Boonville Herald

covering Oneida-Lewis-Herkimer & Hamiliton Counties

Wednesday, March 3, 1999

The Arts Guild of Old Forge, Inc.

By Suzanne Evans

The arts guild of Old Forge, Inc. has been part of the Old Forge community for 47 years. An outdoor art exhibition at the home of an Old Forge resident launched the cultural center and a dedicated group of community members continue to bring art exhibits, performances, classes, and workshops to the Old Forge community. In 1967 this group incorporated as a not-for-profit agency. Then in 1974 they purchased the present building and over the remodeled it to meet the needs of the cultural center/Old Forge. The variety of events include gallery shows and major exhibitions, performances, classes and workshops, community chorus rehearsals, workplace for artists to use pottery wheels, easels, or darkrooms.

Presently, Old Forge Arts Center has an exhibit called Makutano (means intersection in Swahili) that was put together by Mark Scheflen, a photographer. He has captured the beauty and excitement of wildlife in East, Central and South Africa by creating sculptures to express life and nature. Mr. Scheflen decides on what image he wants to project from one of his photographs. Then he designs and constructs an enclosure for the concept of the wildlife photograph. The photograph is enlarged into a transparency which is then incorporated into the sculpture where it is illuminated through the power of projected light. The enclosure may be made from bits and pieces found near where the photograph was taken. Materials may include exotic woods, beads, sheet copper, tree bark, feathers, custom wood moldings and special hardware. The integration of photograph and the design of the enclosure graphically state an opinion or attitude of the artist.

Why did Mark Scheflen show his photographs as light boxes? It was out of necessity since he did not have adequate lighting to show off his installations. Once he saw the effect of light in the boxes he realized its effectiveness. In the present exhibition Makutano, the control of sound, light and exhibit design enables Scheflen to share his thoughts and feelings of Africa with the visitors. Another part of the exhibit is a display of drawings and paintings created in workshops at primary an secondary schools in the Makueni and Machakos Districts of Kenya. It was exhibited at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery in New York City. Later Mark Scheflen, Director of the Visual Arts Program at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery curated for travel artwork from students in New York City to be exhibited in Kenya and artwork from Kenyan students to be shown in the United States.

The artwork on exhibit in Africa from New York students came about when Dr. David Gitari, the Archbishop of Kenya and Bishop Kanuku of the Machakos and Makueni Districts invited Mr. Scheflen to present the American's exhibition and to teach a series of art workshops at 15 schools in the Makueni and Machakos Districts. After the American exhibit the Kenyan students were invited to reciprocate with their own compositions. Mark Scheflen supplied paper, pens, crayons and water paints. The only limit placed on the Kenyan children doing the art work was to have them completed in five weeks so they would be ready to travel to the United States.

The Kenyan students artwork makes a statement about the sociological and economic cross sections that are in existence in African today. Some images depicted are of wild and domestic animals. local architecture and topography, lifestyles and fashion, and ceremonial rituals. The exhibition has been shown at the United Nations in commemoration of the "Day of the Africa Child" the Staten Island Children's Museum, the Central Children's Room at the Donnell Library, New York City, Hudson Valley Children's Museum in Nyack, N.Y.

The exhibit will continue to travel to the North Museum of Natural History and Science. Students living in the local community near the exhibition will be able to reciprocate with their own drawings and paintings.The Makueni and Machakos Project developed by Mark Scheflen will be on display through April 1, 1999 at Arts Center/Old Forge. Parents should make an extra effort to take their children to this worthwhile exhibit. It's not every day that youngsters can see first hand drawings of their African contemporaries or the exciting, illuminated sculptures depicting wildlife in Africa. One illuminated sculpture Mr. Scheflen created has special affects whereby a giraffe suddenly appears as you walk up to the artwork. African music enhances the environment within the gallery.