Artist meets the Bread Lady: Drawing Outside a Student’s Comfort Zone

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Prof. Cunfer and her illustration class at Rohrbach Library

Prof. Elaine Cunfer teaches a 7-week illustration Visual Essay class in which she asks students to step outside their comfort zone. Works from the Fall 2016 seminar are currently on exhibit in Kutztown’s Rohrbach Library.

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©Meredith Shriner

Meredith Shriner chose to draw her essay about The Bread Lady at Renninger’s Farmer’s Market. Carolyn Zimmerman, started her bread business in 2012 on the weekend that Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. Meredith first met the Bread Lady when she visited her stand this fall for this illustration project.

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Meredith Shriner and Carolyn Zimmerman

Meredith’s poster says, “Carolyn Zimmerman, otherwise known as “The Bread Lady,” runs a stand by the same name… She is a kind, funny, and thoughtful person who genuinely enjoys her job as it offers a way to both serve people and put smiles on their faces.”

Yu Wen Sun (Sue) is an international student from China. She spoke with KU Professor Bill Donner, Phd, about the legend of the Groundhog. Donner is author of “Serious Nonsense: Groundhog Lodges, Versammlinge, and Pennsylvania German Heritage” published this year by Penn State Press. “Sue really grasped the spirit of the project and started in the summer by visiting and talking to people at the Kutztown Folk Festival.” said Prof. Cunfer.

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© Yu Wen Sun, Sue

Below is another project that has a PA German heritage connection. Deanna Black interviewed Rachel Yoder, MFA student, about her new children’s book, Penny Olive. Rachel was thrilled by the poster and she and Deanna have bonded as fellow artists.

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poster © Deanna Black,  Penny Olive © Rachel Yoder

Personally, I prefer the projects above where KU student artists actually interacted with a living person. At my old school, SVA , students did visual essays about the non-faculty employees. Turns out many of the cafeteria ladies, the elevator operators, the night janitors were immigrants with fascinating biographies. Prof. Cunfer, however, does not require an interview. She permits research-based projects. Of those, I found Heather Fox’s poster on Peter Miller and his massive colonial book, The Martyr’s Mirror, most fascinating.

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© Heather Fox

In another research-based project, Katelynn Chambers tells the story of Nolde Forest , a state park not too far from Kutztown. It is beautifully drawn.

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© Katelynn Chambers

Prof. Cunfer explains the project like so: Communication Design Seniors concentrating in illustration complete a half-semester course entitled Visual Essay in which they use illustration as a medium for reportage. Students were assigned to create an illustration based visual essay in a poster form. These posters could profile any aspect of historical/cultural significance, a unique life experience, and/or an interesting person in Kutztown (or very local area) outside the traditional student microcosm. Students were expected to go out into the local community and interview their subjects, as well as research life, culture and folklore of their subjects. Students gained a new appreciation of their lives in Kutztown.

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© Katie Bertolet

Katie Bertolet researched the history of the landmark Pagoda that overlooks Reading.

There are over a dozen more examples of these visual essays on display on the walls at Rohrbach Library. If you are near Kutztown, the exhibition is worth a visit. Prof. Cunfer’s visual essay project is a great example of community outreach. At the library exhibition opening I overheard Ms. Zimmerman, the Bread Lady, exclaim, “Next time I hear anybody talking bad about Kutztown University students, I am going to tell them about Meredith.” 

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