August 8 – Happy Birthday Gilda Simiele

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I see it in the eyes of my grandchildren often and especially on my birthday, when each of them present me with a hand drawn birthday card. If I can correctly interpret the scene they’ve depicted on the cover of the card, their faces light up with smiles!

Most everyone remembers the feeling of pride and accomplishment one felt after creating a piece of art that received the praise of a teacher, peers, parent or an even wider audience. Why? Because it’s a thrilling moment when someone can look at a picture you’ve drawn or a piece of clay you’ve formed and say that’s really beautiful. Art is certainly one of mankind’s most important avenues for self-expression, creativity and communication. This is why I believe art is an essential component in the education of our children and why gifted art educators like the late Gilda Simiele were so indispensable.

Gilda was the daughter of Michael and Carmella Simiele. She grew up on the South Side of Amsterdam with her parents, two sisters and a brother. As you might expect, as a child, she was an excellent art student, one of the most gifted that ever graduated from Wilbur Lynch, which she did in 1945. She then went on too get a bachelor’s degree in Art from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and her Masters from NYU.

She taught art in New York’s City’s public school system for a while but she spent most of her career as an Art Teacher and Department Chair at Schenectady High School. Many of us I’m sure have had art teachers at some point in our own schooling who treated the teaching of art like a 9-to-5 job and others who made it their lives’ passion. Miss Simiele definitely belonged to the latter community.

She became one of the Electric City’s most prolific artists, opening her own art shop and gallery in that city, called the Design Studio. In a 1967 column, Schenectady Gazette art critic Peg Churchill wrote about an exhibit of 34 of Simiele’s pen and ink drawings, “She has a lively way with line and a knack for faces. In the Neighbors…the viewer can almost hear the delicious bits of gossip which the two women were exchanging with obvious relish.”

She never stopped learning and exploring her craft. For example she went to Mexico regularly during her summers to teach and study. Gilda’s pieces were regularly displayed at the Schenectady Museum and Albany Airport. Her home in Rexford, doubled as her live-in gallery and visiting friends marveled at how she totally transformed the look of her residence by changing the displays of her creations.

After she retired from teaching, Gilda continued creating beautiful art and became very active as a Proctor’s Theater volunteer. She passed away at the age of 87 in September of 2014.

 

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