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Johnstown Train Station

     The burgeoning blacksmithing community in Johnstown is about to make another big move forward thanks to a relationship between the Johnstown Area Heritage Association and the Artist- Blacksmith’s Association of North America. 

     ABANA, a nonprofit organization that promotes the past, present and future of blacksmithing, has entered a 10-year lease to use the JAHA-owned, century-old Johnstown Train Station as its
first-ever permanent headquarters. The city’s rich steel and blacksmithing history played an important role in the 47-year-old group selecting Johnstown.

     “What attracted? Absolutely, it’s an iron city,” ABANA President Leigh Morrell said.
The association plans to use its portion of the train station, located at 47 Walnut St., for an office, gallery, retail shop, library and wall of fame. A 2021 conference in Johnstown is already
being planned.

     JAHA President Richard Burkert envisions the ABANA headquarters as part of a larger transportation and education center at the train station.

     “Johnstown is a place where you want to learn about America’s industrialization and how that changed the country,” Burkert said. “What this gives us is one more themed attraction. We see the train station as being kind of a hub for tourism, as well as a transportation hub.”

By: John Rucosky

Janie Grela, M. Ed.

Executive Director

The Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America, Inc. (ABANA) has named Janie Grela, M. Ed. as its first Executive Director. This year, ABANA established its Home Office in the train station on Walnut Street in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. As Executive Director, Janie will develop a museum space, library and archive at the historic train station, which was designed in 1916 by Architect Kenneth M. Murchison. Grela will be responsible for leading the non-profit organization in adherence to the strategic plan set forth by the Executive Board. Ms. Grela reflects, “I have had the honor of assisting with the development of the arts in Cambria City over the past several years and I am enthusiastic about working to foster the blacksmithing arts through this dynamic challenge.” She will have many important tasks, challenges, and opportunities before her. Her experience in non-profit management and strategic planning will help further the vision of the organization through initiatives that support the development of ABANA and the community.

Among the first task she will tackle is the growth of the organization through the establishment of a ‘home’ in the city. City leadership, the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, and the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies have all played a pivotal role in bringing ABANA to Johnstown. This development will have a positive impact on the community as it attracts blacksmiths from all over the world. For this coming April 2021, ABANA will host its first biennial ‘Iron to Art Festival’ at the Peoples Natural Gas Park near the train station. This event will bring hundreds of visitors to the city as the ABANA blacksmiths showcase their art form and conduct educational workshops, all to advance the art of blacksmithing.

The organization began in 1973 with only twenty-seven blacksmiths whose vision has unfolded such that membership is now 3,300 strong, representing members and affiliate organizations both nationally and internationally. ABANA encourages and facilitates the training of blacksmiths through a model curriculum and a publication division that disseminates information on blacksmithing; it serves as the North American center of information about blacksmithing. ABANA also awards scholarships and grants to blacksmiths for exploring the art form.

Janie Grela is an artist herself and a native of Johnstown who returned to the area after residing in Arizona for a decade. She has exhibited at numerous galleries and was represented by Blue Willow Gallery in Phoenix. Her works are included in public and private collections. Before her departure, she received a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Education from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and worked as a certified teacher in both the metro Phoenix area and in rural Maricopa County, Arizona. For many years, she served as the education grant Projects Director for the state agency, The Arizona Commission on the Arts, by managing funds from the office of the state’s Attorney General.

Janie has been active with several area arts non-profit organizations including The Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center, Art WORKS! In Johnstown, The Community Arts Center of Cambria County, Laurel Arts, and the Indiana Arts Association. Janie has also served as board member for multiple non-profit agencies and was the president of the Allied Artists of Johnstown for a four-year term. Janie has earned a Six Sigma Green Belt business certification and a Master’s of Educational Leadership degree through Penn State University. Janie currently serves as the Grant Writer and Development Specialist for the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/ Fayette, Inc. She assists with the funding and development of over twelve community programs in five counties.

She sees this opportunity as a way that her experience has brought her full circle to this endeavor, “My experience as an artist, a director, and an educator has provided me with a unique perspective on what communities need. I will support ABANA as a vibrant and transformative aspect of our community – my hometown.” Janie looks forward to working with everyone in her new role for the Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America, Inc.

Executive Director