BY VICTORIA KRUKENKAMP
ASST. COPY EDITOR IN CHIEF
The mystery surrounding the origins of ESU’s own “Stroudhenge” are fascinating to the community, perhaps because our “Stroundhenge” looks so much like the original “Stonehenge” in Wiltshire, England, which continues to have questionable origins and purpose.
Except for a plaque proclaiming “Arch Homage (Stonehenge), Ernest Shaw, Gift of Philip and Muriel Berman, 1991,” there is little information behind how this piece of art ended up at the front of the ESU campus, and just exactly what the purpose of it is.
The structure’s origins are a mystery to most of the faculty and staff here at ESU as well.
Well, it only takes a little digging, and a few assumptions, to find out.
Ernest Shaw is a sculptor and painter in Kingston, New York. His website, www.ernestshaw.com, tells readers that he has had exhibitions in Allentown, PA, in 1980 and 1981. He also has selected collections on display at the University of Pennsylvania, the Reading Public Museum, Lehigh University, Cedar Crest College, Kutztown University, the Cities of Allentown and Reading, PA, and of course ESU’s “Arch Homage.”
Shaw began his career as a psychiatrist, but left his practice in the 70s, and began to pursue a career in art. Besides large sculptures, he is also an established painter.
“Stroudhenge,” or, more appropriately, “Arch Homage,” appears to be a part of his “Arc Homage Series,” which includes other large sculptures, one of which is located at Amherst College in Amherst, MA.
And, yes, it is inspired by the mysterious “Stonehenge” in Wiltshire, England.
Philip and Muriel Berman were a Pennsylvanian couple that developed, together, a strong passion for art and philanthropy. After their first art purchase in 1948, the couple spent the rest of their lives acquiring a vast collection that they loaned out for exhibition, or in some cases, donated.
“Arch Homage,” our very own “Stroudhenge,” was one of the pieces that the couple chose to donate, and it was given to the ESU community in 1991.
In fact, many of the art pieces that Ernest Shaw has on display throughout the region are donated courtesy of the Bermans. Likewise, many of the art and sculpture galleries in the region are attributed to the Bermans, like the Sculpture Park at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, PA, which is actually named after Philip and Muriel Berman.
The couple, married in 1942, was extremely active in the regional community. Philip Berman served as chair of the Allentown Redevelopment Authority, beginning in 1960, and in 1964 he was elected a trustee at Cedar Crest College. Most importantly, Mr. Berman served as Chairmen of the Board of Trustees at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1989.
The first outright donation of art for public display that the Bermans made seems to be the gift of the painting, “Drifting Fog,” by George M. Harding, which the couple donated to Lehigh University in 1959. This donation began a string of others to places like Ursinus College and Lehigh University, as well as to several other colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, including ESU.
At Ursinus College, where too many art donations by the Bermans had been received to display, the Bermans established the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art in order to house the works. The museum, in Collegeville, PA, opened to the campus and the public in 1989.
So, the next time that you climb the steps of “Stroudhenge” on a sunny day, you can thank the creative mind of Ernest Shaw, as well as the contributions of Philip and Muriel Berman, and their lifetime commitment to art and the regional community.
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