Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Painting as a hobby brings out the best in life for Edith Roeder

Edith Roeder's art is about life and people who live it. Whether it be people shopping at a local farmers market, browsing at a classic car show, examining art at an outdoor exhibit, sitting on a park bench at a band shell concert, or simply fishing at a creek -- the gifted eye of Roeder, at 92, has captured more depth in life with brush strokes than camera lenses ever could.

Twenty-two works by Roeder are on display at Allentown's Baum School, in an exhibit titled "The Paintings of Edith Roeder." A second exhibit, "Edgar S. Baum: For the Love of Painting," features work by Dr. Baum (1916-2006) created over five decades. Baum, who resided in Allentown, was a physician and artist and the son of well-known Pennsylvania Impressionist and Baum School founder, Walter E. Baum. Both exhibits will run through March 15. An Artist Reception for Roeder will be held March 6, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Roeder is an artist who can't stress enough that "we all need hobbies." She resided in Palmerton and taught English for 25 years at Northern Lehigh High School. But it wasn't until she retired in 1981, she said, that she needed a hobby and renewed her passion for painting by enrolling in a local art class. Her move to Allentown put her in touch with a neighborhood art group and organizations such as the Parkland Art League, Bethlehem Palette Club and Lehigh Art Alliance. She chose to work in the style "as a romanticist" and soon was participating in group shows and capturing numerous awards.

"You've got to be honest with art," Roeder explained. "You've got to keep your mind open to new techniques. And get into good galleries and look at good art."

Roeder keeps a handle on what's happening in the visual arts scene around Philadelphia. She said it was examining an Impressionistic painting at one of the galleries there that she took a step back from a water scene and thought, ‘I could do that.' Keeping that encouragement in the forefront of her work, she started painting scenes of Allentown's Little Lehigh Creek.

In addition to painting gatherings of interest, subjects include her garden flowers, trees, and Pennsylvania terrain including mountains, creeks, parks, and historic buildings. She likes colors with red earth, rich foliage, changing seasons, and dappled shade.

Roeder has had solo exhibits at the galleries of area retirement homes including Luther Crest, Kirkland, and Moravian Village. When administrator Dale Honig created an Indoor Garden Gallery at Westminster Village in 2005, she invited Roeder to be its first artist and serve as community liaison in attracting other Lehigh Valley artists to exhibit in six-week rotations. Roeder has been a solo exhibitor for the past 18 years at Allentown's annual Art in the Park at West Park. Her work also hangs at Lehigh Valley Hospital, Parkland High School, and Phoebe Home, to name some.

Roeder's love of art began in Lancaster, where she was raised. She recalled sitting next to her older sister, whom she called "a natural artist," and drawing Grecian statues in pencil and charcoal. "I remember all the folds of the statues and learning perspective," she said.

Roeder maintains a positive outlook in life despite losing her husband of 59 years in 1999. The mother of four children, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, she cherishes family time and annual reunions. She likes to walk on the beach when she visits family in Florida. She likes to cook and sew her own clothes. She is quite well-known in artistic circles for donning her own custom-made hats that not only protect her from the sun but match her outfits, too.

It's through her paintings that Roeder said she "can share the pleasure of my observation of nature and of humanity, the grace and beauty of human form, the courage and dignity natural to people. I want to keep producing art that people can hang in their homes and enjoy for a long time."

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Concertmaster Christopher Collins Lee solos with the Reading Symphony Orchestra on Saturday at 8 p.m., at Reading's Sovereign Performing Arts Center, as he performs Goldmark's "Violin Concerto." Also to be performed in the program is Debussy's "Nuages" and "Fetes" from "Nocturnes," as well as Shostakovich's "Symphony No. 5." The Junior Strings Orchestra, led by Brian Mishler, will perform "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3."

Lee joined the symphony as concertmaster in 2000. At 16, he was the protégé of Zino Francescatti, French virtuoso violinist, and went on to study at Juilliard and Curtis and become a Fulbright Scholar.

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Like father, like son. Tenor saxophonist Dan Wilkins, son of jazz pianist Skip Wilkins, takes the floor of the Rodale Room at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown on Friday from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., with his Legacy Band. Young Dan grew up in the East Penn School District and attends Manhattan School of Music. He studied jazz with alto saxophonist Neil Wetzel and plays lead tenor in the Grammy-nominated MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Bobby Sanabria. Dan has played at many respected jazz venues around the country and abroad. At Symphony Hall, he'll be joined by Benny Benack III on trumpet, David Zaks on piano, Joe Plowman on bass, and George Heid III on drums.

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Bethlehem's Touchstone Theatre presents a night of original solo and ensemble work by this season's Apprentice Class with "Fresh Voices: ReEvolution," on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Apprentices are Kathryn Krull, Kyle Lewis, Kayla Prestel and Gary Warren, who spent the first four months of their training in classes, rehearsals, educational outreach, on stage and behind the scenes. They worked closely with the Touchstone Ensemble on two original productions and now have been given the opportunity to explore the creative process independently.

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An upcoming exhibit at Muhlenberg College gives a behind-the-scenes look at the costume design process as it showcases the professionals who make it happen in "The Art of Costume Design," opening Monday through March 17, at the Baker Center for the Arts on campus. Featured will be six acclaimed costume designers, including three Muhlenberg alumni, who are designing for the current main stage season.

The exhibit will showcase the entire process from research, sketches and renderings to finished costumes and production photos, including Tony Award-nominated costumes by Muhlenberg alumnus Michael McDonald from the recent Broadway revival of "Hair."

Featured designers along with McDonald are Constance Case, Lex Gurst, Liz Covey, and Megan Prima and Annie Simon, both Muhlenberg graduates. Simon's costume design can be seen in "Bartholomew Fair," tonight through Sunday. Prima will design for productions of "Iphigenia and Other Daughters," March 20-24, and "Mental Landcapes," March 20-23. Gurst designed for the recent musical, "On the Town."

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