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Coloring Our World: Art in Many Forms

Coloring Our World:
Art in Many Forms
by Jennifer LB Leese

Have you ever wondered what life would look like without the many varieties of arts we now possess? Can you imagine a world without art? A world without paintings in the buildings you visit. A world empty of sculpture and design on the streets you stroll upon. A world barren of illustrations in the books you read. A world without art would be a dull world--a very different place.
Look around--art is all around us. It always has been and it always will be. From the time when primitive cavemen smeared clay on cave walls to the time when you or a relative recently sat for a portrait, art has shaped our world.
Put simply, art in any form-painting, sculpture, photography, clay, drawings, architecture-behaves as a preserver of our culture. If you think about it, works of art-in any fashion-display a record of the thoughts, emotions, and efforts of people throughout history. Art is a strong and effective tool. It connects us to the past as it ties us to another in a world of cultural diversity.
The Contemporary School of the Arts and Gallery, located downtown Hagerstown across from the City Hall, is a place of "all mediums".
"We're open-minded. We're open to the community. We represent art," says Ron Lytle, founder of the gallery and art school. The Contemporary School of the Arts and Gallery is working on becoming a non-profit organization. Now into their second year, the founder/photographer hopes to provide a place both for artists to exhibit their work, but also having a place where everyone can learn about art. "We wanted to have a school where anyone can be a learner and a teacher. We believe [the] arts play an important part in our community." The School of Arts is a school for children and adults. They teach classes and have volunteer experienced teachers "who have a love of children and a passion to share their talent and experience" as well as having outreach programs such as Noland Community Center, Frederick Community Center, Elgin Station, and Memorial Rec Center. The Art Gallery is a gallery that is dedicated to the community by displaying photography, paintings in oil, watercolor, and chalk; drawings, poetry, and music.
Ron Lytle says, "Artwork [in the gallery] is by all local artists throughout the region as far as Chambersburg, Waynesboro, and West Chester, Pennsylvania.
"[The artwork] is very diverse. We have a lot of photographers. These [the school's volunteers] are people who have been inspired. They see that this is a gift and they just want to pursue it.
"We want to give back to the community."
Ron Lytle attended Allegheny Community College, majoring in Media Technology. He is a professional photographer and has practiced this profession for 25 years, being the proprietor of Lytle's Personal Touch Photography since 1994 and Contemporary Art Gallery since 2003. Recent work was published in the 2005 Washington County Tourism Brochure, and his portraits have appeared in several area magazines.
The Contemporary School of the Arts and Gallery is a "laid-back and fantastic" place to visit. With two storefronts, the art gallery is on the first floor and the school is located in the basement. "[This is] where kids can learn pencil drawings, photography, and recycling art."
Lytle hopes that visitors "get a concept of art here in the community, and that they will open their eyes more to where they would like to get and just see that we have a solid foundation."
Lytle and the School and Gallery firmly believe that "all communities need arts education for children. The emphasis on standardized testing in the public schools has pushed the arts education to the back burner." ... "Cuts in arts education are detrimental to the education of our children. Social development of our children has suffered, with a resulting negative influence on our communities." Lytle would like to see the City of Hagerstown get more involved with promoting the art community. He is glad to see that there are more and more galleries and studios popping up all over the county.
When asked what he enjoys about art, Lytle had this to say, "[I enjoy] all of it; the interaction with people and knowing that the children have a safe haven." Art to him means relaxation and expression. It is therapeutic and is a wonderful method of inner-soul searching. "It's art."
The Contemporary School of the Arts and Gallery needs future artist and art enthusiasts of our community at their gallery and school. Their mission is to bring the community together with art. Let's help them do that!
They need artists to perform at upcoming festivals and shows. Become a volunteer at the school or gallery; become a positive influence in our community and with our children. If you're interested in displaying your work, singing, dancing, reading poetry, or just helping out when you can, call 301-791-6191 or write
With May art classes in watercolor (by Laura Louis-Shindle) and oil (by Elaine Ambrose) the school also needs donations. Monetary donations and physical aid is appreciated, but they also need supplies such as brushes, jars, aprons, color chalk, pens, pencils, glue, poster board, paper towels, scissors, and much more. For a list, visit (click on the Contemporary School of the Arts) or drop in 4 West Franklin Street, Hagerstown Monday-Fridays 11-3 and 5-7, or Saturdays and Sundays 1-3 with a bag full of helpful items.
"Art is self-expression"-help our community children enhance their naturally-born creativity.

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