I was lucky enough to talk with Doug Zucco and Ron Schira as they set up for the opening of their latest exhibit at the Art Establishment. We sat on a couch in the middle of the airy space, pieces of their art lined up along the walls and around the floor waiting to be hung up. They poke fun at each other like they’re old friends, which, I soon learned, they are. The pair met about 20 years ago through a former teacher of Doug’s, James Carroll, who is founder and director of the New Arts Program in Kutztown. This friendship led to a collaboration, “From May to September,” which is all of the work in the Art Establishment show that Zucco and Schira created over the summer. Also on display are Doug’s and Ron’s individual exhibits, “Safety in Numbers” and “Chaordics” respectively.
Getting their Start
Even before they met, Ron and Doug followed a similar path in discovering art. Both of them spent a lot of time drawing and painting as children and eventually pursuing a more formal arts education. Ron explained how health issues in his childhood that limited his activity led to him teaching himself how to oil paint. Doug was also undeniably drawn toward art since a young age, often “thinking in pictures” and spending much of his time drawing and doodling. After this early start, Doug and Ron each received a formal arts education and gained experience in their craft and in life more generally. I loved learning how pieces of both artists’ pasts had been poured into the work all around us.
Doug and Ron described the inspirations and content of their individual collections in some more detail. Doug’s “Safety in Numbers” is a series of prints on his handmade paper that uses multiple plate images together to create one complete piece. The pieces are a synthesis of various elements, with human figures, scenery, and color layered together. He drew inspiration from “historic imagery, some hundreds of years old, that reference out-moded scientific, medical, or alchemic thinking.”
“Chaordics,” Ron’s work, gets its name from a word that means a combination of chaos and order. He describes that it’s “like the asteroid belt;” asteroids have an ordered ring they travel in, but within that ring they are crashing into each other and spinning around. He sees this dynamic playing out elsewhere in the world as well, and reflects it in his art by starting with a drawing then “injecting chaos” into it, sometimes by scribbling or spray painting over it. Ron’s process for creating is also very dependent on his mindset at the time—he says, “when I have a lot of stress I’ll start with order, [and if I’m feeling less stressed] I’ll just play.”
Showing Work in the Art Establishment
Both artists were glad that their show will be housed in the Art Establishment and emphasized the importance of the Art Establishment to the South Bethlehem community. “They’re doing an amazing thing here,” said Doug, continuing to say that he wants to bring attention to the studio and get more local artists involved. “It’s friendly, it’s educational, it’s cozy,” adds Ron. Both agreed that since the owners are artists themselves, they really care about the artists who use the space and treat them and their art in a professional manner.
When I returned later in the week for the opening of the show, the gallery was being used to its full potential: filled with community members and the artists’ family and friends as they traveled through “From May to September.” All of the pieces, from Doug and Ron’s friendship to their connection to the Art Establishment, had fallen into place to make this fantastic show possible.