If you’re a Pittsburgher, Kennywood Park is synonymous with Summertime. For many years I participated in their Celebrate America Festival around the Fourth of July, and though I’ve moved on, I treasure those sweet memories – especially meeting many of you there over the years.
Remember the old song, “Everything Old is New Again?” If you’re a Kennywood fan, you probably know the park’s biggest news story of 2016 – the Return of the Whale! This week I want to share with you the “behind-the-scenes” backstory of my painting, “Making Memories at Noah’s Ark.”
Back in the mid-90s, I sat down with Mary Lou Rosemeyer (the park’s Director of PR at that time) to strategize about painting a series of Kennywood scenes. We chose Noah’s Ark as the second painting in the series because plans were being made for major changes to it in the near future, We wanted the painting to capture the “Old” Noah’s Ark with the Blue Whale entrance as a nostalgic contrast to the ride’s new exterior.
During the winter before the renovations took place, I spent a good bit of time in the park, hanging around the Ark and scouting out just the right angle to paint it from. I found the perfect three-quarters angle, but though there were no leaves on the trees at the time, there were still many, many tree limbs in the way. This made my job a lot harder – I had to figure out a way to compose the painting from just the right spot but leave out the trees!
Then in the spring after the park opened, I posed family and friends both at Kennywood and at our church and home. I even had a young woman pose over the air vents on the upper deck. I put Tom and Brittany by the ticket booth, and little Alyssa was held up for a drink at the water fountain by a dear friend of ours who has now passed on.
Our plan was to release the painting at the same time that renovations would be finished. Well, it turns out that the winter weather put construction behind schedule, and the Ark was not quite finished by the time the festival came around. Mary Lou suggested we just go ahead and have the unveiling of the painting at the festival as planned.
Folks loved the painting, but I noticed something interesting… after they left my booth, they would often walk over to the new, unlandscaped, unfinished, construction-taped Ark… then return to my booth and purchase one of the prints. I think it was because they were already missing the old Ark of their memories and wanted something to remember it by.
I guess park management just didn’t understand how attached we were to that whale! So many people really missed that big mouth and squishy tongue… then nearly 20 years later, Kennywood listened to the voice of the people and took it to heart. The Ark re-opened this year with a new Blue Whale entrance, complete with squishy tongue. The interior has been renovated as well, changing it back to its traditional funhouse format.
In other words, my old painting was new again!
The original prints have been sold out for years, but you can get posters, ornaments, notecards, and magnets of “Making Memories at Noah’s Ark” on this website – CLICK HERE! They make perfect gifts and great memories of a truly one-of-a-kind Pittsburgh attraction.
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