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Curlee Raven Holton, associate professor of art at Lafayette and director of the College’s Experimental Printmaking Institute, is the creator of special awards that will be presented by Governor Tom Ridge to distinguished individuals and organizations in the annual celebration of the Governor’s Awards for the Arts, Oct. 3 at Allentown Symphony Hall.

The ceremony, open to the public free of charge, will begin at 6:30 p.m. An 8 p.m. reception at the Allentown Art Museum with $15 admission charge will follow. This is the first time that the ceremony is being held in the Lehigh Valley.

The Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Foundation, Allentown, will be among those honored. The foundation will receive the Patron Award in recognition of its “significant contributions to the vitality and availability of the arts in Pennsylvania.”

Holton created handmade, bound artist’s books for the Governor’s Awards. An artist’s book uses images and text to articulate a particular artistic concern or vision, he explains. It can be constructed in a variety of ways, such as an accordion shape where the pages fold out, or as individual pages that can be lifted from a box.

“Artist’s books are a way that a two-dimensional artist can create a sculptural quality,” Holton says. “A key factor in why I make them is that I have often thought about the audience’s experience when ‘reading’ art. You want them to read it, not just go past it. The book format allows you to create this relationship that is reading-based, and has the two-dimensional experience as well. It engages the viewer on an intimate level that traditional two-dimensional art hanging on a wall in a gallery does not allow.”

Holton, who joined the Lafayette faculty in 1991, is a master printmaker, educator, writer, and lecturer whose special interests include printmaking, African American art history, drawing, and painting. He has mounted more than 30 one-person shows and has participated in more than 75 group exhibitions, including the Seventh International Biennale at the National Center of Fine Arts, Cairo, and shows at Centro de Cultura Casa Lamm Gallery, Mexico City. His works are in the collections of several universities, foundations, and corporations, including the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Villanova University, and Morehouse College.

Holton has participated in several residencies and special projects and has served as curator for a dozen exhibitions. He has also authored many articles and essays and presented numerous papers. He was the 1999 recipient of Lafayette’s Carl R. and Ingeborg Beidleman Research Award, recognizing excellence in applied research or scholarship.

In addition to teaching, Holton works closely with many students in the art of printmaking through apprenticeships, EXCEL Scholars research projects, and independent studies. Students often have assisted with Holton’s printmaking projects before venturing on their own creative journeys.

“The artist may be doing the printing, but the students are always supporting,” Holton says. “Development is collaborative – in a wide-open studio so it’s not isolated – and the artists feed off the dialogue. The process is communal.”

Since founding the Experimental Printmaking Institute at Lafayette in 1996, Holton has provided students the opportunity to collaborate closely with professional artists through more than 30 residencies. He also has encouraged artists such as Faith Ringgold, Al Loving, and Sam Gilliam to explore printmaking, a genre outside their typical media.

The overall goal, he says, is “to provide an open and creative environment in which artists and students can create new bodies of work while investigating experimental approaches to the print medium.”

After taking a basic printmaking course with Holton, Maureen Charleroy of Cranbury, N.J., a 2001 psychology graduate, went further through an independent study focusing on printmaking and bookmaking. She created prints to accompany original poems in a handmade book.

“I loved the experience,” she says. “Professor Holton is an amazing artist and an amazing teacher. He allows a lot of artistic freedom.”

Christopher Michaud, a junior double major in art and music, explored new printmaking methods with Holton in summer-long EXCEL project. “Professor Holton is fun to be an around and an overall interesting guy. He leaves you a lot of room for your own stuff. When he gives direction, he doesn’t set everything for you. He just lets you go.”

Governor’s Awards recipients will include Wolfgang Sawallisch, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, winner of the Distinguished Arts Award “recognizing a Pennsylvania artist or arts organization of international fame, leadership, or renown whose creations or contributions enrich the Commonwealth.”

WHYY Inc., Philadelphia, and its president and CEO, William J. Marrazzo, will be presented the Arts Leadership and Service Award recognizing outstanding contributions to arts leadership and service.

Pianist Leon Bates of Philadelphia will receive the Artist of the Year Award, also called the Hazlett Memorial Award, which recognizes an individual artist “for creations and contributions to the excellence of the arts in the Commonwealth.”

“These fine Pennsylvanians deserve our thanks for their strong commitment to cultural life in our great Commonwealth,” Ridge says. “These leaders in the arts community, through their dedication and giving spirit, set an example for and arts patrons. Their gifts will continue to be sources of enjoyment and inspiration for future generations.”

Categorized in: Academic News