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Rock star Paul Stanley delivers art to Youngstown

Paul Stanley delivers art to Youngstown

Jan Kennedy, right, of Dellroy, asks Paul Stanley a question about one of his paintings during a $1,000-per-couple reception Saturday at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown.

YOUNGSTOWN — Before being the center of attention at a $1,000-per-couple reception for his first museum exhibition, Paul Stanley got a private tour of the Butler Institute of American Art with Executive Director Louis A. Zona.

He immediately was attracted to John Singer Sargent’s “Mrs Knowles and Her Children.”

“If I could have a Sargent, I would,” Stanley said.

“We’ll roll that one up for you,” Zona joked.

“I’ll take it,” Stanley quickly replied.

Stanley stood back and took in the full work and then would lean in to check a detail or a paint stroke on several pieces in the museum’s permanent collection. Stanley strolled through the galleries wearing a purple suit, open-collared black shirt with white polka dots and black athletic shoes with a thick white sole, but not nearly as high as soles on the boots he wears during his day — more like night — job as lead singer and guitar player with KISS.

After Stanley expressed his admiration for another work, Zona asked, “Should we roll that one up too?”

“I don’t want to be greedy,” Stanley replied. “Just the Sargent.”

Stanley told Zona he was “humbled” to have his work in the Butler, and upstairs he was the artist being admired by about 75 attendees, who traveled from as far as San Francisco to attend the event.

Dr. Dee Banks of Liberty, who serves on the Butler’s board, said, “Because I love color, I’m just so impressed by his expression of using color, and his expressionism is just fabulous. It makes you feel very happy.”

She also thought the exhibition by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee whose band has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide also would bring new visitors to the Butler when it opens to the public today and runs through Oct. 8.

“On the board, I’ve always been into outreach,” she said. “So many times, people see the museum as a fortress that only certain people can come to. When you bring in people like Paul Stanley, who are multidimensional, not only a musician but a fine painter, I think it’s great and gets more people through these doors, which is what we want.

“It also puts us on the map. It’s putting Youngstown on the map. And all kudos to Lou Zona. He’s the force behind all of this.”

Stanley talked about the exhibition during a recent interview on Howard Stern’s Sirius XM radio show, and a reporter and photographer from Forbes magazine were in attendance at Saturday’s reception.

Several of the people there already were collectors of Stanley’s art.

David Schiff of Bethany Beach, Del., had purchased a couple of paintings that were a part of the Butler exhibition. Schiff first saw KISS in 1974 in St. Louis, and later worked as a roadie.

“When I found out about his artwork, I started buying pieces from him,” Schiff said. “There’s something about his work I just absolutely love. And also how gracious the band is to its fans. I respect that. Can I say there’s a tad of ‘bromance’? To watch a guy you saw on stage become a friend is amazing.”

Mike and Becky Kepraios of Raleigh, N.C., own “Fluorescence — Visual Jazz Series” in the show. While the painting looks like an abstract from a distance, there are little details embedded in the bright colors.

“There’s personal things in there — a guitar, a heart,” Becky said. “If you look really closely, there are these little sticks that represent him, his wife and his kids, things like that. … I think his art is really great. We can spend a half hour looking at that and see different things.”

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