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Art Interview: Nezka Pfeifer + Scranton, PA

Scranton_PA

When you think of Scranton, PA, one particular TV show probably pops into your mind. Well, lets keep the “That’s what she said” jokes to a minimum because Scranton has a lot more to offer than the Dunder Mifflen Paper Company, like the eclectic Everhart Museum for instance. The Everhart is the largest public museum in Northeastern Pennsylvania and situated on a beautiful park, their collection ranges from natural history to contemporary art. Being the curator of such a diverse and cutting edge museum takes a dynamic person with an unending thirst for knowledge, which the Everhart found in Nezka Pfeifer. You might recall that a couple of weeks ago we recommended The Everhart Museum as a great museum to follow on Twitter- Pfeifer is the force behind all those great tweets and was kind enough to answer our questions about Scranton.

Everhart Museum c.2007
What should we know before we go to Scranton?

I would definitely say that Scranton is bit more multi-faceted than the way it’s portrayed on “The Office” sitcom, though I’m sure there are some things that ring true! Overall, Scranton is a much more attractive town than many know, particularly in regards to its turn-of-the-20th-century architecture and urban planning, primarily spurred on by the money that the coal barons were able to generate from the coal mines. The downtown area is the most populated with businesses and restaurants, but if you head up to the Everhart Museum’s neighborhood and check out the city’s largest park, Nay Aug (Delaware Indian for “roaring brook”) you can see some great natural features and check out the Everhart Museum of course!
 
Tell us why we should visit the Everhart Museum, what are your current exhibitions?

The Everhart Museum is one of the unique gems in Scranton—a one-stop museum for art, history and science, which can give a sense of place to visitors from outside the region, but the exhibits also provide an opportunity to see objects from around the world, including Africa and Papua New Guinea.
 
Do you have a favorite place to eat or grab an after work drink around Everhart?

We have a lot of different palates here, so a couple favorite places are Mansour’s Café—which is in the Everhart Museum’s neighborhood and a few minutes’ drive away—or Thai Rak Thai, which is in downtown Scranton (neither of these has alcohol). But there are a few others that are also good for other types of cuisine: A Taste of Italy for pizza, and for vegans, Eden Café. There are a couple Lebanese restaurants in Scranton: City Café (downtown) and Savory Maza (West Side). Of course you can also find sushi/Japanese, Chinese, Irish pubs, and other Italian fare.
 
Are there any yearly Scranton art events should put on our calendar?

To the best of my knowledge, there any many annual events/fundraisers in Scranton, but none specifically dedicated to art. Of course there are many art-oriented events that take place all year long, or on a monthly basis. The monthly First Friday Scranton Artwalk is very popular with all of the galleries being open that night, including other commercial businesses that use any available space to promote a local artist’s work. This event is a great time to check out art in The Electric City (Scranton’s nickname).
 
Who are some of your favorite local artists?

My favorite local artist is actually one of the trailblazers in the regional landscape tradition and he died in 1931. John Willard Raught was an American impressionist who trained in Paris and spent time in France painting landscapes. Upon his return to Scranton, Raught depicted both the bucolic and pastoral landscape, as well as the industrial coal architecture. The Everhart Museum has the largest public collection of his work, and there are always several of his wonderful pieces on view in the Museum’s American Art gallery.
 
Is there a “Scranton style”? Or is there an arts community/scene vibe in the city?

While I don’t think there is specifically a Scranton “style,” there is definitely a working arts community in Scranton and throughout the Northeastern PA region. There are several galleries, both non-profit and commercial, and there are working artists to be found everywhere. The arts in Scranton tend to feature more traditional media, such as painting or photography, but there are some artists that experiment with installations from time to time.
 
What is your favorite place to see art (other than your own museum!) and where should we go to eat around there?

One of my favorite galleries in Scranton is the Melberger Arts Center, which is known for both featuring some of the region’s best artists but also for bringing in art from other cultures and areas of the country. Any of the downtown restaurants I’ve mentioned are great to check out and they’re a short walk away—particularly Thai Rak Thai or City Café—but I’m sure you’ll come across other ones that you might want to try as you are walking around!
 
What’s your perfect day out in Scranton?

Any perfect day starts with brunch—preferably at Mansour’s but other places will do—with friends, doing a bit of shopping at any of the local stores, taking a walk in Nay Aug Park or anywhere downtown, and going to a lecture/cultural event in the evening. And dinner out of course!
 
Any other musts to see and do in Scranton?

There are several other great cultural institutions, including the Anthracite Heritage Museum and the Lackawanna Historical Society, as well as Steamtown (a National Park) that feature various stories of the regional history of coal, railroads, and industry. Many of the small businesses in Scranton feature locally made and green alternatives (sometimes organic) and foster initiative to shop locally, whether you’re looking for books, clothing, coffee, or beauty products.
 
Besides Scranton of course, what is your favorite city to travel to for art and why?
To be honest, I enjoy so many cities for the art they offer that it’s hard to narrow down just one—Chicago, London, and Vienna all have a great contemporary scene—but my tried-and-true art visit is always to NYC (being a New Yorker by birth) as I know that I will always see something thought-provoking and interesting, even if I’m just walking down the street without a particular aim in mind.
 
Mansour’s Market and Cafe
969 Prescott Ave, Scranton, PA 18510 – (570) 341-6673
 
Thai Rak Thai
349 Adams Ave, Scranton, PA 18503 – (570) 344-2240
 
Anthracite Heritage Museum
159 Cedar Ave, Scranton, PA 18505 – (570) 963-4804
 
Steamtown National Historic Park
Cliff St, Scranton, PA 18505 – (570) 340-5200
 
Melberger Arts Center
123 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, PA – (570) 499-5202

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