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Art from the Heart: Connellsville gallery a beehive of activity

Laura Szepesi | for the Daily Courier - Madison Kurpial zealously applies paint to tree leaves at ArtWorks Connellsville. The 9-year-old is a fourth-grader at South Side Elementary School in Connellsville. She is the daughter of Brian and Leanne Kurpial of Connellsville.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>      Laura Szepesi  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>Madison Kurpial zealously applies paint to tree leaves at ArtWorks Connellsville. The 9-year-old is a fourth-grader at South Side Elementary School in Connellsville. She is the daughter of Brian and Leanne Kurpial of Connellsville.
Laura Szepesi | for the Daily Courier - Daniel Cocks lends a helping hand to 15-year-old Brianna Hunter during the Summer Art Camp for Kids at ArtWorks Connellsville. Brianna, daughter of Tom and Martha Hunter of Keisterville, is a sophomore at Uniontown Area High School.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>      Laura Szepesi  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>Daniel Cocks lends a helping hand to 15-year-old Brianna Hunter during the Summer Art Camp for Kids at ArtWorks Connellsville. Brianna, daughter of Tom and Martha Hunter of Keisterville, is a sophomore at Uniontown Area High School.
Laura Szepesi | for the Daily Courier - Gay Thompson has a lot to smile about; she instructed youngsters how to make these beautiful fall leaf prints during the 2012 Summer Art Camp for Kids at ArtWorks Connellsville. Thompson, who lives in Bear Rocks, is a retired art teacher of Connellsville Area School District.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>     Laura Szepesi  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>Gay Thompson has a lot to smile about; she instructed youngsters how to make these beautiful fall leaf prints during the 2012 Summer Art Camp for Kids at ArtWorks Connellsville. Thompson, who lives in Bear Rocks, is a retired art teacher of Connellsville Area School District.

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By Laura Szepesi
Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 1:26 a.m.
 

Collect leaves from trees; flip them over. Slather poster paint on their veiny backsides. Press them between two sheets of paper and – voila! – vibrant autumn art.

Retired art teacher Gay Thompson of Bear Rocks enthusiastically instructed youngsters in the craft of leaf prints one sunny Saturday morning recently, officially ending the 2012 Summer Art Camp sponsored by ArtWorks Connellsville.

Although the classes, students and instructors change year-round, one thing remains constant: Self-taught artist Daniel Cocks is in the background quietly lending a helping hand. Cocks serves as ArtWorks' volunteer arts coordinator/manager.

The unassuming Connellsville resident taught himself how to make stained-glass windows after moving to town about a decade ago. He was motivated when he discovered that the glass — made by Youghiogheny Opalescent Glass — “was produced right here in Connellsville!”

ArtWorks' second year

ArtWorks will celebrate its second anniversary in December. It is an arm of Fayette County Cultural Trust, which was started by Cocks and Mike Edwards.

“We like the arts and also like promoting other local artists,” Cocks said. “This area is full of talented people. The (ArtWorks) gallery gives them a place where they can showcase and sell their work.”

Currently, 75 artists' talents are on display in various media such as paintings, woodwork, fabric and metal crafts – and more.

The written word is also honored at ArtWorks, as books by local authors are marketed.

“We provide a venue for them to sell their books,” Cocks said, “and have hosted events where writers do book signings.”

Cocks and Gay Thompson met several years ago at Art on the Yough, a summer event held in conjunction with the Connellsville Historical Society's Braddock's Crossing event.

Kids' summer art camp

ArtWorks began to host Summer Art Camp for Kids last year. It is held at ArtWorks' building on Crawford Avenue downtown. This year's camp ran for 10 Saturdays. Kids ages 6 to 15 signed up for hourlong sessions that included tie-dyed T-shirts, stamp and scratch art, thumbprint critters and more.

Thompson taught eight of the 10 classes. The other two were instructed by local artist Sheree Cockrell.

“We had a lot of ‘second-timers' this year,” Thompson said. “The kids really enjoyed it.”

For Thompson, teaching children is like coming home. She knows what kind of art kids like; she had a lot of practice while teaching art at the former Junior High East in Connellsville for more than three decades.

Adults with artistic ambitions can learn about such things as mosaics, pottery, sewing and more at the various classes offered by the nonprofit ArtWorks Connellsville. Information is available online at www.artworksconnellsville.org.

ArtWorks' annual fundraiser, sponsored by Fayette County Cultural Trust to benefit ArtWorks and other trust projects, will be held on Oct. 27. A fall dessert reception will begin at 6 p.m., followed by a book signing by local author Ceane O'Hanlon-Lincoln, who will offer “chilling true tales of documented hauntings.”

Laura Szepesi is a freelance writer.

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