Image credit: Walter Baum (1884-1956), Pennsylvania City, Manayunk, c. 1947, oil on canvas, Souderton Area School District.
The Decorated, Displayed, Discovered: Celebrating the Region’s School Art Collections Exhibit at the Michener Art Museum features a painting by Walter Baum from the gallery at Souderton Area High School. I am familiar with Baum’s work, since I attend Souderton and regularly see his work displayed at the back of the school’s auditorium. I have always appreciated art with lots of personality and color, so the work currently on display at the Michener immediately caught my eye.
The painting is titled Pennsylvania City, Manayunk. Baum was fond of painting street views; most of his works displayed at Souderton are of towns during winter or spring. His work on Manayunk, however has a different feeling from the rest, having been painted in summer. It looks down on what seems to be a major street of Manayunk and is full of bright reds and greens.
The work is one of three paintings of Manayunk featured in the Decorated, Displayed, Discovered Exhibit, each painting done by a different local artist. The other two, entitled Boone Street, Manayunk and Untitled (Manayunk winter street and building scene), are from the Bucks County Intermediate Unit #22 Collection and Pennridge School District respectively and depict more somber sides of the town. Untitled by Antonio Martino uses muted colors, especially in the sky, and feels confined, with the observer looking up from the street at the surrounding buildings. Boone Street, Manayunk by Francis Speight is full of contrast: light and dark, urban and suburban, clean and dirty. The viewer looks down at a set of buildings and further down to a crowded valley below. Both of these paintings offer a foreboding view of Manayunk, very different from Baum’s sunny depiction of the town.
It is really cool to see a painting from my school displayed in a gallery for everyone to see. Having Baum’s painting next to work from other school districts brings a sense of unity to the area. Just think, I am looking at a piece of art that kids my age pass by every day in their own schools. What better way than to have art bring a region together?
-Mia Hershberger, Souderton Area High School student