17
Aug
12

A visit to Brownsville, PA

        I first heard of Brownsville, PA about two years back while watching WQED Television’s presentation on the Frank L. Melega Art Museum. Recently, a former co-worker and her husband, Brianne and Mitch Mitchell, opened Mitchell’s Cafe in Brownsville. A few days ago I was driving to Touchstone Center for Crafts to pick up work from my recent exhibition there. On the way I saw the exit sign for Brownsville and having a little flex time, I decided to visit.

Brianne, me, and most important: CINNAMON ROLLS!

My first stop was Mitchell’s Cafe, where Brianne Mitchell introduced me to staff and gave me the tour of the new business. Brianne sent me to my next stop, the Frank L. Melaga Art Museum, but not without first boxing up a few of their delicious cinnamon rolls! Life is good!

Museum staff member and most excellent tour guide, Megan!

The Melega Museum is just up the street from Mitchells’, and shares space with the Heritage Center in the historic Flatiron Building. As I walked in I was warmly greeted by Megan, an excellent guide who explained all facets of the museum.

The son of a coal miner, Frank L. Melega (1905-1997) was a self-taught artist and produced artwork out of his Brownsville studio for over six decades. Art played a big part in Melega’s life growing up, and at the age of twenty-one he began working in the Art Sign Shop in Brownsville. Melega took over the business when the previous owner moved to Morgantown, WV. Melega later moved the shop into his home, where he was able to maintain the business while pursuing his interest in fine art. In 1933 he began exhibiting in Pittsburgh, and became a member of the Pittsburgh Society of Sculptors, Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, and the Uniontown Art Club. Melega also taught at the Washington Art Association in Washington, Pa. In 1952, Melega exhibited in the Carnegie International Exhibition, along side artists Georgia O’Keefe, Jackson Pollock, Andrew Wyeth, and Wilhem deKooning.

 In 1954 Melega was commissioned to create the mural The Spirit of Service for the Second National Bank in Uniontown. The 12 by forty-two foot mural  is one of the largest is Western Pennsylvania. In the 1970’s the mural was removed from the bank. The mural is currently installed at Penn State Fayette, Eberly Campus. Melega continued to paint and explore a variety of art media and approaches into his nineties.

Here are a few photos from the Melega Museum:

Flat Iron building

Melega in the Art Sign Shop

Frank Melega’s studio table

After my museum visit, I spent a little time photographing this unique little town before getting back on the road to Touchstone. I will share those images on a future post.

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