be seen beginning tonight at 8, and running through Sunday in "Dance Emerge," at the Dance Studio Theatre on campus. Artistic director for the showcase concert is Corrie Franz Cowart.

The program will showcase 12 choreographers and 60 dancers from the department in 12 original dances including contemporary jazz, hip-hop, tap, dance theater, plus modern works that investigate such topics as the sensation of getting lost in a book, women's struggles with power, circus lights, and ritualized behavior.

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Grammy-nominated and Latin Grammy-winning composer/pianist Gabriela Lena Frank will present an original major work based on the poetry of Nicaragua's Pablo Antonio Cuadra on Sunday at 3 p.m., at Lafayette College's Williams Center for the Arts.

Frank, who has been in residency at the college, composed a commissioned major work, "Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea," for the Lafayette Concert Choir and Chamber Singers.

In addition to the choirs and Concord Chamber Singers, the program includes international soloists Andrew Garland and Susanna Eyton-Jones, the Grammy-winning Chiara String Quartet, and concert pianists Molly Morkoski and Holly Roadfeldt on two pianos.

The concert will be conducted by Jennifer Kelly, associate professor and director of the college's choral program. She featured Frank in her book, "In Her Own Words: Conversations with Composers in the United States."

A pre-concert lecture at 2 p.m. features students presenting their work inspired by Frank's commission.

For further info: 610-330-5009


Quakertown Community High School, under the direction of Frank Parker, has been named the winner of the SteelStacks High School Band Jazz Showcase during the finals of the third annual event held last month. The student musicians will open for the Cherry Poppin' Daddies on May 22, during RiverJazz at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. Runner-up is the Kutztown Area High School Jazz Band, under the direction of Doug Matz, who will share the stage with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on May 8, during RiverJazz.

In addition to the band honors, judges of the showcase recognized several schools and individuals with "best soloist" and "best section" awards. They are: best jazz vocalist, Nailah Vazques, Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts; best sax soloist, Natalie Parker, Quakertown Community High School; best brass soloist, Jamal Kemp, Kutztown Area High School; best rhythm soloist, Zion Fritzinger, Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts; and best overall solo, Pat McGee, Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts.

Also, Best Reed Section, Quakertown Community High School; best trumpet section, North Penn High School; best trombone section, North Penn High School and best rhythm section, Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts.

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