Art of the State 2014 / Pennsbury Manor Naturalization Ceremony

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Art of the State 2014

Before Philadelphia artist Michael Pavol could start painting his award-winning Josie, the work needed a subject – and a small, plastic skull. Pavol’s inspiration came in the form of a young girl who had little interest in the artist, his camera or his vision for the canvas. Pavol struggled to occupy the girl’s attention long enough to allow his camera to capture the right image to use for his painting.

During the shoot, the girl stumbled upon a small, plastic skull living among the clutter strewn about the artist’s studio. The skull, most likely a toy forgotten in the studio by Pavol’s son, became the distraction Pavol had been seeking. Soon, both the artist and his subject were engaged in a lively discussion about the skull. “At some point, she stopped paying attention to the skull and lookedat the camera,” Pavol told me the night he took home a third-place painting award in the 2014 Art of the State competition.

Pavol was one of 21 artists honored with an Art of the State award during a reception held June 21. Art of the State is cosponsored by The State Museum of Pennsylvania and Jump Street, a nonprofit group in Harrisburg, and serves as a showcase for Pennsylvania’s established and emerging artists. The juried competition honors artwork in five categories: craft, painting, photography, sculpture and work on paper. This year 122 pieces of art were selected for exhibition from a pool of 1,772 entries. The museum publicly displayed the works of art from June 22 through September 14.

Aside from chatting with Pavol about the origins of his Josie, I spent most of the awards reception mingling with Pennsylvania artists, attempting to decipher the meaning behind various works. Michael Brolly of Bethlehem rarely ventured far from his first-place sculpture Glass Piece. The few times he did manage to wander a few steps away, curious art fans called him back to inquire how such a sculpture came into being. Brolly explained how he used a combination of hot glass, a vacuum, wood molds and carefully choreographed quarter turns to achieve his work of art.

Others such as Lauren Lindsay, 12, and Martine Glena, 13, attended the annual event not to show off any creations, but to see themselves immortalized on canvas. The two girls were the subject of the painting The Tablet. “I’m going to text my friends and tell them how famous we are,” Lindsay said.


Pennsbury Manor Naturalization Ceremony

Vasily Dolgushey slowly rose from his front-row seat and made his way to the podium. The Temple University mathematics professor adjusted his glasses, peered out into the crowd and leaned forward, his lips nearly touching the microphone. Dolgushey, formerly of Russia, was moments away from addressing a group whose members hailed from various corners of the globe. They had gathered that morning, July 18, 2014, at Pennsbury Manor to participate in a naturalization ceremony, the final step in becoming a U.S. citizen.

Pennsbury was the country estate of William Penn, Pennsylvania’s founder and defender of religious freedom. Today the reconstructed residence memorializes Penn’s experiment to bring Europe’s oppressed religious refugees to his colony where they were free to own property and practice their respective faiths – a fact not lost on the 45 people from 22 countries who swore the oath of allegiance and became citizens. Michael E. Kunz, clerk of court for the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, administered the oath of citizenship. Judges Cynthia M. Ruffe and Mitchell S. Goldberg presided over the ceremony.

“I first realized that the U.S. was becoming my home in 2006 when I went on a research trip to Europe,” said Dolgushey in a moderate Russian accent. “I was in France for one month and next in Switzerland for three months. I vividly remember that, during both trips, I wanted to come back home. And home meant the U.S.”

As the professor continued to speak, some of those seated quietly whisked runaway tears from their cheeks. Others simply nodded in acknowledgment.

“During the last step of the naturalization process, the oath ceremony, I thought on the hard life of the first colonists, about their fight for independence from Britain,” Dolgushey said. “I’m also thinking about the Founding Fathers who worked very thoroughly on every sentence of the U.S. Constitution with the good cause of forming a more perfect union.”

Some people in the back lifted their chins and craned their necks to win a better view of the tall and lanky Dolgushey, a man they never met before but with whom they shared a common bond.

Dolgushey concluded his remarks by reciting the phrase “I’m becoming American” in various languages. This last part elicited claps and recognitions from a crowd that had otherwise remained silent throughout the ceremony.

Following the ceremony, I watched as a few newly minted citizens wandered through the first floor of Pennsbury Manor. Some stopped to admire the architecture while others fumbled for their cell phones, undoubtedly anxious to inform friends and loved ones of their new status. As they pursue the dreams that brought them to America, their thoughts will undoubtedly drift back to Pennsbury, the place that will forever link each of them to citizenship.


Sean Adkins is the information specialist for PHMC. Look for his updates at Pennsylvania Trails of History on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.