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Black Horse Inn

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Source: Springfield Sun
Date: August 19, 2005
Byline: Joe Barron

Artist lends talents to restoration

The Erdenheim artist known professionally as Anthe turned her talents to fund raising for the first time as talk about the restoration of the Black Horse Inn started to gain momentum.

Though she had never, as the phrase is, given back to her community before, the Black Horse seemed like the right cause to start with, Anthe said Aug. 12 at her home.

Not only is it a major part of Springfield's historical heritage, she said, but it also welcomed everyday travelers on Bethlehem Pike – unlike some other historic buildings that might have belonged to prominent citizens.

Anthe decided she would have felt at home there.

"This is a working person's inn," she said.

Her contribution took the form of a portrait of the inn, prints of which are for sale at businesses along Bethlehem Pike, with proceeds aiding the restoration effort. The original will be auctioned off next spring for the same purpose, she said.

At present, the land between the Black Horse and D'Orazio Upholstery is an empty square of grass. When Anthe was painting the inn, she decorated the space with her own vision of what a public garden might look like.

Later, after attending a seminar about grant possibilities for artists, Anthe began to think the vision could become a reality. She took the idea to the Friends of Historic Bethlehem Pike, who responded enthusiastically, and on Aug. 8 presented it to the township board of commissioners, who gave her their tentative blessing to pursue it.

As Anthe conceives it, the garden will appear much as it does in her drawing, with the a statue of a black horse in the center, pebble paths and stepping stones painted by local schoolchildren.

The inn has inflamed controversy in the township, pitting different interest groups against one another, she said, and she sees the garden as a place where the community can come together again.

Anthe will create the statue herself, she said, since she has studied sculpture – as well as printmaking, iconography and Gothic stained glass. Small examples of her statuary – homemade knickknacks – decorate her living room, as do her paintings and prints.

Her sensibility embraces a variety of styles and moods, from straightforward, realistic streetscapes to whimsical depictions of saints and angels. Anthe admits to no plan and no theory other than the desire to illuminate the world around her.

"I'm not really good at explaining about myself," she said. "I just make the art because it's in me and it has to come out."

Anthe, who grew up in Michigan, studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art and Saginaw Valley State University. At age 40, she returned to school, attending classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and she resolved that any job she got afterward would involve art.

She kept that promise to herself and earns money with a variety of products, such as caricatures, portraits of homes and businesses, and religious icons. Occasionally, someone will simply see one of her paintings and offer to buy it.

Though she claims the Black Horse as her first real community project, Anthe also appears each September at the annual Springfield Community Day in Cisco Park, where she draws caricatures for passersby at no charge. She produces them at an average rate of one every four minutes, providing souvenirs to many of the children who attend while putting her name in front of the public.

She uses only her first name, she said, because it is both distinctive and easy to remember.

"You know another Anthe?" she said.