Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Panza Gallery

I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the Panza Gallery. Owned by artist and framer Mark Panza, the gallery is located on 115 Sedgwick Street in Millvale, a neighborhood that nests on the Allegheny River across from Pittsburgh. The building itself was once a German Song and Dance Club, and it's outfitted with a couple of floors of galleries, a frame shop and other amenities.

Mark is one of the most generous and accesible guys you could ever hope to meet in the Pittsburgh arts scene. He is genuinely interested in art, and enjoys meeting and interacting with other artists. I first had the pleasure of encountering Mark when I showed up at a life drawing session at the gallery. This is a weekly series (cost - $7) that I now attend every Thursday from 7-9PM. Mark is so unassuming and laid back that I would never have guessed that he was the proprietor of this mini arts-empire. It is not surprising then, that he has been able to surround himself with a community of like-minded artists. It's not uncommon to have several of the session participants kicking back and enjoying some lively conversation after putting in a few hours of drawing.

If you can make it, the Panza Gallery is offering an opening reception tonight- Saturday, September 23, from 6-9PM. Artists featured include Marie Kelly, Al Blumberg, James Shipman, and Mark Panza himself. I've seen the works of Blumberg in the lower gallery, and I can vouch for the vibrant, stirring qualities of these portraits. They are hung along the wall in rows, and form a sheet of abstract expressionist vitality. I respectfully disagree with Mark's contention that he went overboard in their presentation. A former Pittsburgh Center for the Arts "Artist of the Year" (1961), Kellly's work plays around the edges of high fantasy, and is just as likely to amuse as to disturb. I haven't yet had the opportunity to check out the upper gallery, and I look forward to doing so tonight.


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