Ann Elizabeth Schlegel

Ann Elizabeth Schlegel

When looking to adorn Allentown’s new luxury Renaissance Hotel with art that could capture the color, glamour and excitement of the city’s rebirth, one artist’s name topped the list: Ann Elizabeth Schlegel.

“I immediately thought of Ann,” said Jane Heft, vice president and director of project design and branding for City Center of Lehigh Valley. Heft had seen Schlegel’s series of quirky cocktail paintings hanging in Allentown’s Pistachio Bar and Grille and fell in love with Mr. Martini, who has an olive for a head. “I very much enjoy her spirit and her whimsical, yet elegant approach to her painting,” Heft said.



A native and nearly lifelong resident of Allentown, Schlegel studied art at the Baum School of Art and under Allen High School’s legendary teacher Jim Musselman. She opened Studio 606 – Palette & Pen – in the former Salomon Jewelers at 6th and Hamilton streets two years ago for the inspiration, creation and promotion of her popular and award-winning paintings. And, four times a year, she organizes art “Squawk” events around grand openings of new exhibits at the Allentown Art Museum to draw even more attention to the city’s artful transformation.

Not surprising, she beat the drum for Bethlehem’s art world during the 13 years she maintained a studio at the Banana Factory, and in Easton by decorating a sculpted mule for the city’s “Miles of Mules” art contest.

“I’ve always been an artist who volunteered, dug in and spearheaded or participated in art projects and events,” Schlegel said of her role in Allentown’s renaissance. “Painting is usually a solitary vocation, so, it’s with great excitement when friends and new friends partake in a celebration of the arts.”

For the upscale hotel, located adjacent to the PPL Center in the former Dime Savings and Trust building, Schlegel painted a dozen 4-by-4-foot canvases with abstract images of a “Mercury” dime.  She used bold, sweeping movements and vivid reds, blues and metallic colors that from a distance appear more like a Jackson Pollock or Henri Matisse abstract, and close up reveal elements of the coin, such as the winged head of Liberty and the words “in God.” Nine of the paintings depict the front of the dime, three depict the back.




Heft commissioned the work from Schlegel and chose the subject in honor of the building’s historic name and in memory of a grandmother from whom she inherited a good-luck charm of a necklace with a 1942 Mercury dime on a chain. “Ann has captured the spirit of the Mercury dime,” Heft said, so pleased with Schlegel’s work that she bought the whole series to display one or more on each of the hotel’s 10 floors.

Other works for which Schlegel is known include Musikfest’s 20th anniversary poster from 2003, featuring the mystical wizard Quasar waving a wand with a Moravian star over a crystal ball filled with scenes from the renowned music festival. The design won her a Gold Addy Award from the American
Advertising Federation.

Schlegel designed a well-circulated poster for the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Allentown Art Museum in 2006 featuring Warhol’s colorized image of Elizabeth Taylor. Her talents not limited to graphics and abstracts, she also has painted a portrait of her late teacher and mentor Musselman, which hangs inside his former advertising agency at 6th and Hamilton; and, she is working on the official portrait of Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez to hang in City Hall.

Perhaps her favorite art form, however, is creating a series of paintings under one theme that comes to her by whim or request. The adult beverage or cocktail paintings, for example, began in 1999 with a doodle of Mr. Martini that grew into 14 portraits. In a series titled “Painting Each Day,” Schlegel produced 1,000 small (6-by-6-inch) oil paintings of nostalgic items, such as a box of animal crackers. She has painted a Kentucky Derby-themed series titled “Horses, Hats and Hooch” for one of many community fund-raisers. And, she’s produced at least three series focused on music: one of instruments, two of jazz players.

“I like to do a lot of series,” Schlegel said. “It keeps me inspired when I can do one right after another… It’s very exciting to come up with the next painting.”




Her love of art came probably at birth, she said, crediting parents and teachers for encouraging her efforts. It was while attending night classes at Baum Art School that she sold her first painting, a watercolor, to an Allentown lawyer who bid on the work at an auction.

Schlegel attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she majored in graphic design and learned how to make prints of originals. Influenced by many great artists over the years, including Matisse, Pollack and Willem de Kooning, she even studied in Giverny, where Claude Monet lived and painted; Antibes, in the French Riviera; and Schwaebisch Gmuend, Bethlehem’s sister city in Germany.

In spite of having worked in some of the most beautiful and cultured parts of the world, Schlegel said she remains devoted to her hometown and to bringing more people into Allentown. “We have a great advantage and opportunity,” she said, citing the art museum, Baum school, Symphony Hall, Civic Theatre, Community Music School, Heritage Museum, and America on Wheels.

“The time is right. People are returning to the downtown, excited by its beauty, architecture, sports, cuisine, and they want to celebrate with others who also recognize that Allentown is experiencing a renaissance and becoming something extremely remarkable.”


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