This year, the Kutztown Area School District Art Department has teamed up with Kutztown University for yet another wonderful opportunity, bringing together the work of local artists, university students and K-12 students.
Erica Hamilton, lead coordinator and Kutztown University student, has helped in coordinating each of these groups and organizations as we come together in an exhibition of traditional Hexsigns and Barnstars, featuring the work of Eric Claypoole.
Claypoole, a second-generation Hexsign and Barnstar artist, has been painting for his entire life, following in his father’s footsteps, Johnny Claypoole.
Growing up in Lenhartsville and attending Kutztown Area School District, Claypoole has now painted more than 75 barns in the surrounding counties and has demonstrated this traditional practice for over 22 years at the Kutztown Folk Festival. In addition to the many lectures and presentations by Claypoole, his commitment to the conservation of Hexsigns and Barnstars have served as a defining characteristic within the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
In partnership with the Anthropology Club and the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center of Kutztown University, Kutztown Area School District students have been working to develop their own traditional Barnstars and Hexsigns to have displayed at Eckhaus Art Gallery in Kutztown throughout the month of November.
Earlier this month, students of the Kutztown Middle and High School came together to hear a presentation delivered by Eric Claypoole himself and Patrick Donmoyer, director of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University. Donmoyer, a fluent speaker of Pennsylvania Dutch and advocate for regional folk culture works not only with Claypoole himself, but blends language, traditions, and vernacular architecture in his own folklife research. This dynamic duo was truly an authentic and captivating presentation for our students.
Cohen shares, “Hexsigns are significant within the context of folk art and the local culture. They have come to be symbolic, employ creativity, math, and community as a way to recycle culture and keep a tradition living.”
In keeping these practices alive and further-developing our own children here at Kutztown Area School District, the Art Department has taken this opportunity on with full force and are eager to have their work shown alongside such a profound artist.
As our youngest friends begin to develop their own Barnstars, students at the middle school level continue in their own renditions of Hexsigns through an introduction to color theory in a mandala-esque pattern. Students at the high school level are then advancing their own practice as they have begun the challenge of designing an authentic Hexsign that is larger than life, utilizing materials such as masonite and luan. This beautiful collaboration has now not only opened the doors to so many artistic possibilities but has reignited an excitement for Barnstars and Hexsigns in Kutztown’s youth. Hexhibition, a fundraising event to showcase local folk artists and connect the community with its culture, is set to open at Eckhaus Gallery in Kutztown on Nov. 2 from 6 to 9 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.