The Gallery at Penn College, on the third floor of Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Madigan Library, will host “Visions in Wood,” an exhibit of carvings by Kenneth E. Carl, former Williamsport Area Community College president and Williamsport Technical Institute director. Both institutions were forerunners of Penn College.
The exhibit will run May 15 to June 17. Gallery hours for the show are Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday, 2 to 8 p.m.; and Wednesday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibit will not be open Sunday, May 27 (Memorial Day Weekend). All exhibits are free and open to the public.
Following his retirement from W.A.C.C. in 1973, Carl combined his love for wood and the birds he and his wife fed every day to create unique, detailed carvings of native Pennsylvania birds.
It was during a vacation with his wife that Carl was wondering what he should do next, and, as the couple walked in the surf, a wood-carving tool hit his foot. As they continued to walk, more tools bumped him. He picked them up and thought it was a sign.
Carl created about 500 songbird figures that were sold for 20 years in a gallery in New Hope. He chose woods that were rich in color, such as walnut, cherry, vermilion (padauk), koa, cocobolo, greenheart and purpleheart. He began each carving with a block of wood, studying the grains and sketching a bird onto its outside. Each bird was carved using hand tools.
The poses he chose for his carvings were those he observed, such as his figure of a male cardinal feeding a sunflower seed to a female cardinal. His patience and attention to detail is evident in each piece.
Carl celebrates his 94th birthday in 2007. His career with W.T.I. and W.A.C.C. spanned 36 years. He was a graduate of the Williamsport High School vocational education program. In 1937, he became a faculty member of W.T.I., which was born of the high school program, and began teaching mechanical drafting to physically disabled students.
He became director for W.T.I. in 1952. Under his leadership, the institution moved from a technical school to a two-year community college and began programs to target specific groups of students, especially older workers and students in need of career counseling.
Carl was instrumental in shaping vocational education on both the state and national levels. His speeches, articles and testimonies before legislative bodies helped to raise awareness of vocational education, especially issues affecting disabled and older workers. He worked to convince the state Legislature to pass the Pennsylvania Community College Act of 1963. The Vocational Diagnostic Program that he began in 1951 garnered national attention, serving as a model for schools across the country.
In 1981, the college honored his contributions, the effects of which continue on campus, by naming the Carl Building Trades Center for him.
A Williamsport area native, Carl and his three daughters, Susan Best, Joann Ertel and Marilyn Seeling, continue to live locally.