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Pine Hill’s Kaleidoscope of Arts Crafters

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 6/7/24 | 6/7/24

Gail Freund at the PHCC ‘Alter Ego’ opening reception 

Wendy Brackman’s ‘Sing OUT Louise’ at the PHCC ‘Alter Ego’ opening reception 

By Robert Brune

PINE HILL — The Pine Hill Community Center (PHCC) has been flourishing with a fantastic schedule of artistic talents within their Catskilled Crafters group. This past fall the number of eclectic wreaths drew a huge crowd of people bidding on a the works of these greatly talented people, contributing to raising funds to keep the lights on and bringing more shows to the center. 

Gail Freund is one of the key contributors of the PHCC crafters group and shares a part of her story that led her to become involved. “In 2016, after living in NYC for 40 years, I was laid off from my job as design director for a costume jewelry company.  It seemed devastating to me at the time, but in retrospect, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.” Freund was quickly recruited to participate in the Catskilled Crafters by Berns Rothchild who runs the PHCC thrift shop. Gail discovered this to be a great way to connect with other creative types that have found their way up to the northern Catskills area. Here’s how Freund recalls her introduction to the PHCC crafters; Rothchild approached her and said, “We are working on a quilt at the Center and YOU ARE GOING TO  PARTICIPATE.” My though bubble was, I have no interest in quilting! Later, she picked me up in her car, and I met the renowned artist Hedi Kyle who was sitting next to her in the front seat. Serendipitously, all the years I lived in NYC, I always wanted to take a book binding class at Center For Book Arts, but was too busy working.”

Freund goes on to explain how her interest snowballed after meeting more of the crafters, “I met Wendy Brackman, who is an artist and quilter. Wendy is a whirlwind of creative energy, filled with enthusiasm. “Winters are difficult in the Catskills”, Wendy explained, “and I wanted to give some of my friends an outlet to occupy their minds and hands”. She wanted to teach English Paper Piecing using the beautiful colors and patterns of the silk ties.” Brackman is an astonishing artist who comes from parents who were performers. Her mother worked with her as a vocal coach, but Brackman gravitated towards visual arts with a talent that has allowed her to travel the world entertaining groups of folks with her wonderful infectious personality and gift for arts and craft. 

As far as the current project that is on exhibition, Freund helps us understand the democratic nature of the group and decision they made, “This years’ vote was for Alter Ego. Each project has a defined parameter, yet everyone is encouraged to do their own personal interpretation in any medium they choose. There are once a month meet ups in The Pine Hill Community Center’s back room. Many people share materials and techniques.  Seeing the working progress excites and motivates people. I get such a thrill to see how wildly different the interpretations are. I like the democracy of a vote and am inspired by the fact that many of the participants are not trained artists. I think this allows more unexpected results and creative freedom.”

At the opening reception for ‘Alter Egos’, equally fascinating as the art provided by the crafters, is the Artists’ Statements booklet on display… The motivations and goals of each artist allow the viewer to better grasp the nature of each piece. 

Some examples of the statements: 

Wendy Brackman

Titled: Sing OUT Louise (Quote from the famous musical Gypsie Rose Lee)

‘Originally trained in classical music, my parents steered my singing style and instruction towards the serious study of voice training at age 13. Turns out I had “great pipes” for operal voice training, It is quite amazing. The volume of sound you can produce with your instrument is all about breath control… In retrospect, my choice to be an artist, as opposed to pursuing a career in opera, makes beautiful use of all my inventive and natural talents – although I am forever in awe of both. 

Ellen Green Stewart

Ellen is one of the newer members of the Catskilled Crafters…

‘As a practicing Art Therapist (Roxbury Central School), I believe in working spontaneously to allow the unconscious mind to emerge with it’s own ideas. We know there is inherent healing value in the act of creating, but also in the act of allowing the work to flow where it wants to.” 

Christien Aromando (Flower Child)

I’ve always felt that putting on a wig created an instant portal into an alter ego. It has been a dream of mine to adorn myself in a wig made entirely of fresh flowers, universally connected to nature, eternally feminine, and symbolizing love, beauty, and joy. This sculpture represents my inner and outer Flower Child. My hope is that, upon gazing at her, she radiates peace into your heart.’

Ricky Zia (Barnyard Chucky at the Pizza Parlor)

For many years when I take a bad photo, see myself poorly lit on Zoom calls, or get tagged in random pics online, I frequently say I look like ‘Barnyard Chucky’. So, for this project, I tried to create a doll version of that and from there I wanted to also add other things that I like. (Pizza, cocktails, and inspired by a candy wrapper with a splattered design)

For the hours of the Pine Hill Community Center: 

The artwork and statements are thoroughly intriguing, and all of the artwork is for sale. 

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