Each year, WPSU-FM holds a contest to choose a design for a limited edition poster print that we offer as a fund drive thank-you gift. WPSU’s Kristine Allen went to find out more about Jonathan McVerry, whose photograph, titled "132 Winters in Lemont," won this year's Art for the Airwaves contest.
Jonathan McVerry lives in a charming green house, built in the 1870’s that used to serve as a one-room schoolhouse for the small town of Lemont, Pennsylvania, just outside State College. It’s a short walk from McVerry’s front door to The Granary in Lemont, where he took his winning photograph.
“It’s a grain elevator and coal sheds,” McVerry said. “They call it the cornerstone piece of the little village here.”
The Granary is a tall wooden building, about four stories high, built on the slope of a hill right next to the railroad tracks.
“Back in the day,” McVerry said,”the train would come up here on the tracks, and farmers would meet here, and load up, and ship [grain] off to all over the state.”
The Granary was built 132 years ago, in 1885. That’s why McVerry titled his photograph, “132 Winters in Lemont.” I asked him what was happening on that winter day when he took that photo.
“Like many people in Lemont,” McVerry said, “I was getting the mail at the post office, which is one of my favorite things to do. Because I’m able to walk to the post office, see some neighbors, and say ‘hi’. It’s right across the street from The Granary.”
McVerry said he snaps a photo almost every time he walks through the heart of Lemont.
“If it’s not of The Granary it’s of the church – the old church – or the train tracks, or the green, or something,” said McVerry. “On this particular day, it was just snowing just right. The flakes were big, they just kind of covered the road. I just took it and didn’t realize it was kind of a cool photo until I was looking at it back home.”
The photo is of the front of The Granary, which had an enormous Christmas wreath hanging on it. The slope of the hill below is covered with snow, and you see the building through a veil of large snowflakes.
McVerry said he’s been taking photos in some form or other for many years.
“Ever since I was little,” he said. “But I wouldn’t call myself a photographer by any means.”
McVerry said he took his winning photo of The Granary on his smartphone.
“Yeah, which is pretty amazing,” he said. “I think when we were doing the proofs, someone asked me what camera I used. At first I was a little embarrassed to say it was my phone.”
But WPSU’s community judges were impressed with the photo. They chose the Art for the Airwaves winner without knowing the names or anything else about the artists. I mention that because – full disclosure, here: McVerry happens to be married to WPSU’s news director, Emily Reddy and a volunteer host for The Folk Show on WPSU.
McVerry works as a communication strategist for the College of Communications at Penn State. And photography isn’t his only creative hobby. He’s a writer, and a musician. As guitarist in the duo “Hops and Vines,” with vocalist Christy Clancy, he sometimes plays in the Lemont Village Green concert series, and in many other towns around Central Pennsylvania.
Hops and Vines plays an eclectic mix of acoustic rock covers, with a few originals thrown in.
“One of the things we try to strive for,” McVerry said, “is music that people know, but don’t necessarily hear all the time.”
On occasion, McVerry does some singing, too. He likes to sing a song called “Our Little Town,” in which he pays tribute to locations around Central PA, including Lemont.
McVerry says he’s working on a book about Lemont, too. That would be yet a third art form in which he has paid tribute to the small town life he loves.