By Ashlee Conner
KU’s Patrick Donmoyer has paired up with the grandson of Milton J. Hill, a local folk artist that started painting on barns in 1902, to begin work on Hill’s autobiography. They hope the publication will come out by the first of this coming year.
For the past 10 years, Donmoyer has been the director of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, an advocate for the culture in the local community and a published author.
“[Donmoyer’s] job here at the center is to run this operation, but also to make sure it is fulfilling its mission for preserving, celebrating, promoting the culture of the language and the history,” Donmoyer said in an interview. Other key parts of his job include running all of the center’s educational programs, the entire museum site and all of the research collection.
Donmoyer has been able to make the center a resource for exploring the Pennsylvania German culture for many different groups within the region.
Donmoyer has created the opportunity for students to come to the heritage center for internships, said Kutztown University German Professor Lynn Kutch.
“My work isn’t just about emphasizing Pennsylvania Dutch. It’s about making sure the Pennsylvania Dutch culture can be interpreted in a broader sense as being a part of a story,” he explained.
Since being at the heritage center, Donmoyer has had a series of publications. Some of these have been poems in the center’s bi-annual newspaper, “Hiwwe wie Driewwe.” He has entered poems in the Bockenheim Pennsylvania German Writers Contest and won this year and last year.
“He does a lot for the culture,” Kutch said. “He does a lot with art and the language and publishes books.”
In his pastime, Donmoyer taught himself to speak the Pennsylvania Dutch language.
Donmoyer’s cultural connection to the Pennsylvania Dutch community is one of the reasons he is interested in the field. “I grew up eating Pennsylvania Dutch food and listening to one of my grandparents speak the local language,” he said.
Originally attending KU with a major in art, he eventually became interested in the decorations on the Pennsylvania Dutch barns.
In 2008, Donmoyer started a research program with the heritage center of documenting historic barns that were decorated with hex signs. In some senses, Donmoyer believes that this project was a “catalyst” for the work he does today.
Staying within Kutztown, for Donmoyer, was like returning to his roots. “This area kind of represented, for me, going to an area where I could see more of what was familiar to me growing up within the culture,” he said.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment