When Peter West was a boy in the mid-1960s, he would be ferried into downtown Washington for classes led by artist Frank L. Melega, which would then sometimes be followed by a hamburger and a movie.
He had no way of imagining a half-century ago that he would one day be displaying and championing his teacher’s work.
Melega “had a huge impact on me as an artist,” West said. “A lot of people in Washington probably took his classes. He touched a lot of people.”
West, the proprietor of World West Galleries on Washington’s Main Street, is showing off Melega’s work, and the work of Pittsburgh-area artist Charlie Pitcher, in an exhibit that is kicking off Saturday starting at 2 p.m. It includes original pieces from Melega, whose work dates to the 1930s, and Pitcher, who taught art in the Pittsburgh school system in the 1950s and 1960s, and owned a gallery in Shadyside in the 1970s.
Melega, who died in 1997, is also the focus of a museum housed within the Flatiron Building Heritage Center on Market Street in Brownsville. Melega’s work heavily focused on the coal and steel industries, but branched out into other areas, such as movie posters and advertising. A one-of-a-kind poster recovered from Melega’s barn, touting the 1930 Norma Shearer vehicle, “The Divorcee,” is one of the works featured.
“He experimented with a lot of different styles,” West explained. “He was fearless in terms of different mediums and styles he could work with.”
Dubbing Melega “an artistic Einstein,” West believes he’s been undervalued by the wider public and “is starting to gain in popularity.”
West has also been an advocate for the art of Pitcher, who died in 2009. A longtime friend, Pitcher’s paintings are “kind of timeless,” West said, and dealt not only with the woodlands and countryside of Western Pennsylvania, but did so in a way that was abstract.
The musical portion of Saturday’s event, which will happen through 5 p.m., will feature Melega’s son, Frank R. Melega, who will be playing his dad’s banjo, which dates to the 1920s.
The event is free and open to the public. For information, call 724-225-4663 or go online to www.worldwestgalleries.com.