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Bringing History to Life: Pennsylvania Artist Wins National Award for Mining Artwork



By Paul Golias

March 4, 2019 - Sue Hand has been named winner of the Cherry Hunter Award of the American Mining History Association. Hand won for her body of work depicting the anthracite mining industry.


Artist Sue Hand describes coal breakers at the West End Coal Company in Mocanaqua during Thursday annual Monsignor John J Curran Lecture at King's College. 

Photo by Dave Scherbenco, Citizens Voice

Hand’s latest effort was “Coal Breaker Communities: Faded Memories,” a series of some 55 watercolors showing former area coal breakers in the background and miners and mine families in the foreground. She previously painted “The Anthracite Miners and Their Hollowed Ground” is a 300-piece acrylic/collage expressionism series memorializing Pennsylvania’s miners. Most of the pieces of that series are at King’s College which is attempting to gather the entire set.

“Oh my gosh! I was beside myself when I learned of the award,” Hand said.


One of Sue Hand’s paintings that was part of her ‘Coal Breaker Communities: Faded Memories’ series.

Hand was notified of the award by Dr. Bob Wolensky, anthracite historian, who teaches as an adjunct professor at King’s. Hand said she likely will not be able to attend the award ceremony when the Mining History Association holds its annual meeting in June in Marquette, Michigan. She said she will ask Wolensky to accept the award on her behalf.

The association makes the award to an individual whose works show outstanding commitment to and skill in recording mining history through graphic arts. The award honors the late Cherry Hunter, a long-time MHA member and accomplished artist. Award recipients receive a plaque and monetary award of $250.

A large series of paintings is nothing new to Hand. Her most ambitious was “The Light and the Land’’ series of 1,000-plus paintings of features in the 11 counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania. “The Millennium Collection’’ comprises 366 paintings of places within 30 miles of her studio on Main Street, Dallas.

Hand also did a series of 350 watercolor paintings of vistas from 350 pole numbers around Harveys Lake. The series is titled “8.3—A Journey Around Harveys Lake,’’ 8.3 being the mileage around the lake.

Hand has painted extensively on Cape May, New Jersey; the coast of Maine and in regional forests and woodlands. She has used all mediums, including water color, oil, acrylic and pastel.

Wolensky said Hand is a “deserving winner for all that she has done for anthracite art, and, indeed, anthracite’s history and legacy.”

Letters of support for the nomination were filed by Dr. Tom Mackaman of King’s College and president of the Anthracite Heritage Foundation, and Johnny Johnsson of Maryland, a former president of the MHA and one of many who viewed the “Breakers” exhibit at King’s in January.

Hand is a Dallas native and a graduate of Dallas High School and Kutztown University with a degree in art education. Her Sue Hand’s Imagery studio offers art lessons to all ages.

Hand’s artwork is in collections around the world. She was honored by King’s College with an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities.