Jolie's Journey

My first art experiences were weekly art classes held at the Allentown Art Museum several blocks from my home. Being only 3 years old, what I remember are the large impressive steps of this museum, Walter Baum's fantastic impressionistic style (especially of local snow scenes), and happiness! Having no siblings, art supplies became my early childhood friends and I loved my art class days.

Around that time, my granddad Leo T. Chylack, introduced me to marvelous watercolors. He was a Lehigh Valley opthalmologist in need of finding ways to keep his recently-retired surgical hands busy. I was in awe of the ocean scenes and nautical paintings (below right) he made. My first attempts were disappointing in comparison to his work but he kept telling me that all I needed to do was practice. I found he was right.

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In Elementary school, my  parents headed south to a country home near Collegeville, PA. It was there that I made my second set of "friends" - the macroinvertebrate stream critters that lived in our backyard creek that fed into the Perkiomen Watershed. This is where nature and art met for me and marked the beginning of a life-long journey I would take with art and the outdoors.

I attended Ursinus College where I majored in Biology and worked at the Berman Museum of Art. At that time, my Aunt Gerry Green, whose ocean and iris paintings are pictured below, had recently graduated with an art degree from Kutztown University. Greatly inspired by her,  I decided to add a minor in Art to my science degree and studied under two accomplished Philadelphia artists, Theodore Xaras and Barbara Zucker.

I earned awards for best watercolor in the Ursinus Student 

Art Show in 1993 (left) and Student Choice for best work of

art (1994).  Upon graduation I began a 16-year career at the

Great Valley Nature Center where I wore all sorts of hats as 

assistant director, grant writer, marketer, graphic designer and

special programs coordinator, and offsite camp director.

My art and creative skills were always put to good use in the

education and events hosted here. While working at GVNC I took

a year and a half to earn a MS degree in Biology from East

Stroudsburg University. There I spent a term in the County of

Lemon, Costa Rica and completed a thesis on the macro

invertebrate foraging behavior of the Louisiana waterthrush  

under the supervision of Dr. Terry Master.

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By 2015 I was ready to use my curriculum in a watershed education position held with Rails to Trails in Philadelphia, PA. This was followed by nearly four years as the Outreach Educator for Lehigh Valley Conservation District in my native Allentown, PA. Another transformational step occurred during this time.  Our family joined our much loved Saint Peter's Episcopal Church in Phoenixville, PA. There we found a home with an inspirational church family. There I began contemplating more seriously what I felt might be my God-given talents.

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In 2010 when my husband and I added a set of twins to our our boy and girl pair, I took two additional steps. The first was learning from Markels Roberts the art of hand building pottery in her Diving Cat Studio in Phoenixvillle, PA.  I also took time to develop an environmental leadership curriculum for kids. The program utilized art and nature as a platform for environmental stewardship. During this time I also joined the board as secretary to the Schuylkill River Heritage Center and became a docent at The Wharton Esherick Museum in Valley Forge. My Uncle Ted Chylack (another amazing family artist and ophthalmologist) sent a set of oils and mentioned that he thought I would really enjoy oil painting. So, with a bit of trepidation I took a few oil classes at Wayne Art School. Ted was right too - what an incredible time with this new media. 

In the life-altering year of 2020, with encouragement from my husband, Kent Wenger, our four kids, my mom, Mona Chylack, and fellow artist and friend Christina Chiu, I decided to pursue my life's dream to become an Environmental Artist and Educator in my own space. Our Newfoundland, Rorie, thought it was a good move too.  So now, you can find me, my paint brushes and all sorts of natural wonders in Studio 100 at the Spring City Mills Art Studios