McCormick Riverfront joins 34th Annual Gallery Walk
Cristina Stockton-Juarez draws inspiration for her artworks from a “mishmash of experiences.”
The museum educator at Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia has excavated a rare portrait pot in an archaeological dig in Peru and analyzed the iconography of ancient ceramics. She also inventoried tree-ring samples in New York State and guided visitors through a renowned collection of decorative arts in a historic Hudson Valley house and gardens.
Plus, she loves libraries so much that she worked for a time between jobs at Dauphin County Library System’s McCormick Riverfront Library. On Sept. 11, she returns to McCormick Riverfront Library with her vivid compositions as part of an exhibit for the Art Association of Harrisburg’s 34th Annual Gallery Walk.
“I love libraries for the books they provide, but I don’t think I realized the full extent of all of the public programs they offer as well as being able to get assistance through all the classes and online programs,” says Stockton-Juarez.
“I’ve always tried to be more connected with my local libraries and check out what they have beyond their collections,’’ she says. “Libraries are amazing free resources with clubs and books and opportunities to meet people.”
The Art Association of Harrisburg’s Gallery Walk is a beloved tradition that takes visitors to artwork-filled sites throughout the city. This year, visitors get a sneak peek at the nearly completed McCormick Riverfront Library and Haldeman Haly House renovations while viewing works by four artists scheduled to participate.
McCormick Riverfront Library Manager Lisa Howald has been hoping to join Gallery Walk since joining The Library in 2017. She couldn’t make room in the budget – galleries pay a small fee to participate – until 2021, when the McCormick & Olewine Library Friends, or MOLF, stepped up as the sponsor.
“This was a nice, ready-made event that many people participate in,” Howald says. Stockton-Juarez was working at The Library then and could call on her artist friends, so the elements aligned to make it a feasible project for Library staff to tackle.
This year, MOLF will again be there, helping set up and offering information about joining the friends group that supports the McCormick Riverfront and Madeline L. Olewine Memorial libraries. MOLF raises funds through buttons that MOLF President Jamie Earl makes and sells at the Library.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to reach out to the community, and this is an opportunity for us as well as being able to support The Library,” says Earl.
Supporting The Library matters at a time when some people are trying to remove books from libraries and schools, Earl adds.
“A strong membership and a strong friends group can help advocate for The Library and the freedom to read what you want to read,” he says. “It’s an important institution that improves the community in which you live and, in the end, helps people be informed and become better citizens.”
The timing of Gallery Walk participation coincides with the transformation of McCormick Riverfront Library and the adjacent Haldeman Haly House into a unified space for exploring knowledge and making connections. The Art Association’s historic home is a nearby neighbor on North Front Street. By participating in and supporting the cherished Gallery Walk, the Library introduces itself and its offerings to new audiences.
“It’s important to build relationships with our neighbors like the Art Association of Harrisburg, and maybe get people who are there all the time to know more about us,” says Howald. “It’s a great event, which I thought could show off The Library. We have such a beautiful building, and this helps us get some new people to know that we’re here and what we have.”
Artists E. Patrick Brown, Amy Powell, Todd Seltzer, and Stockton-Juarez are slated to show their work in the 2022 Gallery Walk. Each artist gets a table for showing their works, displayed on – what else? – the stands that librarians use to prop up books in displays.
The differences in artistic perspective, from small pen-and-ink drawings to large canvases, make the show a standout, says Howald. For the 2021 Gallery Walk, images produced by Stockton-Juarez were selected for the cover of the Gallery Walk program.
“I’m in awe of artists,” she says.
Stockton-Juarez has primarily worked in watercolors but, lately, is experimenting in gouache. Both are water-based, giving the works a dreamlike feel. Stockton-Juarez has always loved libraries and has her own “card catalog” of sorts, filled with library cards from all the places she has lived.
A native of Carlisle, Stockton-Juarez happily took a job at McCormick Riverfront Library for several months in 2021 while waiting for word about her job at Wagner Institute of Science. In many cases, she helped The Library’s members and visitors with pandemic-related issues – applying for assistance or using the computer to find resources.
“Libraries are one of the last free, public places people can go to get help, and they are very thankful,” she says. “It felt good to help people with things they literally needed to keep going during what was a really difficult time for a lot of people.”
Earl and his wife, who moved to Harrisburg several years ago, are impressed with the art and theater that abound in the city. They already own several pieces from local artists, so they’re looking forward to seeing the works on display at The Library.
“Maybe I’ll even buy some to support local art,” he says.