From a very early age, local artist Kevin Kutz showed those around him his future. Kutz said, as his elementary schoolteachers in essence told his adoptive parents, “That’s what this kid is going to do,” when his artistic endeavors were first apparent.
“I credit Jean Slenker with saying I wasn’t going to learn anything from out of the books — I was going to learn it on my own.”
Through the weekend, the public can view the fruits of that future in the present — with 15 pieces of his work, along with 45 other works of art divvied up between three other local and regional artists at an exhibit being featured at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Bedford.
On Friday, Kevin held a special event at SAMA where he demonstrated woodcuts, oil, furnace cuts and more, he said. The event was limited to 15 attendees, he said.
Some of those woodcuts are from old beams and wood from the early 1800s, according to Kutz, that were left over from the renovation of the Anderson House, where the museum is located. As part of the process of the structure becoming an accredited museum, the building “has undergone a much-needed restoration,” Kutz said.
He said when he learned that the “wood and 16-foot beams were heading to the the burn pile” he borrowed a truck and got “a couple of loads. I still have a stack at my cottage ‘Camp Sunshine.’ ” He said he still uses the wood pieces for plaques and other art projects.
Kutz, along with Sandra Jackson, Eddie Mitchell and Bill Phahl are presenting “Color, Light and the Outdoors” at SAMA with an added theme of “relativity, friends and family,” Kutz said.
Jackson is Kutz’s biological half-sister, Mitchell is his and Sandy’s cousin, and Pfahl is a friend and respected artist, according to Kutz.
Kutz said he met his biological mother, Barbara Mitchell, when he was 25, and that he hadn’t known that she and other family members had been artists, too. “I went to the same art school she went to — the coincidences just follow each other. She was the only person I’d ever met who could finish my sentences.”
Once when his mother was looking at some of his work, Kutz said she told him, “There’s all the textures I was trying to get.” This was a “validation of what I’d been doing all my life.”
Fast forward to October 2022, to SAMA Ligonier when Kristen Miller, the site director and educational coordinator “initiated the idea” of this “Color, Light, and the Outdoors” exhibit with these artists — all plein-air painters.
“I have always been an advocate for the outdoors,” Kutz said. “Painting is a form of preservation.” This advocacy is apparent in paintings and published books such as the one he did of Lincoln Highway landmarks, and ones of the Heritage Trail at the Omni Bedford Springs Resort.
Joan Hawk, of the Bedford Fine Art Gallery, and Jacquie Roach, both volunteers at the museum, helped with the art installation and in getting everything set up for the exhibit.
“I am very happy with the way the exhibit turned out,” Kutz said. “It has a fresh air sense and gives you a good feeling. He believes that the paintings may resonate with people in a way they may or may not have noticed in nature before.
One piece Kutz focused on particularly in this exhibit is a piece he named “Labor Day.” He said, “There’s a social realism impact to this one. I think people will have all kinds of different responses to it.”
“Labor Day” is the outcome of Kutz observing various townsfolk sitting on stoops and steps on the street corners of Bedford.
Kutz wants to acknowledge Christi Draves, the Bedford site director, and the people who have made SAMA “happen and function here in Bedford.”
He said he hopes people realize that “SAMA is the only rural museum of its type in the whole country with four other satellites in Altoona, Johnstown, Ligonier, and Loretto. Art enthusiasts are able to see exhibits that would only have been seen in metropolitan areas such as New York, Washington, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.”
Kutz is continuing to paint and to paint often, he said. “Painting offers up and manifests things that normally you wouldn’t come up with. When it happens, there’s that eureka moment!”
Kutz is hoping museum-goers at this “Color, Light, and the Outdoors,” experience that same kind of moment from the art of these four artists.
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