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Work of Visiting Artist Melissa Small Open to the Public

By Emily Jiang ’24

Mercersburg Academy’s Burgin Center for the Arts is featuring the work of visiting artist Melissa Small from Beacon, NY. The show, An Awakening, will be on display in the Cofrin Gallery from January 10 through February 23. Small will be on site for the closing reception on Friday, February 23, from 6:30-8 p.m.  The public is welcome to attend. That same Friday, Small will participate in the art classes taught by Sydney Caretti P ’24, ’26, arts faculty and director of galleries at Mercersburg.

When speaking about her visit, Small said, “I am beyond excited to share my work with your school community. I live and work in the Hudson Valley of New York, so it will be refreshing to show outside of this area.”

Small paints in her home studio, primarily working with oil as her medium, and is inspired through cultivating gardens of flowers. When painting still lifes, she often uses a clearly defined light source which casts a shadow and a bright and colorful palette to keep the subject lighthearted while simultaneously promoting thoughtfulness.  

According to Small, visiting Mercersburg “is special in particular because aside from being an artist, I’m also a high school art teacher.” She’d love for “students to get to witness the multifaceted life of a teacher.”

At this writing, Small is putting the finishing touches on her most recent work through the process of wiring, framing, and varnishing. Preparation of work for the Mercersburg art show enabled her to paint more than she has in a long time, giving her an opportunity to incorporate various ideas. She says it was “as if there was an avalanche of work waiting to pour out of me” when her creative energy was again activated.

Recalling her artistic process the past few months, Small said she’s been “working tirelessly” and is “ready to release these works to the public.” She feels that the flow of ideas runs faster than her ability to create or output, but is eager to continue chipping away at new ideas she has, embracing the past few months of artmaking as an awakening.

When asked about the artist and her work, Caretti said, “Small captures an elevated refinement and delicate way of rendering realism composed elegantly in vignettes where the viewer cannot help but be delightfully engaged and invited to become one with the work.” Caretti further hopes that “each person will bring their own experience and perspective when viewing Small’s visual expression as An Awakening of their own [since] sharing her most recent body of work will certainly enliven our senses and couldn’t be better timed than during the gray cold of a Pennsylvania winter.” 

An additional bonus being shared with the Mercersburg community is Small’s collection, Layers of Vanity, concurrently on display in the corner gallery of the Burgin Center for the Arts. 

Small’s hope is that her artistic journey, campus visit, exhibition and art reception inspires students to connect with their passions as they prepare to leave high school. During her visit, she is looking forward to connecting with the Mercersburg community and getting a glimpse of campus life, including the art studios as well as the surrounding area.

To gain access to the show prior to the closing reception, contact Caretti at 717-328-6206. The exhibit is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1-6 p.m., or by appointment.