Bethlehem ArtWalk brings together a diverse background of artists

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Lined up along the historic shopping district of Bethlehem this past Saturday was ArtWalk, an event where local artists and musicians came to display their work on the sidewalks of Main and Broad Streets.

Ed Bolcar Jr. shows his oil paintings at the Bethlehem ArtWalk on August 30. Bolcar took up oil painting after his daughter, an art major, brought home art supplies.

Ed Bolcar Jr. shows his oil paintings at the Bethlehem ArtWalk on August 30. Bolcar took up oil painting after his daughter, an art major, brought home art supplies.

The ArtWalk, which was also held on the last Saturday of May, June, July and August, featured several independent local artists, each of whom shared his or her own background story.

Renee O’Donnell, an artist who specializes in creating vases, ornaments, wood circles and votive candle jars that feature scenes of Bethlehem, cited the ArtWalk as one of the local community events that bring people to the area.

“Twenty years ago, the only time you saw people on Main Street was on Christmas and Musikfest,” she said. “Now, it is on any day of the week.”

O’Donnell has been an artist for 20 years and has participated in several art shows. She says she developed an interest in art at a young age and eventually made it a hobby after a particular idea came across her mind.

“I always painted when I was a little child,” she said. “(Later), I was working at the Saucon Valley Country Club…and we kept throwing out wine bottles, and I had an idea to paint them.”

Ed Bolcar Jr., who specializes in creating oil paintings, prints and frames that also include famous Bethlehem landmarks, said that becoming an artist was something he discovered on his own after becoming inspired when his daughter, an art major, brought home painting tools.

“I started painting three years ago,” he said. “I never had an art class…(but) people are amazed at my paintings.”

Bolcar says that becoming an artist has also helped him throughout tougher times within his life.

“I had a brain tumor removed in February,” he said. “(Art) was a great therapy.”

Bolcar started posting his paintings on Facebook, and customers began buying them upon growing homesick after they saw scenes of Bethlehem in his paintings.

“I had a guy from Avondale, Arizona who bought five paintings,” Bolcar said.

Jemima Snyder, who creates her pendants, wind chimes and other pieces out of fused glass, left her career as a certified medical assistant to make fused glass creations full time.

“I took a class,” Snyder said. “I picked it up quick. I’m kind of new to it – it’s fun, it’s therapeutic. I needed to do something different; life’s too short.”

Mariella Saldutti, a senior who studies fashion design at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, started creating a mixture of body chains, all made with items of the Earth such as crystals and bones, when she was teenager.

“It’s a creative outlet while being in college,” Saldutti said. “Living in Philly…it’s a very art-oriented city. They’re very supportive of the arts.”

The artists of the shows believe the ArtWalk is not only great for local businesses, but for the entire Bethlehem community, as well.

“The fact that the community is very supportive of art is awesome because it brings an element that is respective and personal,” Saldutti said.

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