Prolific local artist Penny Sisto’s new exhibit “Love Who You Love” opens Sunday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in New Albany with an artist talk and musical performance by the TheatreWorks cast of “A Man of No Importance.”
The exhibit, part of the church’s Art in the Parlor series, encourages the community to explore the many ways that love manifests itself. The exhibit runs through October 19.
“We want to be more connected to the arts community in New Albany and do more collaborative work,” said the Rev. Rick Kautz, St. Paul’s pastor. “It seemed like a good idea to see what’s going on in our theater community and coordinate our exhibit with that.”
Sisto has exhibited at St. Paul’s several times. Born in the Orkney Islands off northern Scotland, Sisto spent time in East Africa working in health clinics for the British Ministry of Overseas Development.
Now a Floyds Knobs resident, she incorporates skills learned from family members and the tribes she worked with into her textile artworks.
The subject of two PBS documentaries and winner of many awards, Sisto is not shy about taking on difficult issues, such as AIDS, poverty, and racism. She advocates for social justice and peace.
“We’ve not given her any restrictions in any way,” Kautz said. “I don’t think it’s going to be new or shocking to anyone. I don’t think we’re going to be pushing the envelope in any big way. We’ve been very prominent in local pride festivals. We’ve not been shy about communicating who we are as a faith community.
“It’s not just romantic love. It’s family, community, how we love and support each other.”
“A Man of No Importance,” a musical set in 1964 Dublin, Ireland, tells the story of bus driver Alfie Byrne and his controversial effort to stage Oscar Wilde’s “Salome” in the local church hall. The show touches on love, friendship, and coming to terms with who we are.
The play opens Sept. 26 at TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana, 1203 E. Spring St., New Albany. Performances run Sept. 26-30 and Oct. 3 -6 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 7 at 2 p.m.
In addition to exploring similar themes, the two shows share another connection — Kautz. “I get to play Father Kenny in (“A Man of No Importance”), which is typecasting,” Kautz joked.
The art exhibit and TheatreWorks' performance is an example of community collaboration.
“We try to partner with all the arts organizations in the area,” said TheatreWorks executive director Jason Roseberry. Sisto is “so incredible. We saw a chance to cross-pollinate these events. It’s not just fun, it’s good for the community to see us work together.”
“It’s good to see a variety of mediums come together to express the same themes,” he added. “Love, friendship and coming to terms with who we are and being OK with that.”
A percentage of any sales of Sisto’s art over the run of the exhibit will go to church outreach efforts.
“A gallery will always charge a commission to artists for sales,” Kautz said. “Any money will go to the community. In the past we’ve supported things like the White Flag Initiative and our food pantry.
The 2:30 p.m. opening reception on Sunday, in the Parlor of the St. Paul’s Parish House at 1015 E. Main St. in New Albany, is free to the public and will include light refreshments.
“We’re going with an Irish theme with the food to tie in with the Dublin setting of the play,” Kautz said.