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Celebrating the Artistic Journey: A Tribute to Altoona Visionary Joe Servello

A documentary premiering this month showcases the life and impact of Altoona artist, Joe Servello, renowned for his illustrations in children’s books that have gained widespread recognition beyond Altoona.

Kathrine Muller, the mind behind “Not Your Average Joe,” holds an ArtsAltoona “Family Coloring Book” featuring some of Servello’s works. She also has in her possession “You Are An Artist,” a book authored and illustrated by Servello for the Montessori program in 2000, with updated content related to ArtsAltoona.

The documentary’s creator and director, Kathrine Muller, has known Servello, who is turning 92 this year, since the mid-80s. Her aim is to share his story with a broader audience.

Describing Servello’s life, Muller stated, “It’s a narrative of a well-lived life. An eclectic journey of a hometown figure who has also resided in various other locations such as New York City, Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Long Island, where his artistic footprint can also be seen.” Muller added, “Joe is a rather unassuming individual. When I proposed the idea of a documentary on his life, promising accolades from many, he responded, ‘Yeah, that will amuse me.‘”

A mural adorning the Historic Mishler Theatre in Altoona, painted by the local artist Joe Servello, who is the focal point of the upcoming documentary, “Not Your Average Joe.”

Servello’s sculptures and murals embellish numerous locations in Altoona, including the Historic Mishler Theatre and the Altoona Transportation Center. His artistic endeavors are also showcased in the cities where he has previously resided, such as Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Long Island.

Muller highlighted Servello’s significant contribution to illustrating books, particularly his collaborations with Aline Wolf from the Montessori School, Penn-Mont Academy, which have made an impact in the Montessori educational realm.

Among his notable works are books like “The World Is Big and I’m So Small,” the “Nap Master,” and “Too Little.”

Muller emphasized that even those familiar with Servello may discover new facets of his life through the documentary, such as his military service during the Korean War, his involvement in acting, directing, and teaching.

The premiere of “Not Your Average Joe” is scheduled for April 12 at the ArtsAltoona Sanctuary. While the event is open to the public free of charge, donations supporting ArtsAltoona and Forever Forward Productions, the documentary’s production company, are encouraged.

This premiere marks the commencement of a three-day “Servello-bration” honoring his artistic endeavors, including an art walk in downtown Altoona on April 13 and a one-day exhibit at the Railroaders Memorial Museum on Sunday, with regular museum admission fees applicable for the latter event.