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Indiana County woman's life to be celebrated through her art

| Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 12:02 a.m.
Friend of Janessa JoAnn Fleming (from left), Ashley Smith, 20, of Torrance, along with Janessa's parents, Randy and Paula Fleming, and her aunt, Mary Jo Smithula of Monroeville, recall their memories of Janessa, who died in a car accident. WCCC art students and faculty are putting together an exhibit of Janessa Fleming’s artwork completed for her capstone project. Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
A family photo of Janessa JoAnn Fleming.
Ella Fleming, 6, the niece of Janessa JoAnn Fleming, takes photos of her aunt's paintings. Westmoreland County Community College art students and faculty are putting together an exhibit of Janessa Fleming’s work that was completed for her capstone project before she died in a car accident. Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review

It should have been Janessa JoAnn Fleming arranging her artwork in the small, glass-enclosed art gallery in Westmoreland County Community College's Science Hall on Friday.

Fleming, 25, of Armstrong Township in Indiana County, weeks away from completing her associate degree in fine art at WCCC, was killed in a two-vehicle crash on Nov. 15 while turning from Pleasant Unity-Mutual Road onto Route 130. She was on her way to class after picking up a classmate in Greensburg, family members said.

Fleming will be awarded an honorary degree posthumously, according to Kathy Dlugos, program director for the associate degree of fine arts.

And Fleming's paintings will go on display as planned, thanks to family members, classmates and the WCCC art department, who gathered last week to set up the exhibition that will show about 25 of Fleming's works.

The free exhibit, “The Sound of Color, A Memorial Tribute to Janessa JoAnn Fleming,” opens on Tuesday and runs through Dec. 12. A reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the gallery.

Several of the paintings that will be featured in Janessa's exhibition use giraffe-style spots to give them a mosaic look, said Christine Kocevar, the gallery's director.

“She loved animals, and giraffes in particular,” Kocevar said. “Color and nature were very important to her.”

“She was so excited for this art exhibit. She couldn't wait for it,” said Paula Fleming, Janessa's mother. “I'm so proud they're still having it for her.”

As they picked up each colorful painting, family members hugged and wiped away tears, consoling each other as they shared memories of the outgoing young woman, born deaf, who went out of her way to help others.

“She seemed to radiate this love. She never saw the shell of a person. ... She just saw into their hearts,” Paula Fleming said.

Dlugos established a scholarship for WCCC arts students with special needs in Fleming's honor.

“We've had some special-needs students before, but J.J. ... she rose above her impairment,” Dlugos said. “She never let it get in her way.”

In addition to donations, a golf outing may be planned by a family friend to benefit the scholarship, Paula Fleming said.

“We are so excited and so proud of (the scholarship),” Paula Fleming said. “Her love will keep going on and on.”

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or

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