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Gallery View: Allentown creatives build an Arthaus

Efforts by RE:find, the Downtown Allentown Business Alliance and the Allentown Arts Commission came to fruition with Arthaus, a new space for the Lehigh Valley arts community.

The inaugural exhibition, “Transformation Decoded: Unimagined Possibilities,” featuring the work of two area artists and a collection of Cuban paintings owned by a local collector, continues through Oct. 31.

“This is a true collaboration between the city, the private sector, corporate, the Arts Commission and the retailers,” said Jane Heft, chair of the Allentown Arts Commission, at the opening of Arthaus, 645 W. Hamilton St., Allentown.

She was joined at the Sept. 17 ribbon-cutting by Allentown Director of Community and Economic Development Leonard Lightner; State Rep. Peter G. Schweyer (D-22nd); Marta Gabriel, of the office of U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R); Ellen Millard-Kern, of the office of State Sen, Patrick M. Browne (R-16th); Karen Lore, of Allentown Mayor Ray O’Connell’s office, and City Center Investment Corp. President J.B. Reilly. Exhibit curator Deborah Rabinsky was given the honor of wielding the oversize scissors.

Lightner spoke of how art can bring a community, rich in diversity, together.

Proclamations from the Pennsylvania state senate and state house were presented to Arthaus.

Rabinsky, an Arts Commission member, said that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic temporarily closed art galleries in the Renaissance Allentown Hotel. That sparked the collaboration to establish a new space for the visual arts.

RE:find, located in Two City Center, manages the 1,650-square-foot gallery space provided by City Center Investment Corp. While face masks and social distancing protocol applies, up to 25 can view the exhibit at a time.

A Sorrelli jewelry store had previously occupied the premises.

RE:find’s John Michael Clark said he’s grateful that his décor design and retail business has had enough contracts to weather the pandemic.

“A gallery is like a natural place where everyone comes together,” said Heft, adding, “What better place to ease us back into a retail environment?”

The exhibition includes:

“Nico Ballesteros” (2019; acrylic, ink, and pastel on canvas; 24 in. x 36 in.), a portrait of Kanye West’s personal videographer, is one of 32 paintings in the exhibit by Emmaus-based artist Kacper Abolik. The energetic painter of popular and classical culture is a first-generation American born to Polish immigrants and a protégé of artist Barnaby Ruhe.

“La Permanencia de Su Genealogia / The Permanence of Your Genealogy” (2019; mixed media on canvas; 31.5 in. x 27.5 in.) by Cuban painter Santiago Rodriguez Olazábal is one of several from Bruce Waldman’s “The W Art Collection.” Waldman is a passionate supporter of Cuban artists and is an admirer of Olazábal.

Khalil Allaik’s vertical wood and steel sculptures like “Guardians of the Wind V” (2016; wood and steel with white patina; 12 in. x 13 in. x 86 in.) provide a three-dimensional bridge between Abolik’s abstract paintings and Olazábal’s Afro-Cuban spiritual works.

Arthaus, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday. allentownarts.com; 610-841-4866

PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIER “Transformation Decoded: Unimagined Possibilities,” Arthaus, Allentown, features the work of Santiago Olazábal, Kacper Abolik, and Khalil Allaik. From left: Olazábal's son Santiel Rodriguez, Abolik and Allaik.
PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIER Deborah Rabinsky, center, cuts the ribbon at the opening of Arthaus, a new gallery, 645 W. Hamilton St., Allentown. From left: Peter Schweyer, Marta Gabriel, Ellen Millard-Kern, Jon Michael Clark, Rabinsky, Jane Heft, Leonard Lightner, Bruce Waldman, and J.B. Reilly.