MIDDLEBURG – People talk about an artist’s eye, but perhaps even more important is the artist’s ability to really hear what clients are asking when they’re commissioning a painting.
Beaver Springs native Valerie Moyer is the kind of artist whose paintings remind people of happy times and places. Sixteen of her prints of Snyder County scenes were selected to decorate the walls of the newly renovated Snyder County Courthouse.
“It’s really nice to have hometown pictures on the walls of the hometown courthouse, painted by the hometown artist,” Moyer said.
“It definitely adds something special to the courthouse and annex to highlight some of the gems of Snyder County that Valerie so eloquently highlights,” said Adam Ewig, Snyder County Commissioner. “It was a pleasure to work with her.”
Snyder County Commissioner Joe Kantz became aware of Moyer’s work when he received a calendar featuring her artwork from Congressman Fred Keller (PA-12), who had commissioned hundreds of calendars as Christmas gifts. At the time, the Snyder County Courthouse was renovating the former M&T Bank next door to create office space.
Kantz approached Moyer about using her scenes from Snyder County to bring the blank walls of the courthouse annex to life. She brought a number of samples to the commissioners and they chose 16.
“I think Snyder County has tremendous talent around here, and Valerie is just a prime example of that talent,” said Commissioner Chuck Steininger.
“There are so many beautiful places to paint,” Moyer said, mentioning covered bridges, spring houses, and barns. “I feel called to preserve these buildings of significant historical interest. They don’t build most of these buildings anymore.”
She’s known for stopping at the side of the road to photograph a striking tree, house, or a flock of ducks on a pond, and she appreciates the opportunity to showcase her work where so many people can enjoy it.
“I’m really so grateful for their kindness and support,” she said of the commissioners. “It was an honor to have my work selected and it gave me an opportunity to take advantage of the gift that God has given me.”
Moyer was once commissioned to paint a picture of a McClure woman’s childhood home, which had been neglected over the years.
“She wanted a painting of what it looked like growing up in it,” Moyer said.
So Moyer cleaned it up. She “trimmed the hedges,” reproduced the wife’s mother’s award-winning lilies near the front porch, added the mother’s and father’s chairs on the porch, and hung the father’s shirt and mother’s apron on the clothesline. The woman was delighted.
“She made prints and gave them to her siblings for Christmas, which brought her to tears,” Moyer said.
It’s one of the things clients appreciate most about a custom painting, the ability to recreate what’s important to a person’s feelings – the house, the flowers, the mailbox – and leave out the things that interfere with those feelings, like peeling paint or an air conditioner in the window.
“I can make it look like her dream home,” Moyer said.
“Valerie Moyer is one of the most talented artists I know,” said Karen Teichman, who helped found the Artisan Corner Co-op in Mifflinburg. “She sees a building, house or landscape and creates a beautiful work of art. She is a talented visual artist.”
Working in her studio with acrylic paint on stretched canvas, Moyer takes two to three weeks to complete a painting. About a dozen years ago, when her husband suggested that she needed a trademark, she began adding a bunny to almost every painting.
When she paints a house on commission, she matches the number of birds in the painting with the number of family members in the house. When she paints a church, she sometimes adds three birds representing the Holy Trinity.
A history appreciator, Moyer minored in history and art history when she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Kutztown University and attended Moore College of Art in Philadelphia.
“I’ve painted my whole life,” she says. “It’s like breathing.”
She painted eight murals at Vinnie’s Pizza & Italian Family Restaurant in Middleburg. In Beaver Springs she once painted a plane tree that she had had in mind for a long time. When she finally finished it, she learned that the property’s owner, Mona, had died the same hour she was putting the finishing touches on her painting.
“A friend bought this original painting of mine and gave it to Warren (Mona’s husband),” Moyer said. “I then gave each of her two adult children a cast.”
That’s another thing people love about paintings, which is the ability to reproduce them into framed prints, greeting cards, and other items. Moyer relies on Heritage Printing & Design in Mifflinburg for her reprints and is pleased with their work. She will be creating a large painting of the Snyder County Courthouse for the reception area of the Commissioners’ Office and they plan to acquire the copyright and use this painting on their letterhead and other formal papers.
“I’m so blessed with a lot of supportive clients,” Moyer said. “The support this community has shown me has been more than I deserve.”
Recently she has been working on paintings of a Victorian house in Freeburg for two sisters. Unbeknownst to her, Moyer decided to put a light in the window of her late parents’ bedroom, another thoughtful touch that reflects her ability to hear what her clients want.
“These are people’s houses,” she said. “That’s what they spent their life energy and their dreams on, and I want to capture that. I want to convey feelings of peace, warm memories, calm and serenity.”
Cindy O. Herman lives in Snyder County. Email comments to CindyOHerman@gmail.com