Throwback: Ned Garnhart: Artist - Teacher

Updated: Mar 7, 2019

Throwback with TODAY

Ned Garnhart: Artist - Teacher

February 1995 (2nd issue) pages 79-80

For the second issue of UPPER ST. CLAIR TODAY, a local artist and educator was asked to paint the historic and picturesque Tustin Farm in Upper St. Clair. Ned Garnhart, President of the Upper St. Clair League for the Arts, active member of the South Hills Art League, and guest artist, speaker, clinician and adjudicator for various art organizations in the Western Pennsylvania area, wholeheartedly volunteered for the project. His inspiration, the stunning result on the front cover, speaks for itself.

The first thing that strikes you about the Garnhart residence on Lambeth Drive is activity - the bustle of people coming and going. Ned gives art lessons in his downstairs studio and his wife, Sue, is a noted pianist and music teacher. There's even a second driveway to accommodate this happy traffic, as "children of all ages" carry their portfolios or music books.

As guests enter the front door, they are first greeted with a beautiful floor-to-ceiling mural of a woodland forest, which Ned painted many years ago on the walls of his original dining room. Today, that room is a small foyer, housing an electronic synthesizer for the independent study of the elements of music notation and composition.

Continuing through the kitchen, visitors enter the two-story addition, a large and warm family room surrounded by white walls with figure drawings and paintings galore, large windows overlooking a lovely wooded area, two pianos and an inviting fireplace with a cozy fire. Construction of the addition provided for a large art studio in the basement where Ned also conducts weekly figure drawing workshops.

Artist Ned Garnhart has been a resident of Upper St. Clair since 1952, growing up with his family at a time when one could still ride the Shannon/Drake street car all the way to Washington. In 1958, he graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School, before Upper St. Clair had its own high school and enrolled in Carnegie-Mellon University to study architecture. After almost dropping out (he said that becoming an architect required "too much emphasis on engineering and mathematics"), Ned switched to painting and design and was soon earning recognition on the dean's list. Ned graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Art Education and began a thirty year career of teaching art in public schools - one year in Beaver Falls and twenty-nine years in the Bethel Park School District, where he retired in 1993 as Head of the Art Department. According to his students and friends, he is known as Ned GarnhART, which translates as "he loved every day of his teaching career."

Over those thirty years in education, Ned explored and taught just about everything related to art - painting, drawing, ceramics, computer graphics, calligraphy, bookbinding, etc., with a mission to "work towards the appreciation of beauty in everything you see around you." He initiated the highly successful computer art program at the Bethel Park High School. He remarked that some of his happiest times "in a bonding sense" were designing and painting scenery with students for twenty-one high school musical production at Bethel Park, in "bringing a show together...and staying up all hours." Sometimes, "the paint was barely dry for the opening performance," according to Ned.

He has also taught art classes at Friendship Village and courses on figure drawing and calligraphy for the Community College of Allegheny County. Today, besides his studio teaching, he does caricatures for senior proms and other celebrations and accepts commissions for drawings, paintings, and calligraphy. When he is not working on his own paintings and drawings (he reserves an average of two hours per day), he volunteers time to his church and serves in the Christian Science Reading Room.

A sample of Ned's painting will soon be found in almost all households in Bethel Park and Upper St Clair area since he is the winning recipient of the telephone directory cover contests of both communities. The cover of the Upper St. Clair Directory is a painting of the Upper St Clair Township Building. He also designed the Upper St. Clair Library Card.

Ned's biggest challenge in painting the Upper St. Clair TODAY cover was creating a winter scene with only summer and fall reference photographs. Also, painting snow on a white barn is a lot like making a picture of a polar bear in a blizzard!

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