The portrayal of a starving artist is etched into modern culture. It goes like this … in order to travel the path of creative exposition, it is believed one must struggle financially, alone with their art, reaching through the despair and doubt to attain purpose. This is not a universal truth. However, sometimes an artist needs a bit of help to get a hand up.
I looked at the walls out here – I’m an architect by trade, and I notice artwork – and I thought there is a lot of blank space,” says Martha Besecker from inside the former Jewish Community Center (which closed its doors in 2014). The building at 2120 Oregon Pike is now the Emerald Foundation Community Campus. “Because that’s a mouthful, we call it ‘The E,’” says Martha, as she meets me in a meeting room not far from the entrance.
She serves as the interim executive director of the Emerald Foundation, started in 2010 as the nonprofit arm of Emerald Asset Management. The 501(c)3 nonprofit, charitable organization follows four Es: to engage the community and nonprofit organizations in a way that will enrich and empower everyone.
Now, through the Foundation’s Emerging Artist Series, young (and sometimes not-so-young) artists have a space to exhibit their work. Martha’s idea began as a way to give high school-aged artists a venue to premiere their collections of work. Entering The E, visitors arrive in a central reception area, warmed by a fireplace, a piano and a collection of sofas and comfortable chairs. It is here where a select artist will be able to display his or her work for a period of four to six weeks depending on the availability of the space.
The call for artists is now open. The Foundation is looking for area students who want to pursue art for their secondary education. Having a show at The E helps the student-artist learn how to select a collection of art to display, participate in a reception sponsored by the Foundation, and hopefully even sell a few pieces if he or she would like. As a venue, The E is open Monday through Friday, and art is on display for the public during business hours.
“For a high school student, they now have a portfolio booster. They can say they have had their own show. It’s really just a way to give an artist a leg up,” explains Martha, whose husband, Joe Besecker, started the Emerald Foundation.
The space began exhibiting art immediately after the building became The E in 2016. Past and future artists will also be listed on a new Foundation website, coming soon.
“We’ve also found a lot of artists [who are beyond school-aged] who have a good story” and needed a space like The E to help advance their career in art, explains Martha as she leads me to the current display, which is a series of patriotic-themed photographs from the mother-and-daughter photography team of Suzanne Kettler-Zeigler and Danielle Vennard. The photos depict not only patriotism but also civic pride in Lancaster County.
“We want to take somebody who needs a little bit of exposure, a little bit of a boost,” says Martha, now standing in front of a series of photos taken at a Lancaster Barnstormers game.
Artist selection has morphed into an open criterion with an emphasis on emerging artists rather than seasoned professionals with exhibits already under their belts. She encourages art teachers to contact her if they know a prolific and proficient student of any medium who would benefit from inclusion in the Emerging Artist Series.
The path to educational success is paved in emerald green, not just for artists but for all students. The E is home to the Access to Opportunity after-school program, which provides an evening meal and educational programing for those who need it. The program focuses on involving children from the Manheim Township School District in extracurricular activities, improving literacy skills, increasing cultural awareness and building non-cognitive skills.
The program receives support from other local organizations such as Tennis Central, Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA, and Keystone Pet Enhanced Therapy Services (KPETS). KPETS assists with helping students with reading skills. “A lot of these kids are behind [in reading] and the kids read to the dogs much more comfortably than they would to an adult,” explains Martha.
The Rise N Shine program provides work and life skills for intellectually disabled adults. These adults come to The E with their supervisors on a routine basis from various communities and are considered valuable volunteers because of the work they do. The program promotes confidence and independence and increases an individual’s employment potential via The E’s kitchen, banquet facilities and food bank (Autumn’s Food Pantry). “We try to teach life skills … they help out with our food pantry and do various tasks,” says Martha. “We are teaching them skills that they can hopefully use down the line in employment.”
Esports is the newest program. It uses Esports as a platform to acquire critical communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills that are needed to thrive in work and in life.
For more information, call 717-560-7572 or visit emeralde.org.
Organizations at The E
“Collaboration is a strong term we like to work on here,” Martha notes. “We want to have cross pollination, for the lack of a better term.”
A massive 8.9-acre site, the Foundation property – including a gym, a ballroom and a fully licensed and functioning kitchen – is used as a rental space for many nonprofit organizations. One of the founding goals of the plan was to help nonprofits work together to succeed. Several organizations call the campus their permanent home, including:
KPETS: Touching lives, warming hearts through human and animal interactions. Kpets.org
Rock Steady Boxing: Non-contact boxing-inspired classes can reverse, reduce and even delay the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. Rocksteadyboxing.org
Girl Scouts In The Heart Of PA: Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. Gshpa.org
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America: Create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Bbbs.org
T. Alexander Foundation: Centered on preparing emerging scholar athletes for life after sports. Talexanderfoundation.org
Merakey Education and Autism Center: Enriching lives by providing exceptional services through an individualized approach. Educationandautism.merakey.org