Generations of Generosity
Imagine that the year is 1948. Gas is twenty-six cents a gallon, bread is fourteen cents a loaf, and milk is eighty-six cents a gallon. Homes had no televisions, computers, or cell phones. This is the year that the Wellsboro Art Club held its first meeting—it was “by invitation to persons interested in having an ART group.” They were initially a small group of dedicated painters who met in each other’s homes. Mrs. Arla Nicolaison of Denmark, who was residing in Wellsboro at the time, was the first president.
Mrs. Stephen (Elizabeth Betty Beach) McConnell, of Mansfield, assembled several of the early scrapbooks documenting the club’s history. “Many joined for sheer pleasure of companionship but various benefits result from participation: the feeling of relaxation that painting gives; a feeling of exhilaration and pride when someone else ‘recognizes’ the subject matter,” she wrote. “Then there is always a friendly feeling among the ones working together. Each one recognizes the achievement of the others in the group.”
After years of meeting in a variety of locations, the club found a home. In September of 1968, Mr. Arthur Gmeiner, businessman, teacher, and painter, originally from East Point, near Liberty, presented the Gmeiner Art Center (known today as the Gmeiner Art and Cultural Center) to Wellsboro and the citizens of Tioga County. It was, he said, “to be a permanent home for the Art Club, and other nonprofit organizations—cultural, educational, civic and fine arts.” When he was eighty-five, he endowed his namesake art center so there would be a place to store and display his own artwork. WAC artists have since continuously met at the Gmeiner on Thursday mornings.
Over the years, local artists and crafters met and exhibited their work separately, but the WAC has become a sort of umbrella under which all artists have found a place to create. Regional artists have stepped up as instructors and helpers, including Mansfield University professors John Roy, Tucker Worthington, and Dale Witherow, sculptress Lucille Driscoll, potter Mary Cogbill, bonsai artist Akiko Hewitt, bird carver Arnie Hayden, landscape colorist Peg Thomas, fused glass artist Kathleen Schnell, political cartoonist Warren Goodrich, and his wife, Dora, who was a president of the club. Steven Bowers and his wife, Rita, taught art in the public schools to children who came from the same East Point/Liberty community that Arthur Gmeiner called home. Wanda Short, Jane Wetherbee, and Suzan Richar are members who have organized regional children’s art projects. The club has also promoted art with second and third graders at Galeton Elementary with Art With a Heart art camps.
The WAC sponsors a scholarship, funded by their biannual Chair-ity Auction, for local high school graduates who are interested in studying art in college. Members let their creativity—and their paint—flow onto chairs that are then sold to the highest bidder. The scholarship is named for longtime member Jane Wetherbee, who was a beloved art teacher at Liberty Elementary School.
The club’s annual show and sale at the Gmeiner is September 26 through October 5, with a reception September 30 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The club’s motto is “You Only Live Once.” They don’t want that once to be without art.