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Greater Latrobe's celebrated art collection expands during 75 year span

| Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 12:08 p.m.

While Greater Latrobe's Special Art Collection expands every year, adding at least one new work of art annually, Barbara Nakles said this year it will finally be "complete."

Nakles, chair of the district's Art Conservation Trust, clarified that the collection will never be finished, but with the addition of the first piece of art to Greater Latrobe Junior High School, every district building will now hold a piece of the collection.

"For many years, it was only in the senior high, and about 11 years ago, the elementary schools became interested, and now it has come around to the junior high. It's just wonderful," Nakles said.

The beginning of the junior high art collection will be one of several celebrations at the Art Conservation Trust's 2011 Art Gala, set for Nov. 3 at the Center for Student Creativity. Junior high students will choose from five paintings, all of which will be displayed at the gala.

The gala will also serve as the 75th anniversary celebration of the Special Art Collection and the 20th anniversary of the Art Conservation Trust. In addition, the event will honor Ray Mt. Joy, Greater Latrobe class of 1963, and his wife, Pam, for their work in getting a similar art collection started at The Woodlands (Texas) High School.

The gala will be "the celebration of our art as well as our vision of spreading art across the country," Nakles said.

Attendees will be able to view not only the junior high selections, but also the senior high's. The senior high students will have 20 works on display and will vote on the top five. These selections will then be presented to the student council to make a decision on which pieces will be purchased and put in the collection from the Class of 2012, said Jessica Golden, director of the Center for Student Creativity, which houses the collection.

While the junior high students will choose their first purchased piece of the collection, it will not be the first work of professional art in their school. Massachusetts artist Sara Feldman, a Carnegie Mellon University alumna who had a work of hers selected for the senior high collection several years ago, donated "Streambed," a compilation of five paintings, to help jump-start the junior high collection.

The Mt. Joys began their collection at their son's high school last year with the help of Greater Latrobe officials and the conservation trust. In August, the couple and The Woodlands school officials visited Greater Latrobe to view the art collection.

"We were just blown away," said Pam Mt. Joy. "We decided we wanted to do this and make it our own."

A year later, the students at The Woodlands have chosen five pieces of art, which are displayed in a new high school entrance set up like a gallery, Mt. Joy said. This year, she added, the students plan to purchase another five pieces.

"We're just fine-tuning and trying to find our own way," she said. "We can't mimic what (Greater Latrobe) does because they are so established. We're in a different place, but we're thrilled to be able to begin to establish our own collection."

The gala, which serves as a large fundraiser for the conservation trust, will begin at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25, with $15 of that a charitable donation.

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