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Saturday Art: Local Artists, Oil City, PA


A community with the interesting history of having the first producing oil well in the U.S., developed from one the native Americans had used in times beyond memory, has a variety of creative artists enlivening the area.   Their work is given a home in a bright brick downtown building, and gives a distinctive cachet to the downtown.

The National Transit Building is a local historic and artistic treasure. Built in 1890, with the Annex added in 1896, the building originally served as the headquarters for the National Transit Company, a subsidiary of Standard Oil. The lavish decoration and materials used throughout the building are evidence of its rich beginnings. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and was rescued from demolition in the mid-1990’s by Ralph Nader, who then gifted it to the community non-profit which now manages it, the Oil City Civic Center.  It is truly a unique and beautiful piece of Oil City’s history which has also served as the heart of its downtown from its earliest days.

Drakes’ Well, pictured above, brings visitors from all around and still is kept operating in its historic inventive way, showing the ingenuity that began the steam engine phase of the country’s development.   Now displayed at the artists’ workshops, a retrospective of work by a local Lutheran minister, Edward Kuhlmann, in Graffitti Gallery at the Seneca Street artist locale, features local landscapes that ring true to the time he worked and the scene of the Oil City area peopled by a prosperous working class and redolent of their Pennsylvania heritage.

Edward Kuhlmann (1882 -1973) was an American landscape artist, but was also a Lutheran minister in Oil City during the 1920s thru the 40s. He is a listed artist of some note. He taught art classes in Oil City, showed at many exhibits [primarily in the Midwest] and sold his work every summer at Chautauqua. He also had the habit of gifting his paintings to couples he married.

Local artists who maintain working space and sales operations in the downtown galleries are widely varied.   Some are featured in this post.   The building features an antique metal cage elevator and many of the wrought iron touches the Pennsylvania business area was distinguished by.

Illustrator, musician, porcelain, eclectic decorative household ware, photographer and others brighten a historic atmosphere with work the community produced, and appreciates.


Susette Jolley exhibits in Oil City and Franklin, PA, and has been secretary of the Archaeological Society of Venango County as well.   She unearthed a piece presently under study at Mercyhurst Archaeology Department which appears to be the only known fabric artifact found in NW PA.   Her work includes decorative household pieces as well as hanging art.

Linda Lineman creates objects and art out of porcelain, describing the process here;

This technique utilizes the translucency of china paint to create color, depth and light. Reflection, shadow and shapes can all be used in the background to add interest & dimensions to the paintings. The painting is followed by the kiln firing (baking) process, then multiple more painting & firing that creates a three-dimensional piece.

Nest picture by Mary Morgan, owner/operator of Mosaic Cafe

Only portrait known by Kuhlman, of a young immigrant nurse to one of the original oil barons


Illustrator John Manders has a studio and can often be found there, with some of his works that include P IS FOR PIRATE, a Pirate’s Alphabet, and several other Pirate works.  He is now working on Escape from Netherworld.

There are other artists in the area, some with studios in the building, that I did not get to.   The community has created a facility that contributes to the creative life, and its artists have a marvelous setting for their work.


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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.