For the <3 of PA Art

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 at 5:30 AM
For the <3 of PA Art by Abby Badach

“Won’t you be my neighbor?”

The question can’t help but kindle warm memories of childhood and visions of an old, bulbous television screen with Fred Rogers’ face smiling in muted Technicolor – or in elegant black and white, depending on your generation. Rogers, host of the beloved TV program “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” was born in Latrobe, Pa., in 1928, just a stone’s throw from Pittsburgh.

And – like others in a choice group of Pennsylvania-rooted musicians, filmmakers, crafters, sculptors, dancers, and generally awesome artistic visionaries – Rogers was the recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award in the film/video category in 1982.

This year, the 2012 Governor’s Awards for the Arts rolls into Erie September 20. And it’s gonna be big.

But first: back to Mister Rogers.

Most viewers know Rogers for his gentle, earnest explanations of common subjects (so that’s how colored pencils are made in the factory!) and his whimsical puppetry. Rulers of the neighborhood King Friday XIII and Queen Sara Saturday joined X the Owl, Larry Horse, Lady Elaine Fairchild, and more each week in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe to inspire young minds from Pittsburgh to Portland.

In a constantly changing world, Rogers served as the epitome of consistency: always coming home with a smile, slipping off his oxfords to don sneakers, and gliding into one of his legendary cardigan sweaters. Fun fact – the Smithsonian Magazine reports that each one of those 28 different cardigans was hand-knitted by Rogers’ mother, Nancy. One of them was donated to the Smithsonian Museum of American History in 1984, where it stays on display – consistently and humbly, just as Rogers lived his life – for generations of Americans to come.

But here’s a bit of trivia: Mister Rogers was colorblind. That’s right – he couldn’t tell if it was a red or green sweater he slipped into at the end of the day.
No matter the color, Rogers’ cardigans signified warmth and comfort and a modest genuineness, akin to his personality. And fashion, too, is an art – right? Our choices on the clothes we wear reflect the way we prioritize our lives – the way we express ourselves – the way we live out loud.

You are an everyday artist. And we mean that! That doesn’t mean you have to take a painting class or even play an instrument. Your artistic expression is shown through the creativity in what you choose to wear.

Which brings us to this week’s call to artful action. Get your cameras ready, faithful friends – it’s time to share your creativity with us.

This week we focus on you, fashion-forward Erieites – yes, you with the custom painted Toms classics or the breezy vintage skirt from the Salvation Army or the timeless pendant you bought years ago at the Summer Festival of the Arts.

What’s your cardigan? What do you feel the most yourself in when you wear?

We want to see you living out loud with your natural summer frizzy hair, bleached and frayed after a day on Presque Isle, rocking that effortless Erie summer look. We want to see you in a shirt you tie-dyed yourself or in your best gown that turned heads all night as you worked the room at the Mariner’s Ball.

We want to see any man in Erie bold enough to rock a bolo tie. Seriously, the North needs more bolo ties. Be that guy.

Show us what you’ve got, Erie. Post a photo of you or a friend wearing your favorite outfit to our Facebook page (2012 Governor’s Awards for the Arts) or Instagram it with hashtag #erieart.

We’ll keep a running list of the folks who post photos and we’ll randomly pick one to win an Erie Reader and Governor’s Awards Important Person Package that includes an Erie Reader subscription ($50 value), an ErieBRAND We Love Erie T-shirt ($15 value), a fascinator headpiece crafted by local designer Martine Barclay Holquist ($60), plus two tickets to both the red-carpet Governor’s Awards for the Arts at the Warner, and Aftermath after-party at the Erie Art Museum on September 20 (priceless!).

Let’s start the celebration of everyday artists in Erie. Let’s embrace individuality and celebrate the small ways we incorporate creativity into each of our lives. Won’t you be our neighbor?


Fred Rogers is just one of many celebrities to have been honored with a Governor’s Arts Award. Past recipients also include: Actor Michael Keaton, Comedian Bill Cosby, Author August Wilson, Pianist Lang Lang, and Producer M. Night Shyamalan, all of whom were present to accept their award.

On Sept. 20, 2012, Erie is hosting the Governor’s Awards for the Arts, marking the first time the event will be held in Northwest Pennsylvania. The Governor’s Arts Awards is a 30-year tradition recognizing artistic excellence and outstanding contributions to the Commonwealth through leadership, service, and innovation.

Free and open to the public, the event will be held at the Warner Theater, 811 State St.; it is followed by a ticketed party, “Aftermath,” held at the Erie Art Museum, 411 State St.

In conjunction with the Governor’s Arts Awards, Erie is hosting We Love Erie (ART), a weeklong celebration of the art in your life beginning Sunday, Sept. 16 and culminating Sunday, Sept. 23 with the RockErie Music Awards. Tickets are required for some events. To get yours or to learn more, visit today.

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