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Are you a ‘Phan’ of the arts? P.A.A.I.’s latest draw is international club

February 25, 2013

The Punxsutawney Arts Association Inc. has launched its very own International PHAN Club. The club is open to art lovers from around the world and has already recruited a few from Italy and Pakistan. Pictured with the official sign are Marsha Lavelle, P.A.A.I. vice president (left) and Joyce Thames, president (right). Not pictured is Tina Fairman, treasurer. (Photo by Destiny Pifer/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — When one thinks about the art in the town of Punxsutawney, the images of the infamous "Phantastic Phil" statues are one of many things that may come to mind.

And while it is true that the town has combined the world of art with its famous groundhog, Punxsy Phil, what you may not know is that Phil — beloved as he is — is actually an artist himself.

In 2007, he created his own work of art titled "Cabin Fever Chaos," which was done solely for the Punxsutawney Arts Association, Inc.

Phil's painting is currently on display at the Punxsutawney Memorial Library, which also happens to be his home.

P.A.A.I. — as the association likes to be called — was founded in 1999 by Joyce Thames, an avid art lover who, for years, had been showing her artwork at various local functions.

It was while showing her work at the Airport Awareness Show that Thames was approached by a few people who suggested the idea of her starting her own art club.

"At the time, it gave people something to look at while they were waiting for a plane ride," said Thames.

However, it was that suggestion that sparked her thoughts of starting a club that would connect her with other artists in the area.

By 2000, the club was incorporated, with 20 members signed up.

The association has played a very large part in bringing art into the community, having done floats for the parade and participating in the Rotary Club's Circle of Trees event.

"We did a tree for the Circle of Trees event and actually won first place one year," said Tina Fairman, vice president of P.A.A.I.

Perhaps the largest event that P.A.A.I. participates in, though, is the Annual Groundhog Day Art Show, which is held every year surrounding Phil's special day.

The event features the talents of local and established artists throughout the community.

"Everybody works very hard doing the art show," said Marsha Lavelle, treasurer.

This year, the show featured two different exhibits — "Out of Africa" and "Gourdgeous Gourds."

The main theme, "Out of Africa," came from the club's very own groundhog mascot, known as "Vincent Van Hogh" (not a real groundhog).

"What we intended to do, was to have Van Hogh go on an international show," said Thames.

Each year, Van Hogh will travel to a different continent, and this year, he traveled to Africa.

Some of the artists did African-themed exhibits, while others participated in the gourds exhibit, which allowed them to create a work of art out of a gourd.

Perhaps the biggest project that P.A.A.I. has accomplished is the International Vincent Van Hogh PHAN Club, which launched over Groundhog Day weekend this year.

During the art show, locals, as well as out-of-town visitors, stopped by to not only check out the exhibit, but also sign up for the new fan club.

The cost to join is $5, and each person who joins receives a Vincent Van Hogh button and a membership card, is assigned a personal number and gets to sign a paper groundhog.

So far, the association has received a lot of signatures from new members.

One member lives in Italy, and another in Pakistan.

People who sign up will also receive an award certificate.

Throughout the year, P.A.A.I. displays its artwork in a variety of settings, with one being the Council Chambers and another being the Punxsutawney Area Hospital.

For the past 13 years, members have showcased various works of art at the hospital.

The exhibit changes every three months, with a new exhibit being set up at both places.

Old artwork is taken down, and new is put up.

For many years, the association has done theme-oriented displays at the hospital — including one last Christmas season centered around poinsettias.

During the summer, the theme will be "Patriotic," and for the rest of the year, it will be seasonal.

This year, the exhibit at the hospital is currently the "One Man Show," which features the artwork of one particular member.

After each three-month period, another member puts up a display, giving each member the chance to showcase a variety of his or her art and to gain recognition.

The first artist to participate in this year's new exhibit is Jane A. Spencer, whose photography is currently on display.

Since the town of Punxsutawney is groundhog-oriented, each member of the club has his or her own share of groundhog-themed artwork.

That artwork is often displayed at the Council Chambers.

Though the P.A.A.I. website has been active since 2008, it is currently being updated and will soon feature information on the International PHAN Club.

Once the update is finished, anyone wishing to join the new International PHAN Club will be able to sign up online and pay through

P.A.A.I. is also always willing to help a high school student who plans to study art.

Each year, members give out a $500 scholarship to one local student.

The requirements are that the student must love art and must be willing to not only submit a few pieces of artwork but also write an essay.

"We do a blind judging, where we choose the recipient by their artwork and essay," said Lavelle, adding that they don't know the applicants' names or anything about them.

The members make the unanimous decision as a group.

Any student wishing to apply may do so by contacting P.A.A.I. at

Currently, P.A.A.I. has 30-plus members, with three different membership options being offered — a single membership, a family membership and a junior membership. The junior membership is open to high school students.

P.A.A.I. welcomes new members, and those wishing to join or find out more information, can do so by visiting the club’s website at

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