Meet the Board

Meet Our Board Members–Debora Roberson, vice president

This is the second post in a series featuring each of the current members of the Arts Council’s board. We thought you’d like to get to know a few things about the people who help direct the organization, support its mission, and work to secure its future. Ours is a volunteer board of leaders from the community who are selected for their essential skill sets and personal commitment to the arts.

Debora Roberson is the current vice president of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council (LVAC) board and a member of the Arts in Education Committee.

Photo courtesy of Debora Roberson

An architect by profession, she has been an Arts Council member, along with her husband, for at least a decade, attending events and conferences hosted by the organization. She has been a board member for five years.

Debora’s answers to a series of interview questions for this post series reveal how being on the Arts Council board fits her.

Debora, what is your connection to the arts in your life and/or career?

Art is a dominant part of my professional life and my personal life.  As an architect, designing interesting and creative spaces where people live, work and play involves imaginative “out-of-the-box” thinking on a daily basis, using basic principals of proportion, scale, contrast, balance, etc. to design each unique space.  The process of creating architecture involves an artistic process of creation, development, revisions, more development, more revisions….until a final project emerges.

In my personal life, I enjoy creating art opportunities for students (through residencies and group opportunities) and wholeheartedly believe that arts integration in the general school curriculum enhances all aspects of learning.

 What attracted you to the organization at first? Why have you continued to support it?

I was attracted to the Arts Council through my relationship with Randall Forte, the arts council executive director.  Randall’s passion and advocacy for the arts is exemplary and resonates with me.

I joined  because of my strong belief in the mission of the Arts Council and my deep respect for Randall and other committed members of the board.

What are the impacts made by the Arts Council that are the most significant to you? Why? What more could be done?

The most important impact the Arts Council makes is their constant and unwavering support of local artists and art through professional development, hosting events, showcasing artists, promoting artistic venues and shows, engaging the business community with the arts and running programs in schools like the Urban/Suburban Connection.

What are the biggest challenges that you see facing the arts in the Lehigh Valley?

Non-profits have had and will continue to have difficulty with funding in the current economy.  We need to continue to offer a service and/or commodity that help us generate income and be less dependent on grants and donations.

How is the Arts Council and its board positioned to help meet those challenges?

We are increasing the size of our board and trying to populate it with a wonderful mix of artists, art patrons, business and community leaders.  The committee structure must remain strong and be strengthened with passionate volunteers.

What would you like to see happen in the next 3 years to ensure that the arts and the arts community remain viable/strong?

I would like to see the Arts Council have a permanent art presence in the city through valley-wide art awareness initiatives and by continuing to promote the work of artists through exhibitions. I would also like to see the Arts Council expand programming opportunities in K-12 schools.  Art opportunities are extremely limited for many elementary students.  Students deserve and need access to the arts.

"My Life in Art"

Ceramist/Sculptor Greg White on “My Life in Art”

Greg White

My high-school ceramics/philosophy teacher, Mr. Bob Blanchard, told me, “You could do this for a living.”  He was encouraging me to enroll in the Arts Academy program at William Allen High School.  Stubbornly, I opted out in lieu of calculus, anatomy and physiology, etc.  His early-bird class made a serious impact on me though, and it’s funny that I am now making a living as a ceramist/sculptor.

As a kid, art was like playing, something I loved to do, and not something I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to be a lot of crazy things, yet I’ve always made stuff.  Now, being a professional is about refining my technique daily in pursuit of a very particular, and yet sometimes ubiquitous, aesthetic.   After all the hard work, I still love opening the kiln.  Taking time to inspect the smallest, most beautiful details is something that gets me out of bed in the morning.  It’s my addiction: the thrill of discovery.

I’ll have an idea, a spark, and then imagine how I can create such a thing.  The process of physically making something from nothing is different from simply imagining it.  Along the way, I have cursed at my materials.  Sometimes, I want to make something a certain way, my way.  That’s an ego thing, I think.  What I want to happen isn’t always what happens though.

I’m increasingly interested in anomalous precipitations, and their fluid evolution in the continuum of possibility.  Things happen especially in the kiln, “gifts from the kiln god,“ like an unexpected drip from the shelf above.  Late at night when the studio is so quiet, there is something primitive about it, like man in a cave with fire.  After so many nights, I’ve developed a relationship with clay.  I’ve watched to see what it can do, and what it wants to be.  Getting to know my kiln, through five hundred firings and four rebuilds, has been educational, too.

I enjoy the pursuit of knowledge and learning by doing.  For the past seven years, I’ve been an artist-in-residence at Tobin Studios.  Gratitude is what I feel, since I’ve had the benefit of learning from two living-masters, Densabourou Oku and Steve Tobin.  (They can still beat me in a game of ping pong.)

Densaburou Oku has taught me about flavor, in terms of a Japanese aesthetic:  wabi sabi, and the beauty of imperfection and evidence of process.  He once said, “Make like sushi.  Don’t touch so much.”

My mentor Steve Tobin has encouraged my career and shown me a bigger picture.  It’s been a wild ride:  Pouring bronze, constructing, and delivering the Trinity Root 9/11 Memorial  to New York City; the night before the installation,  I camped out at Wall Street and Broadway with a military guard about 15 feet away.

Another memorable time was installing a 20-foot painting by Tobin at the OK Harris gallery in New York City.  The gallery was replacing their back doors because they had been vandalized so many times.  My friend John and I got the idea to make a painting with the actual doors, which had just been hauled away as trash.  We chased those doors all the way to Saddle River, New Jersey. I’ve gotten the kind of education that you just can’t buy anywhere.  It’s changed the way I see.

For me, art is language with the capacity to engage people and share what I see. It’s an honest way to make a living. The American Concern for Artistry and Craftsmanship has invited me to participate in their show at Lincoln Center this June.  I’ll be there, selling my porcelain cups and sculpture. Plus, if the modern world falls apart, I can still fire ceramics in kilns.

Artists "In Their Own Words"

Hang Time–Featured Artist, Mary Ann Schwartz

The Arts Council gives an interested member artist the opportunity to display his/her art pieces in our offices for an eight week period. It’s one of the benefits of being a member. Please contact us if you are interested in participating in the future.

The work of Mary Ann Schwartz will hang in our office through April. Please come by and enjoy it. Individual pieces are also for sale. Here’s what Mary Ann has to say about her love of art and her work.

Over 35 years ago I fell in love with image making in a high school photography class. My education continued as a commercial photography major at San Diego City College. Over the years, while working part-time in portraiture and other commercial work, I have continued through self-assignments to develop my passion of making beautiful nature-based images.

From art classes, seminars, reading, and research, to being inspired by greats such as Ansel Adams and others, my real teacher has been life.  Life is a continual learning process.  I see my image making as a work in progress. Due to improvements in technology and the controls available with the desktop darkroom, I was able to enter the world of fine art photography.  Managing the entire process of painting with light from the initial capture, to the final presentation, is very important to me.

The choice to focus on creating beautiful images from my corner of the world has led to many successes.  My work includes abstracts in nature, patterns both natural and man-made, as well as scenes of historic and local interest.  Today, from my home in the beautiful Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, I am fortunate to be able to share my vision of the world with a growing number of collectors. My work is currently available through local art fairs and on the web.