Laurel Arts keeps a regular schedule of displays in its galleries, as well as original works for sale in our Gallery Shop. Come by to visit or to choose original artwork as a gift -- or for yourself!
The Guild of American Papercutters also has its own display upstairs in its gallery at the Philip Dressler Center. The current show is "The Music Made Me Do It." Come by to see it during visiting hours.
If the timeworn walls of the Dressler Center could talk, they might spin an intriguing bicentennial yarn. This charming Early American house, located on the corner of Tayman and Harrison Avenues, was instrumental in the shaping of Somerset County history.
In friendly conversation, these old walls might expose the spirited reputation the house enjoyed back in 1832 when Sheriff Joseph Imhoff built it on land originally owned by early settler, Captain Peter Ankney. They also might confirm or deny the rumor that it was a part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War and would divulge which previous owner was bold enough to hide slaves in the cellar passageways.
The real story may never be told, and space doesn't allow for adventurous speculation. However, if we conversed with these art‐adorned walls today, they would reveal how an idea conceived at a kitchen table in 1975 eventually made this house a home for the first non‐profit, fully‐staffed rural arts organization in Pennsylvania. The idea was the beginning of a dream destined to grow because a group of culturally‐minded people believed the community of Somerset wanted, needed and would support an art center to promote and encourage the arts. After several meetings ‐ and after obtaining legal counsel ‐ this group incorporated under the name of Laurel Arts, Inc. and was seeking a home.
Enter Dorothy Dressler, a widow who had previously expressed interest in offering her home as a center for the arts as a memorial tribute to her husband Philip d'huc Dressler. Mr. Dressler was the son of Conrad Dressler, English sculptor and inventor of the tunnel kiln. The gift of the house was in accordance with Philip Dressler's wishes that their home be used as a permanent center for the arts, and was contingent on the ability of Laurel Arts to maintain the property.
Rising to the occasion, the founders organized a community fund drive to raise $150,000: $40,000 to convert the existing building into a Pennsylvania‐compliant public facility; $30,000 for two years of general operations, and $80,000 for endowments for future operations.
Laurel Arts Inc. had found its home within the walls of The Dressler Center. The organization was established as an "umbrella" to link the arts and Somerset County by cataloging activities of other arts organizations, and by sponsoring exhibits, concerts, lectures, classes and workshops for adults and children.
In August 2009, Laurel Arts opened itsEducation & Dance Center in the Georgian Place Suites. Our new facility houses our dance programs, STUDIO KIDS preschool, expanded performing and visual arts classes, and a retail shop selling dance and art supplies.
In November 2009, The Guild of American Papercutters established its National Museum in partnership with Laurel Arts at the home of the Philip Dressler Center for the Arts. The gallery is located on the second floor of the Dressler Center and is the first American museum devoted to the art form of papercutting.
Mary Lee Stotler, the new executive director of Laurel Arts, is glad to be back in Somerset County. The Stoystown native has spent the last 10 years working with nonprofits, including the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, a community revitalization program.
"I was really happy and anxious to hear this job was available," she said. Stotler's previous jobs required a lot of travel and she's happy to be able to settle down in Somerset to be near her family.
Stotler is excited to be working for Laurel Arts, an organization that has been in Somerset County since 1975. She believes her previous work with the Main Street Program at the Pennsylvania Downtown Center has helped prepare her for the work of promoting and marketing Laurel Arts as executive director.
"Arts can really help transform and impact a community," she said. "Helping the arts thrive can be a catalyst for good things to happen."
As executive director, Stotler said she wants to help the importance of art programs be recognized throughout the community. She said the arts are just as vital to students as the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) classes.
"Creativity and arts are so crucial, you can't be an engineer if you're not creative," she said.
Stotler, who started working at Laurel Arts last Wednesday, said she looks forward to reconnecting and meeting new members of the community at the next upcoming Laurel Arts' event, A Night at the Races. The event, which includes a silent auction and other small games of chance, will be held at 6:30 p.m. on March 27 at the Somerset Country Club.
Becky Flyte, Laurel Arts Board of Directors president, said the board is working toward making the arts accessible to everyone in Somerset County. She said the organization has several events and projects planned throughout the year to fulfill this mission.
Flyte said there was an extensive search to find a suitable candidate for the position of executive director.
"Mary Lee has a broad range of experience and we're very lucky to have found her," she said. "We believe she's going to be a great addition to the community."
LAUREL ARTS | P. O. BOX 414 | SOMERSET, PA 15501 | 814.443.2433