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Fine Art Tiles With a Story to Tell

Part of the "Come Sail Away" series featuring a background recovered from a silent movie theater in Wausau, Wis. Each sailboat design is one of a kind.

Years ago, anyone wishing to enjoy the patterned art of a tin ceiling —popular in Victorian architecture—would suffer a crink in the neck as they looked up. But thanks to Nancy Fobert, tin ceiling remnants reclaimed and enhanced with color glazing live anew as contemporary wall art – no neck strain necessary.

Members of the College community and the public are invited to an artists’ reception featuring the glazed antique tin art tiles of Fobert Designs from 4:30-6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10 at Lightner Gallery in Lightner Library at Keuka College. Light refreshments and music will accompany the event and Fobert hopes guests will enjoy learning the stories and provenance, or origin, behind each unique piece.

A self-taught artist who has made her living by showcasing her unique creations at juried art festivals for the past seven years, Fobert and her husband, Gary, seek out antique tin ceilings across the country. They have now uncovered original tin ceilings or remnants of ceilings in 50 cities across 12 states, including the Brother’s Lounge jazz club in Cleveland where BB King and other greats played, Willard State Psychiatric Hospital near Ovid, N.Y., an old saloon in Florida, and a silent movie theater in Wausau, Wis.

Signature Butterfly Series pattern, crafted in the "Step In Time" format

When found, Gary Fobert will remove the original tin and transport it back to their home outside Watkins Glen, where he’ll clean off 100 years or more of grime. Depending on its appearance then, “that tells me if I’ll want to add color to the glaze or not,” Nancy Fobert said. While she prefers to keep specifics of her multi-layer process a trade secret, Nancy said she uses a combination of acrylics and signature glazes to enhance the beauty of the original tin patterns. Rather than use a traditional kiln, the couple lays pieces out under the sun to set the glaze.

A special three-panel commission featuring tin recovered from Mechanicsburg, Pa.: "Birch Tree Stand."

Typically, the tin comes from commercial or public properties, but sometimes from private homes, such as one family’s aged cabin in the Adirondacks. Most tin ceilings originated in the late 1800s when ornate plaster engravings adorning ceilings across Europe were desired for American architecture. However, America lacked the trained artisans of Europe, and tin ceilings—painted white—were an economic alternative to European plaster, particularly with the boon in steel and metals during the industrial revolution. Eventually, manufacturers began rolling tin out in sheets, impressing ornate patterns into the metal; squares of engraved tin were fitted together in a fashion similar to contemporary drop ceilings. Tin ceilings were popular through the 1930s.

"Point of View," crafted to resemble a stained glass window.

“They have their own story to tell as far as the history of where each piece comes from,” Nancy Fobert said, adding that the provenance of each tin is documented on the back of her finished “tiles.”

Admitting her craft is “definitely not traditional art,” Nancy Fobert says some of the pieces will be further enhanced with mirrors her husband embeds in cut tin, or wooden frames made by her 75-year-old father, an antiques dealer. In several pieces, small holes or physical elements resembling the keyhole of a door can be found, as she likes to say “I unlocked the beauty of the tin.”

“We felt like the world was missing out on this as an art material and that inspired us to save as much as possible by doing this. I love that we’re preserving part of history,” she says. While her fine art designs can complement many different styles of homes, she adds, “we don’t want to lose the character and integrity of the tin itself. We want you to feel that yes, you are looking at a piece of history, but now it’s made contemporary and cool.”

The Fobert Designs exhibit continues through Oct. 24 at Lightner Gallery and will include the College’s second annual Green & Gold Celebration Weekend. Plans are also in the works for Fobert to speak to art and design students on entering juried art shows.

According to Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art, her students can benefit from the opportunity to connect with a professional artist making a living in the field of high-end art. “A lot of students will look for ways to survive on their own as artists and Nancy’s a great example of how it can be done,” Newcomb says.

Lightner Library Book Sale Set for Sept. 18-20

Mysteries, cookbooks, poetry, biographies, music, and more will be offered at Keuka College’s Lightner Library annual book sale Friday, Sept. 18-Sunday, Sept. 20.

This year’s book sale runs from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday; and from noon-6 p.m. Sunday in Lightner Library. Paperbacks will be priced at 75 cents (children’s paperbacks, 25 cents), with hardbacks selling for $1.25. Shoppers will also be able to purchase videos, audiotapes, and records for $1.

Proceeds from the book sale, sponsored by the Friends of Lightner Library, will benefit the library’s collections and services.

Donations for Lightner Library’s book sale may be made through Friday, Sept. 11 at Five Star Bank, Lyons National Bank, and Community Bank branches in Penn Yan; as well as the Keuka Park Post Office.

Lightner Library a Second Home Thanks to Carol Sackett

Carol Sackett

Junior Courtney Nojeim serves as a student worker at the circulation desk in the Lightner Library. And every day when she comes to work, Nojeim knows she can count on Carol Sackett, library circulation supervisor.

“Not only is Carol a fabulous supervisor in the library, but she is someone that we can all rely on if we need someone to talk to,” said Nojeim. “She is always smiling and welcoming when we arrive at work. She has such a positive attitude at work, that I never know if she is having a bad day.”

While Nojeim has worked at the circulation desk for two years, she finds comfort in knowing Sackett “is always there to assist me when I am confused about any kind of process at the circulation desk,” said Nojeim. “I know that if I have any kind of problem, I can count on her to be right on top of it and try her best to help me solve it. Carol is always willing to train and retrain us when we are in need of learning new processes or programs on the computer.”

One of those new processes was transitioning from a paper-based timesheet to a web-based system. The student employees in the library were among those to first test out the system, and Nojeim said Sackett worked “extremely hard to keep up with the transition from the paper timesheets.”

Nojeim said that because of Sackett, “the library feel like a second home for me because she is so kind and friendly. When I had my first interview with Carol, I knew that I was going to succeed having her as my supervisor.”

Adds Nojeim: “I can’t express how willing Sackett is to help us when we are in need of her assistance. Carol has an encouraging outlook on life and her job. She does everything that she can to make it easier for the students working in the library.”

Student Art Show Spotlights Creativity on Campus

"Space" by Jadine Buddingh

The annual spring Student Art Show at Keuka College returns next week to the Lightner Gallery and the variety and depth of creativity and expression in the pieces installed has Assistant Professor of Art Melissa Newcomb excited to share them with the public.

“I can’t wait for the students to show off what they’ve been working on in Allen Hall,” she said, referring to the campus building housing the art program classrooms and studios. “There is some really powerful work. Every year, these students are raising the bar in the quality of work they create, and it’s incredible to see what is happening in classes now that we have 20 students enrolled in the Art & Design major.”

Drawing by Megan Chase '15

The exhibit features students showcasing a variety of photography, illustrations, mixed media, ceramics, sculpture, drawing and design created in this year’s art classes and will run from March 9 through April 12 with an artists’ reception to be held 4:30 – 6 p.m. Thursday, March 12. Light refreshments will be served and guests will be able to browse the walls and pedestals of the Lightner Gallery in Lightner Library to hearts’ content.

"Katie" from the Reflection Series by Bridgette Fletcher

If Prof. Newcomb is thrilled with the students’ work, the pride and enthusiasm from the students involved is even more palpable.

“The student show is an incredible way for students to show off their creativity, hard work, and talent, and I am always amazed when I see the artwork,” said Bridgette Fletcher ’15, who is exhibiting three portraits from her 11-part “Reflection” series, and an abstract image. Her inspiration for the series stemmed from recent campaigns about women’s perceptions of beauty and how they interpret what they see reflected in the mirror.

“I was incredibly proud of how the portraits turned out and I am honored to have them displayed in the student show,” Bridgette added.

Kayla Medina's self-portrait

In a different twist on reflections, one assignment in the digital photography course required students to take a self-portrait, but portray themselves in a different way than others usually see them. Art & Design major Kayla Medina ’17 took that opportunity to show sides of herself others don’t usually see.

“I decided to show my artistic and serious side, because many people know me as funny, goofy, laid back, and always smiling,” Kayla said.

Bringing others closer to the artists through their work is something that excites Lauren Esposito ’15, who is exhibiting photographs taken during the fall digital photography course.

“Creating art is such an incredible and intimate process; it allows for the individual to relax, express, create, and reflect,” said Lauren. “It’s even more incredible to see the work from others. We have so many talented students here at Keuka College and without the variety of art courses, most of that talent would be unknown.”

Image by Lauren Esposito '15

That principle is even more poignant for Lauren, who said art courses have introduced her to new people who have become some of her closest friends. As a senior, most of her academic hours are spent with the same few students pursuing the same degree (organizational communication), but art courses add a new dynamic, she said.

“I’ve also learned to communicate in an entirely new way through the variety of pieces I created in Foundations of Art and Design to Graphic Design to Digital Photography- which was my favorite art course,” Lauren said. Reigniting her passion for images even pushed her to conduct a photography Field Period™, she said, adding that it was the favorite of the four she has completed as a senior.

"Flowers" by Marina Kilpatrick '16

Other works from other courses, including ceramics (taught by Faith Benedict, adjunct professor of art), sculpture (taught by Sam Castner), graphic design, mixed media and drawing and painting will highlight the depths of creativity and artistic expression coming to the forefront around campus. According to Marina Kilpatrick ’16, having Prof. Newcomb select one of your pieces for the student show is always a great feeling, as is the energy generated when students, professors and other guests come together at the artists’ reception.

The show itself provides “a fantastic opportunity for art majors and minors to get to see their work displayed because it gives them that confident boost that many may need. I know that’s what it did for me,” Kayla added. “Ms. Newcomb has put a LOT of work into this show, and I know the show will be a hit. I’m so excited to see everyone’s work up and on display.”


Comics Workshop, Exhibit Paves Way for New Course

Image copyright Dave Chisholm, 2013

After studying like mad for a doctoral test at Eastman School of Music, jazz trumpeter Dave Chisholm decided he needed a new outlet for his creative energy. So he spent February through December of 2013 writing and illustrating a 204-page graphic novel. Then he set its seven chapters to music – composing a full-length soundtrack of seven songs to pair with it.

Chisholm's 204-page graphic novel sets comics to original music throughout seven chapters.

Now, 26 panels from this book, “Instrumental,” will be displayed in a gallery exhibit for his one-man show, “Music Meets Comics,” which runs October 27 – December 5 at Lightner Gallery in Lightner Library. An artist reception where light refreshments will be served will be held Thursday, Oct. 30 from 4:30-6 p.m. Earlier that week, Chisholm will also host a comics workshop at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28 on the second floor of Allen Hall. The exhibit and workshop will serve as a teaser for a coming spring semester course Chisholm will teach as a visiting professor at Keuka College.

“Anytime you do a class like this, people may think ‘How would I draw Batman?’ but really we’re telling stories in pictures and words. In reality, comics are just a medium for telling any story,” Chisholm said.

For many, superheroes serve as the initial gateway into comics, Chisholm said, describing his early interest as a child in the pulp iconography of familiar favorites of the genre. But it didn’t take long for him to move from interest in the superheroes to those drawing the superheroes, to think about their process and how they might think about translating a narrative idea to a 22-page series of drawings with words.

Chisholm's first graphic novel

With three degrees in music, including a doctorate in jazz trumpet, Chisholm says his day job is “all things music, with comics thrown in.” In addition to trumpet, he also plays guitar, piano, bass and drums and sings, too. He teaches music lessons and is also an adjunct music instructor at Keuka College. He toured the Western U.S. with a rock band in the years between his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and some of his adventures became part of his first graphic novel, “Let’s Go to Utah” which he described as “inspired by the craziness of touring … where it’s all spread out and you drive through the desert for hours and hours and kind of lose your mind a bit.”

Come spring, Chisholm will be running a full-semester, three-credit course through the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts on comics. Students will explore hands-on the detailed work of traditional ink-on-paper comic book creation. According to Chisholm, the course will cover the finer points of comic book panel composition, page composition, working with scripts, lettering, and character/environment design. The overarching goal of the entire course is training students in clear, communicative, sequential storytelling, he said.

“I’m interested in the mechanics of comics, meaning, how do you pace a story over eight pages? How do you put it together?” Chisholm said, describing a potential panel sequence where a man finds a key lying on the ground, uses it to open a nearby door, and a lion jumps out at him.

A 3-panel page from Chisholm's dark comic "Instrumental" (copyright Dave Chisholm, 2013)

“Is the key important? Is the man important? Will we show reactions on his face, or are we using words to show what he’s thinking? It becomes this incredibly rigorous intellectual exercise to communicate any idea or narrative in comics form. It has almost infinite possibilities and that’s inspiring to me,” he said.

Another example he cites is the work “A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge” by Josh Neufeld which documents life and times in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

“He did research, went down several times and kept in touch with people and he happened to tell this story in the medium of comics as opposed to a novel or documentary,” Chisholm explained.

If students were to follow elements of Chisholm’s approach of integrating music into comics, they might start with an exercise of illustrating lyrics, he said, citing Queen’s iconic “Bohemian Rhapsody” as example.

“So if the lyrics state: ‘Mama, just killed a man/Put a gun against his head/Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead,’ how do we show this? Is he on the phone with his mom, calling from prison, telling her this stuff? Is it told in flashback?” Chisholm asked.

Image copyright Dave Chisholm, 2013

By the time the course concludes next May, students will each have written and/or drawn 24 character sketches, 24 environment sketches, a 1-panel strip, a 1-page comic, and a 2-3-page comic “book” for the final project, he said. All final project comic books will share a similar theme and will be printed in a collective anthology by the end of the semester.

For more information on registering for the course, students can contact the registrar’s office or visit