Alumni Issue: Bringing creativity to the community

Friday, October 7th, 2016 at 12:34 PM
Alumni Issue: Bringing creativity to the community by Anna Ashcraft

1909 Diebold Safe sits, picturesque, in the back of a quaint art gallery in Cambridge Springs. Surrounded by paintings, sculptures, glass, jewelry and other creative works, the old safe serves as the only reminder of the building’s former life.  

The Springs National Bank opened in 1909, but with ill luck it closed within a few years. Since then, the building has been a myriad of things — from an electric company to an insurance agency — and now in its current form as Kelly Run Gallery.

Jan Lutz and her husband, Dennis, a retired Edinboro University professor from the speech, language and hearing department, own and curate Kelly Run Gallery on Main Street. The Lutz family has owned the gallery for around 15 years. 

Jan Lutz began her schooling at Edinboro, already knowing what she wanted to do. 

“There was no question that’s [art] what I wanted to do. I started doing creative thinking very young. My parents were very supportive. I grew up in a small town and there weren’t a lot of opportunities there. I had some private lessons through school,” she said. 

“I just knew that I wanted to continue and I knew that Edinboro had a very good art department. They always have. And at that point you had to apply, take a portfolio and have an interview.”

She took an array of classes while attending Edinboro, including the required general courses, arts classes of her particular interest, and some classes to help her expand her mind like fiber weaving and jewelry. 

“It’s good to get a well-rounded education rather than just go to art school. I was glad that I made the choice that I did,” she said. “All those different art classes, even though now I’m focusing on painting and drawing, I think they really helped me develop my skill. I was very pleased with my education.” 

The summer before her senior year of college, Lutz studied abroad in Italy for a month. She studied art history and painting, and traveled around to look at the famous art by past Renaissance artists. She even still has one piece she sketched in Venice.  

During her senior year, Jan and Dennis got engaged. “I even took an extra class — which I didn’t need — to make our wedding bands,” she said. “We were engaged in college. I made our wedding bands. I collected gold. I just had a lot of fun with that.”

Lutz graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art education in 1974. She later wanted a degree in fine arts, however it was not offered until halfway through her college years.

They married right out of college and Jan took a job as a switchboard operator, then later moved up to activities director at a nursing home in Meadville. 

“I did get to have an art class there; it was fun. Some of them were in their 90s and had never painted before,” she said. “They loved it and I enjoyed that. It was different everyday, different activities. People would come and go.” 

Eventually she quit to become a stay-at-home mom. She didn’t paint much during this time in her life, until both children were old enough for school. She then became a substitute art teacher to stay closer to her children. 

“I didn’t particularly want to be a teacher, but it did come in handy. I did a lot of substitute teaching, especially when we were first married. It was nice when they were in school. I had the same schedule they did. I got to know their teachers, but after that I got a little tired,” she said. “They’d call me for anything, not just art, and some things I didn’t feel real comfortable with teaching. At some point I decided ‘I just want to paint.’”

At one point, they had an art gallery in the upstairs of the barn behind their house. Soon, they found it was too difficult for people to find. That’s when Dennis Lutz found the then empty National Springs Bank building. 

For 20 years, it stood on Main Street, abandoned. Dennis noticed the building one day and conceived the idea of putting an art gallery inside. It wasn’t long before they owned the building and their own art gallery. 

Kelly Run Gallery features Lutz’s paintings, mostly watercolors and oils, as well as local artists on consignment. There are currently around five or six permanent artists featured in her gallery. 

Years later, they purchased the adjacent building and expanded the gallery. Now, the second building serves as the exhibition room, which features local artists for a two-month period. The rest of the gallery is reserved for her work and the local artist she showcases. Lutz’s work is primarily painting, so the other work she showcases are all three dimensional objects, statues, glass orbs and metal sculptures.  

“I do just two dimensional work, but I like the three dimensional art as well. We have a variety of things for people to see,” she said. 

She is also an avid contributor to conservations such as Presque Isle Audubon Society, World Wide Wildlife Fund, National Parks Conservation Association, Earthjustice and many more. “I’ve always loved nature and I contribute to many different things,” she said. 

Currently, her work “Rainforest Adventures” is being featured in the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History. It will be on display from Sept. 9 to Nov. 13 in Jamestown, New York. 

They currently live in Cambridge Springs, support local produce and meat, have their own orchard and own Kelly Run Art Gallery. They regularly spot wildlife in their 18 acres and she has drawn inspiration from it for many of her paintings. 

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