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Lehigh Carbon Community College

Donation helps fund LCCC art restoration project

By Leanne Recla

When Lehigh Carbon Community College started taking a full inventory of its art collection, shipping and receiving clerk Dan Nagy was happy to lead the project.

“It was neat that I was allowed,” Nagy says, smiling.

Back in 2014, LCCC’s president, Dr. Ann Bieber, asked Nagy to take on the project of collecting all of the college’s art into one location. Nagy had inventories from 1988 and 1997 to reference, but they unfortunately didn’t include images of the pieces, their dimensions or where they were stored or displayed.

“I’ve been here a long time, so I knew what a lot of these pieces looked like. I started going around looking… I spent a year, just going out and finding art in closets and behind doors,” Nagy says.

The college’s collection includes 42 pieces that were donated in 1980 by the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation. Then, as Nagy began cataloging the collection, the foundation generously donated some additional funds to repair and restore those pieces.

“The Bermans have been part of the college since it was founded in 1966; Mrs. Berman was elected a founding trustee in 1966,” says Dr. Bieber. “So, this gift, which came in recognition of the college’s 50th anniversary, really allowed us to showcase this incredible collection, which includes pieces by artists as notable as Picasso and Dali.”

As Nagy spent most of 2015 gathering the art, he found a few pieces in unexpected places – the most surprising was “Golden Jerusalem” by Motke Blum.

“I was down in the archives a hundred times, and it was right in front of me. I never realized it … it was in a plastic box frame, and I wasn’t looking for that, because no other piece in the entire collection was in a box like that. I just happened to pick it up and looked at it and went, ‘No kidding, here it is!’”

After he finished cataloging the pieces, the college’s leadership asked Nagy to continue leading the project by coordinating all the restoration efforts.

“Since you’ve done this much of it already, would you like to continue? So I was like, ‘Sure, my project? I’m on it!’” Nagy says.

Nagy worked with Boris Wainio, an Allentown art dealer and collector, to appraise and restore some of the pieces, and Merry Landis of Fine Art Resources repaired or replaced the frames. One of the most damaged was “Macungie” by Melville Stark.

“It looked like someone tried to shove a basketball through it and it stretched and then it tore. The tear was about seven or eight inches long,” Nagy says. “Looking at it now, you can’t even tell. That was a beautiful repair on that one.”

“Macungie” is now hanging in the upper level of LCCC’s Student Services Center at the main campus in Schnecksville, near the Academic Services office.

But before Nagy could hang any of the pieces, he first was required to submit a proposal that listed where he wanted to display them.

“I had to say, ‘This is my plan. These are where I want to hang pieces.’ So I actually had maps of all the buildings. I had areas I thought the art would look good in, and I said, ‘Give me a try. Let me do one building. Tell me what you think. Do you like my eye? And we’ll go from there.’ And they gave me the go-ahead.”

Nagy has been hanging pieces in the Student Services Center and the rest of the college ever since. He’s not quite done — there’s a 7-foot-tall piece he plans to hang above the central stairs, in front of the Financial Aid office.

“Since the installation of the Berman and 50th Anniversary collections, I’ve encountered many individuals actively engaged in the works,” Dr. Bieber says. Both staff and students have commented that seeing the pieces brightens their day and brings a sense of calm to a sometimes-hectic schedule.

As the project continues, Nagy has been compiling a visual catalog of LCCC’s art collection that he hopes one day will be available to the public, allowing students and visitors to walk around the buildings, find and identify the various pieces.

“To me, this is fun. This isn’t work,” Nagy says.