Putting into words what the art center means to me seems a bit unsurmountable. Sometimes, when trying to describe something to my children, I go back to good old Merriam-Webster to ensure that my interpretation is correct. When trying to sum up the Latrobe Art Center, I thought, why not try this. Merriam-Wester describes art as “a skill acquired by experience, a branch of learning, and the conscious use of skill and creative imagination, especially in the production of aesthetic objects” and center as “a point, area, person, or thing that is most important or pivotal in relation to an indicated activity, interest, or condition.” To continue to break the Latrobe Art Center down, I discovered that Benjamin Latrobe was none other than a civil engineer with an architect dad, Benjamin Henry. Our town was named after him because Oliver Barnes considered him that tremendous of a friend back in 1854.
Putting this all together tells the story of the Latrobe Art Center and its director, Ms. Gabi Nastuck. This dear friend to Latrobe, Gabi has laid out plans and engineered this center, pivotal point in this town for so many to gain skill, create, and experience life in good ol’ Latrobe. Latrobe is revitalizing in a time when so many need uplifted. When our culture, as I see it, seems to be coming unglued and experiencing chaos, this center symbolizes a place, a central point for our little town, to come together and celebrate art and life!
When I first entered the doors of the Latrobe Art Center about 7 or 8 years ago, it was for a class for my oldest son, Vinny. Vinny, even then, was an avid hockey and baseball player. At LAC, though, he could let get to know his “artistic side.” I remember the very vivid feeling in that class, “This woman, Miss Gabi, has such a handle on these kids; I can’t even keep three kids under control at bath time.” As the class progressed, though, I remember my amazement at something much more crucial that I observed that day. Every child in that class was being given the opportunity to CREATE something unique that only he or she could create. What a powerful gift. Since then, I have seen Ms. Gabi impart this gift time and time and time again to so many children and adults. Her leadership has also meant that others have learned how to share and teach. The gift of art has become a gift that has been shares ten thousand fold if not more. Everyone who enters the door of the LAC will not be a part of an art show or have items on display. LAC though, is the place where they can come to experience so many different forms of art while also learning to be themselves and find what lies in their own imagination. For our family, Ms. Gabi has played a crucial role in helping my children express themselves in different ways, including words and art. One of my favorite pieces that my son Louie created was one that is a delightful spattering of paint that he designed one Thursday night with the words “Who you are inside is what helps you make and do everything in life.”
While teaching others to discover their originality is central to Ms. Gabi’s role, the LAC also has given Latrobe that pivotal central point for countless celebrations. If one were to watch a drone’s video of numerous festivities of this little town, the LAC would surely be the epicenter of many with Ms. Gabi’s leadership helping to make residents of other towns envious. For my own family, the LAC has given us a place within the city limits to celebrate numerous special occasions in a beautiful place, again thanks to Ms. Gabi’s dedication to helping the LAC be all that it can be to so many.
One other crucial role that Ms. Gabi and the LAC has played for my family (and I’m sure in so many families), is that because my daughter, ironically Gabby herself, now has another career choice on her list. She reports that someday she may want to be an artist and direct an art center. Ms. Gabi has given this little girl a dream. Ms. Gabi has made her feel loved at so many stages of her youth and made her see the limitless possibilities that she has. This is a gift that no one can ever take and without the LAC, one that I don’t know that she would have.
When John and I decided to stay in Latrobe, it was because of our own love of this town and our true desire to continue to be a part of it. We loved Latrobe before the LAC and now we love it even more. We are blessed to have the LAC. Ms. Gabi has helped our kids to build a foundation of confidence and joy in what they can do, what they can create, WHO THEY CAN BE. I believe her joy, her personality, her drive, and her leadership give all of that to anyone who walks through the doors of the LAC. Mr. Rogers said “the best thing a person can feel is to be accepted as they are, not as they will be then they grow up, but as they are now, right this very minute.” Thank you, Ms. Gabi and the LAC for making all our minutes with you ones of genuine acceptance and love.
-- Ann Amatucci