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Southern Alleghenies Museum welcomes paperweight collector, media personality

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 9:04 p.m.
Michael Calleri looks at paperweight collection at the Art Institute of Chicago. Calleri will be the featured speaker at Lunch a l'Art noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art.

The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art is bringing inspiration to the Laurel Highlands, as the museum prepares to welcome paperweight savant and Buffalo celebrity Michael Calleri to speak at the Lunch a l'Art at noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 17.

Calleri learned of the Walter Carlyle Shaw Paperweight Collection, which is on permanent display at SAMA's Ligonier location, after he stumbled upon an old article a few years ago.

“The SAMA collection is the only one I know of that you can walk around and see both sides of the paperweights,” Calleri explained. “Other displays are shelved or against the wall. This collection is ground breaking, revolutionary.”

Calleri finally decided to make the trip from Buffalo to Ligonier this past August to examine the collection. “I wanted to go for the past few years, I just didn't have the time,” he said. “I kept saying that one day I was going to get down there, and one day I did.”

Calleri, who works as a movie critic for print, radio and television media, became enamored with paperweights when visiting a friend during his college days.

“He had a paperweight on his coffee table — a Perthshire from Scotland,” said Calleri. “I was fascinated by it and that's how it began.”

After this initial intrigue, Calleri got to work researching and collecting. Currently, he helms a hefty collecting group on Facebook, attracting more than 1,000 members from all around the world passionate for paperweights.

After his August expedition to Ligonier, museum coordinator Sommer Toffle decided Calleri would be an illuminative guest for the monthly lunch lectures.

“Michael really knew his stuff,” said Travis Mearns, the museum's public relations coordinator. “He drove from Buffalo just to look at the collection and thought it was incredible.”

Aside from his enamor with SAMA's display, Calleri also has a personal tie — the son of his close friend, renowned paperweight artist Victor Trabucco, has a piece in the Shaw collection.

Calleri's October oration will encompass the history, the artists and the general passion involved in paperweights, and will also point out specifics regarding the Shaw collection. He will also have pieces of torch work on hand to highlight the creation process. His aim is to make the presentation interactive and dynamic.

“It will be fun and entertaining,” explained Calleri. “I don't want people to be intimidated; I just want to excite people so they want to collect and seek out the great contemporary artists who create these paperweights.”

Lunch a l'Art cost is $13 or $12 for members. R.S.V.P. by Oct. 11. The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art is located at One Boucher Lane and Route 711 South. Reservations can be made by calling 724-238-6015.

Rebecca Ridinger is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.