The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 29, 2012

Museum system benefits from dedicated volunteers

BY TOM LAVIS
TLAVIS@TRIBDEM.COM

— Of the four locations that comprise the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, only the Ligonier Valley site boasts an auxiliary.

The overall museum system benefits from the efforts of a dedicated group of community volunteers, say two Ligonier Township women who champion the fine arts.

Auxiliary officers Sharon Vito, president, and Bonnie Hoffman, treasurer, are among the 67-member group, including Barbara Kravits, vice president, and Susan Endersbe, secretary, who are dedicated to preserving a cultural resource.

“We also want the community to continue to enjoy the museum free of charge,” Vito said.

Before moving to western Pennsylvania, both women lived near Philadelphia, where there seemed to be a museum or gallery around every corner.

“Everyone has something to offer when it comes to being a volunteer,” Vito said.

“I would say we have less than 10 artists in our group, yet everyone uses their abilities to accomplish whatever needs done.”

Vito, who is viewed as an organizer and motivator, also is a member of the museum’s board of trustees.

Her involvement in the auxiliary stems from her love of art.

“I’m not an artist, but I have a passion for art that makes me want to share this joy with others,” Vito said.

She particularly wants young people and children exposed to all forms of arts.

“With school budgets being cut and art programs being eliminated, we must do everything possible to help youngsters pursue self-expression and have exposure to various mediums,” Vito said.

Hoffman is multitalented and lends her computer skills, financial acumen and printing expertise to the auxiliary.

She and her husband, William M. Hoffman Jr., an artist, author and educator, relocated to the Ligonier area following his retirement as a professor of fine arts at Rutgers University at Camden, N.J.

“My husband was born in Blairsville and grew up in Latrobe,” Hoffman said.

“We were pleasantly surprised to see the extent of a vibrant art community here and wanted to be very much a part of it.”

Both women credit the auxiliary’s strong foundation with a core group of women who were selfless in giving of their time and talent when the auxiliary first formed in 2000.

“As the museum was being built, Mary Weidlein and Madelon Sheedy were working shoulder-to-shoulder with construction workers on site,” Vito said.

“They remain stalwarts of the auxiliary.”

Hoffman said the Ligonier auxiliary concentrates on two major fundraisers that require much of the organization’s attention.

The annual Holiday Home Tour that began in 2004 has become a community favorite.

Each December, the tour begins at the museum at One Boucher Lane and Route 711 South in Ligonier.

Guests are given tour tickets and further information for the self-guided tour of select Ligonier homes.

Since the inception of the organization, the auxiliary has donated more than $42,000 for capital improvements.

The other fundraiser is the Garden Party in the museum and on the grounds.

The party is a community event designed to benefit the museum and its expansive flower gardens.

The event begins with a reception in the museum gallery. Following the reception, guests proceed to a party tent to enjoy music.

Each event takes considerable hours of hard work from each member to accomplish.

“We have a nice cross-section of people in the auxiliary,” Vito said.

“We have young mothers, working ladies, retired and semiretired members and we also count three men among our numbers.”

Hoffman is surprised that many people in the community do not know the museum is in Ligonier.

“Our goal is to entice as many people as possible to come and visit the museum,” Hoffman said.

Anyone interested in becoming an auxiliary member is welcome to attend the lunch a l’art meeting, which is conducted at 11 a.m. on the third Thursday of the month at the museum.

Yearly dues are $25.

Information: (724) 238-6015 or www.sama-art.org.

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