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Library has artistic backing

April 05, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

SMITHSBURG - With a May target date for the opening of the new Washington County Free Library branch in Smithsburg's Veterans Memorial Park, excitement is building in this small town.

And the creative efforts to help move the much-anticipated event along also are attracting a lot of attention.

A good example is Paulette Harvey's quiet tribute to her late mother, Louise Keuper, a prolific artist who died last July.

Keuper was a Hagerstown resident with strong connections to Smithsburg, where her daughter lives and has an art/music gallery and shop, and where Keuper attended church.

"After mom's death, my husband and I decided a silent auction was the way to go," Harvey said of her mother's paintings. The winner of that silent auction would get the choice of one of about dozen of Keuper's paintings, with the money going to purchase furniture for the new library.

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Doug Hutzell, owner of Village Florist on Leitersburg Pike, won the silent auction, paying $700 for an oil painting Keuper painted of a window box on his shop window.

"I'm so happy the way it worked out," Harvey said. "It's not like selling one of mom's paintings to a stranger - it's very personal for him."

This wasn't the first time Keuper's artistic talents have benefited the new library.

An earlier work Keuper painted of the old Smithsburg Library on East Water Street was donated to the library by the artist last year. Marcal Construction bought that painting for $1,000 and then donated it back to the library so it could be displayed in the new building.

Keuper wasn't the only artist who put brush to canvas to paint the current library on East Water Street. Prints of Carolyn Smith's painting were available earlier at the library free to any donor who gave more than $50 toward the fund to build the new library, but now they are sold out.

Born in Hollywood, Calif., Keuper was raised by her grandparents in the mountains of Montana. Her artistic aspirations grew through her school years, but circumstances delayed her beginnings as an artist on canvas.

Harvey said her mother instead created needlework kneelers and paraments at various churches. She also did a lot of sewing through the years.

It wasn't until she moved to Silver Spring (Md.) that she became a professional artist - when she was in her 50s.

When Keuper moved to Washington County, she took painting classes at Hagerstown Junior College (now Hagerstown Community College) and at the Hagerstown YMCA. Through the years, her art was displayed at the Washington Museum of Fine Arts, the Mansion House Art Center, and at shows in Frederick County and nearby Pennsylvania.

Judith Ferro, who has worked tirelessly for the old and new libraries, said donations are still being accepted by the library board.

For more information about how to support the new library, call 301-824-7722.

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