Hilltop 34th annual art show will feature woodturner

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:55

Fundraiser will have more than 40 artists on display SPARTA — The 34th annual Hilltop Country Day School Art Exhibition and Sale is set to take place Nov. 4 to 6. The event will host 40 artists and feature the work of Michael Gruodis, a Milford, Pennsylvania based woodturner. Proceeds from the sale will go directly toward programs for Hilltop students, including arts education. Exhibition organizers, Nina Romano and Blake Hargrave head a group of parent volunteers enthusiastic about the arts focus at Hilltop. Art appreciation at Hilltop begins in preschool and develops throughout each grade. “In a time when arts programs are being cut from schools,” said Romano, “we are happy to have the opportunity to provide this type of fundraiser for Hilltop.” Romano and Hargrave have been pleased with the scope and success of the annually anticipated exhibit. In recent years they’ve developed a more intimate gathering by inviting a smaller group of artists. “This gives visitors a chance to view more pieces from each artist,” said Romano. Last year’s event raised $30,000. The successful invite-only strategy will be supplemented this year with a new “Opening Night Experience,” food and wine tasting reception on Friday. Local sponsors and restaurants provide support for the three day event - from advertising sales to hors devours and wines. “Our students appreciate seeing their school transformed into a gallery for the exhibition each year,” said Laura McGee, Headmaster of Hilltop Country Day School. Art classes at the school will incorporate viewing and discussion of the works on display, including fine crafts of jewelry, glass, textiles, pottery and wood, as well as paintings and photography. Arts education at Hilltop comes full circle with contributions by former student Martine Romano to the art exhibition and sale. As project coordinator, Romano, whose Masters degree in Art History and experience at an auction house in Manhattan, “lends expertise and a professional eye to planning and to the arrangement and display of the pieces,” said her aunt, Nina Romano. The works of featured artist Michael Gruodis will be exhibited in the school’s front foyer, a curving space with floor to ceiling windows. The shape of the space reflects the natural materials and designs of his art. As a nature inspired woodturner, Gruodis rounds, and smooths hunks of wood, from around the world, into bowls, vessels, wall hangings, pens, bottle stoppers and large and small sculpted pieces. Working with natural woods like manzanita, Australian eucalyptus, or a giant burl from a big leaf maple tree, Gruodis crafts one of a kind pieces of art using a lathe, sanders, gouges and routers. “I enjoy discovering how to represent the uniqueness of each piece of wood,” he said. Groudis and his wife Stephanie own and operate The Artisan Exchange, a gallery for local artists in Milford, Penn. His passion for woodturning got its start five years ago, in Milford, while he watched a woodturner use a lathe to create a bowl and a goblet at the Grey Towers, “Festival of Wood.” Describing how quickly the experience transformed him, he said, “I went from working in the city, managing an internet business, to buying a lathe and turning a hobby into a career that changed our lives.” Groudis works out of the 200-year-old house he and his wife bought and renovated when they moved to Milford from Rockland, New York. “It’s not like production woodturning,” he said. “Every piece is one of a kind and I avoid using stains or dyes in my work.” His dedication to maintaining the natural beauty of his materials shows through in pieces like a richly marbled pecan wood platter; the intricate dark brown spirals in a cherry burl bowl, or a manzanita root ball crafted into a “genie lamp”. “I feature aspects other people may see as a flaw of a tree,” he explained. “Usually, the fault makes the piece.” Groudis will exhibit approximately 60 pieces at the Hilltop Art Exhibition and Sale. More information about his work is found on his Web site mysticalturnings.com. I admire the way Michael Gruodis has followed his passion to create art through woodturning. It reminds me of the Hilltop motto: 'Each Student Every Day’. Our teachers are encouraged to acknowledge our students’ passions and guide them along the paths to their dreams.” Laura McGee, Headmaster, Hilltop Country Day School If you go Hilltop Country Day School 32 Lafayette Road, Sparta 973-729-5485 34th Annual Art Exhibition and Sale Opening Night Experience: Friday, Nov. 4, 6 to 9 p.m. Complimentary admission: Saturday, Nov. 5, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 6, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.