The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Bedford will present an art exhibition of watercolors and drawings by former director and local artist Michael M. Strueber from July 29 to October 9.
The exhibition, “Twenty-five-year survey”, will fill the halls of the Bedford site with more than 70 works of art preserved over the last 25 years of Strueber’s career.
The Hollidaysburg-based artist – the founder and first director of the nonprofit SAMA – is known for his still life watercolors and natural landscapes. In addition to his traditional work, this exhibition will be the first time that his non-objective pieces will be presented to the public. For these works, Strueber said he drew inspiration from other art forms like American quilt patterns and the designs of Igor Stravinsky. “Fire Bird” ballet.
“I try to share my vision of life as I live it and I try to cultivate it”, Strueber said.
The SAMA Bedford Museum has seven galleries that will be filled with Strueber’s paintings. The artist said he organized his works to reflect the architecture of the distinct areas of the Bedford location, which he helped prepare for its 2018 opening.
A complementary reception will be held at 5:00 p.m. on July 30 at SAMA Bedford to celebrate the opening of the exhibit. The public will be able to discuss with the artist and be the first to attend his exhibition in its entirety. RSVPs can be made at sama-art.org or by calling the museum at 814-589-3020. Free entry; donations are accepted.
“I’m doing it as a sort of promotion for the Bedford Museum,” Strueber said “Just to get people to attend a preview of the art and have a good time.”
All of the artwork currently on display in the museum, some permanent and some temporary, is being dismantled and stored to make way for Strueber’s work.
“It’s time to go,” said Christi Draves, site director of the Bedford Museum. “It will be a variety of his work, his skills and his presence in the community.”
Draves said donations received at the reception and exhibit could sustain the Bedford location through next year and she is grateful to local artists like Strueber for their involvement in the museum’s future efforts.
“His presence is huge” said Draves. “And what he is able to offer the community is even greater.”
Ann Benzel, vice chair of the SAMA board, said Strueber represents the power of possibility when it comes to the future of the museum. She has worked alongside him for more than 50 years in the development of several Pennsylvania nonprofit organizations like SAMA.
“He was really the catalyst for what SAMA was and what it has become today,” Benzel said.
Strueber has been involved with the nonprofit since its founding in 1976 and has seen it expand to include five locations in central Pennsylvania. According to SAMA’s website, it now houses over 7,500 works of art in its permanent collection and sees around 81,000 visitors each year.
Strueber worked as head of the fine arts department at Saint Francis University before serving as director of SAMA until 2008. Since then, Strueber has maintained a position on the board of trustees as director emeritus. He and his wife, Margaret, received SAMA’s Service to the Arts Award in 2016 for their continued support of the museum.
“As a museum director, I never had the opportunity to promote my work”, Strueber said.
Now 77, Strueber said he’s glad his income never relied solely on his painting. His pieces have been featured in over 400 collections in 38 states, many of which will be borrowed for the “Twenty-five Year Survey.”
The majority of the paintings in the exhibit are courtesy of the Allegheny Art Gallery, a personal gallery in Strueber’s home in Hollidaysburg. It was once an eight-car garage, but has since been renovated to feature many of Strueber’s paintings and display his colorful garden through floor-to-ceiling windows.
When Strueber isn’t painting, he says he spends as much time as possible gardening and enjoying his 2.5-acre property. The artist said his expertise in painting and gardening developed in tandem.
“Gardening, for me, is like creating a giant painting”, says the artist. “It’s never over, it’s always evolving.”
His nature-inspired paintings reflect his upbringing near Pittsburgh, as well as his fondness for the more tropical flowers of Florida, where he spent the winter months producing floral still lifes.
A former museum curator, V. Scott Diamond, composed a written reflection for Strueber’s work. The reflection can be read in full in an exhibition brochure.
“As the artist himself will tell you”, written diamond, “He is as much a product of the soil of western Pennsylvania as the flowers he represents.”
He said this exhibit would be a way to connect his Pennsylvania roots with his artistic inspiration in many parts of the world. Many of his pieces are influenced by the Japanese technique of Ikebana flower arrangement.
Draves said SAMA Bedford’s future goals focus on ongoing educational programming for the community. She said that with the help of supporters like Strueber, a children’s room will be added to the location to expand arts education.
“We want to bring children” Draves said, “Give them something they can’t get from rural life.”
Three separate events will accompany Strueber’s exhibition at SAMA-Bedford. They include a tour of her home and gallery grounds, an artist-led tour of the exhibit, and complimentary art criticism for local artists. Registration forms for these events are available on the SAMA website.
Mirror Staff Writer Linden Markley is at 814-946-7520.
Events related to the Michael M. Strueber exhibition
– A tour of the house, garden and gallery hosted by Margaret and Michael M. Strueber will take place at the Strueber Residence in Hollidaysburg at 11:30 a.m., August 20, with a complimentary Champagne brunch following the tour. The registration fee is $100 and places are limited to the first 24 reservations. RSVP by August 15, 2022.
— Lunch A La Art, a guided tour of the museum, will take place from noon to 2 p.m. on August 31, 2022. A seated lunch break will be scheduled halfway through the museum walk. To attend, register online at sama-art.org or call the museum at 814-589-3020. There is a $15 registration fee and places are limited to 15 reservations. RSVP by August 28.
– The artist review session by Michael M. Strueber will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on September 7. Participants may bring up to two works of art at any time during the scheduled event for a professional review with Strueber. To attend, register online at sama-art.org or call the museum at 814-589-3020.