The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

In the Spotlight

August 24, 2012

Woman shelves marketing career to pursue dream

JOHNSTOWN — When Christine Summits took out an anthology of “Ghosts of Gettysburg” books from the Cambria County Library, she had every intention to return them. When she lost them, she accrued a hefty fee that she attempted to settle in an unconventional (yet wholly American) way: Volunteer work.

As a self-taught, freelance artist living in a loft in downtown Johnstown, she figured she would pay with her brush instead of her wallet. The library didn’t go for it. But, she’s following through with a pro bono mural in its third-floor “teen corner,” doing her best to – as she put it – “spruce up” a building that was a part of her childhood.

And, every artist needs a portfolio.

“I got some ideas together for (them),” she said. “I wanted to do something pretty general, but fun at the same time. Something that’s not gonna look dated in five or 10 years.”

Summits, 28, also works as a partner at Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center, teaching arts and crafts to grade-schoolers in an after-school program.

She is a 2002 Bishop McCort graduate and majored in advertising and public relations  at Penn State before switching to St. Francis to earn her MBA.

Until a year ago she had been a marketing director, eschewing that career for the creative outlet of “la vie Boheme.”

“I decided to hang it up in the marketing world because it just wasn’t the right fit. I decided to put myself out there as an artist, and I’ve been steady ever since,” Summits said, the envy of starving artists everywhere.

“I was scared at first,” she recalled. “But I thought ‘what’s the worst that could happen? I get no response’ and I think I’ve had one week where I’ve had nothing to do.”

Most of her work, she said, comes from word of mouth and through people who have bought her paintings.

She has been working on the library’s mural for about a month and estimates she still has at least two weeks to go.

She sees painting as a form of meditation; a form of therapy.

“All my problems and the world outside, it kinda goes away for me. I get to just be in this peaceful sense with my music and painting and it really feels like where I should be right now,” she said. “I just love to come here, jam out to Pandora (Radio) and tune out the world and paint.”

Summits is a member of the Young Professionals of the Alleghenies and also has volunteered with Alternative Community Resource Program, although she said she never really was good with kids.

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