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'Minerva Medica' salutes St. Luke's

After weeks of inspiration with brush in hand, Ben Shafer of Tamaqua has completed a work of art featuring strong symbolism, local flavor, a nod to the classic lines of the Art Nouveau movement, and a salute to a local hospital.

The painting, titled 'Minerva Medica,' includes an image of the Roman Goddess, medicinal plants, a miner's pick and shovel and the Harry Packer Mansion. The work is being donated to the 2011 St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital Black Diamond Garden Party, a charity event set for June 11 from 6-9 p.m. at the Harry Packer and Asa Packer mansions and Kemmerer Park in Jim Thorpe.Shafer admires the Art Nouveau style and has been studying the technique of artist Alphonse Mucha, "whose work was very influential on this painting," he says. "The style of art is very symbolistic, and I tried to incorporate a lot of symbolism into the painting as I worked on it."I've always enjoyed mythology, so I decided to paint the Roman Goddess Minerva, who was the goddess of knowledge, poetry, music, and most importantly to St. Luke's, medicine. I painted the goddess behind a bed of flowers and holding an owl, which is how she typically was pictured."The owl is a symbol of knowledge and was considered the sacred animal of Minerva in ancient Rome.Shafer says the work illustrates St. Luke's, the medical field, and the area's rich heritage."If you look closely at the painting you will see a lot of symbols representative of medicine and St. Luke's. In the background you will see mining tools and an outline of the Harry Packer Mansion. The stars in the night sky are shaped like the St. Luke's star. The flowers I used in the painting are echinacea, valerian, feverfew, and St. John's Wort, all of which have medicinal uses."The finished work actually is comprised of a watercolor painting over a pen and ink drawing."I started working on the painting in late September after planning my idea for a few months. I drew out my idea on regular typing paper and once I got it looking the way I wanted it, I transferred it over to the final art board," says Shafer."After transferring the drawing, the painting went quickly and I was able to spend time finalizing details. At first the work went slowly, trying to find time to work after my wife Lisa had our son, Samuel, last August. It took a lot of babysitting by Lisa and my parents so that I would have time to work on the painting, but I was able to put the final touches on the painting in April."A hospital spokesman said the work is extraordinary."St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital is proud of our history. Ben Shafer's original painting is a wonderful representation of our hospital's mission of providing medical care," said Micah Gursky, director of development."I just love the representation of the St. Luke's stars, the mining imagery, the symbolic depiction of 'medicine' and the use of the Harry Packer Mansion in advance of our Black Diamond event. Ben's talent has created a timeless piece to represent St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital."Shafer, 34, is son of Lee and Jacquelyn Shafer. He and his father own Shafer's Pharmacy in Tamaqua, a business started by Ben's grandfather in 1946. Shafer also fills in part time at the Pine Grove Pharmacy and teaches a pharmacy technician class at LCCC's Nesquehoning and Tamaqua campuses. He is a 1999 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh's School of Pharmacy.Shafer is married to Hazleton native Lisa Morris Shafer, whom he met in art class. He has taken various art classes since he was a teenager. Most recently, he has taken art classes in watercolor painting and drawing at the Hazleton Art league.Last year, Shafer's mother, Jacquelyn, did a painting for the St. Luke's event, and the year before a friend of the family, Roberta Chinchar, was the featured artist. Artist Sue Frendak also painted a featured portrait several years ago.The annual Black Diamond event directly benefits patients at the hospital, currently celebrating a centennial with the theme 100 Years of Caring.This year's event will be a business-casual garden party featuring food from Jim Thorpe's finest restaurants, live music, an appeaance by the Eckley Players, a scavenger hunt, The Jewelry Keybox, horse drawn carriage rides, and guided tours of the Asa Packer Mansion and Kemmerer Carriage House.Proceeds from the 2011 Black Diamond Garden Party will benefit the operating room and recovery room projects.More information about the event is available at (570) 645-8118.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Micah Gursky, left, director of development, St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital, and Tamaqua artist Ben Shafer unveil Shafer's watercolor creation 'Minerva Medica,' which Shafer has donated to the hospital for the 2011 Black Diamond Garden Party in June.