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Art Institute of Pittsburgh hosts Blast from the Past

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By Kate Guerriero
Sunday, Dec. 13, 2009
 

"Who's here from the class of '21• How about '22?" quipped alumni Joseph Hajnas as he addressed more than 250 artifiles celebrating the 88-year history of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh during the opening reception for the Portraits of the Past gallery exhibition on Friday.

"I'm from the class of '53 ... I'm a relic!" he laughed.

Ahh, we're always such suckers for anything (or anyone!) that make us wax nostalgic! Perusing the collection was like taking a fantabulous trip back through the good ol' days; a visual history lesson that is told through a fun and eclectic mix of photographs, paintings, sketches, commercials, artifacts and ephemera that represent art from every decade the institute has been in existence since 1921 when it first opened its doors as the Artists League of Pittsburgh.

Designed to toast the launch of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, the first published history of the school since its founding (proceeds will help fund student scholarships), both the book and the exhibit paint the full picture through pieces of art discovered in the attics, drawers, scrapbooks, albums and boxes of former students, instructors and friends of the institute.

"We had no idea how much fun we would have ... it's been like a giant treasure hunt for us!" mused co-authors Jacquelyn Felix Fisher and E.W. Goodman .

A treasure hunt that dusted off some long-forgotten gems including a daily journal written by late founder Willis Shook , the school's original logo design, film from a 1937 silent movie of students and instructors, and even a 16mm movie projector.

Talk about a major archaeological find. Tangible proof that life did, indeed, exist before the digital age!

"Most of our students wouldn't even know what it was," laughed Jacquelyn.

Brushing through time were emcee Chris Fennimore of WQED; AIP prez George Pry ; Dr. Willis Shook III (grandson of late founder); Nicole and Caitlin Shook ; Willis Shook IV ; board chair Marylouise Fennell; Sharon Fross; Malinda Hallett; Carrie Butler; Michele Bamburak; Alberta Certo; Sally Cruz; John Franke; Norm Huelsman; Angela Jedrzejek; Renee McCafferty; Patty Nagle; Sara Rathburn; Flavia Zortea; Martha Rial; Harry and Rene Smail; Lewis Ferguson; Nick and Heather Bonaroti; Shelia Sweeney; Jennifer Cooper; Wendy Driscoll; Sharon Lehr; Gigi Healy; Pam Coudriet and Erik Arroyo; Jake Liefer ; and Patience and Mike Celender .

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