On June 1, the Marilyn Horne Museum and Exhibit Center will honor Bradford native and arts champion James D. Guelfi in a public ceremony to be held at the museum.
Guelfi, who is a longtime friend of Marilyn Horne, played an instrumental role in securing the Horne Collection for Bradford. His name and story will now become a permanent part of the museum.
Guelfi was born in Bradford in 1937. He began his career as a runner and clerk at Bradford National Bank (now PNC) in downtown Bradford in 1956 and worked his way up to vice president and manager, retiring in 1987. In 1988, he answered an advertisement in the Braford Era looking for volunteers to form a local arts organization. That organization would become the Bradford Creative and Performing Arts Center, and, as one of its founders, Guelfi would serve as the organization's President for 24 years. Under his leadership, BCPAC brought some of entertainment's biggest names to Bradford, including Ben Vereen, Glen Campbell, Carol Channing, Donny Osmond, Ed Asner and Marilyn Horne among others.
Guelfi first met Marilyn Horne in 2000 when, as president of BCPAC, he organized a performance by Horne at the Bradford Area High School. As part of Horne's grand return to her hometown, Guelfi also worked to have Parker Place, the street which runs along the south end of Veterans Square, renamed Marilyn Horne Way. The weekend became a town-wide celebration ending with Horne performing to a sold-out audience of nearly 1,500.
Thirteen years later, Guelfi and then-University of Pittsburgh at Bradford President Dr. Livingston Alexander began work on plans to create a museum in Bradford, which would house and display pieces from the collection of world-renowned opera singer Marilyn Horne. The museum would serve as an educational resource for the Bradford region while displaying pieces from Horne's collection of awards and artifacts collected over nearly four decades of performing around the world. Guelfi, who had become one of Horne's dear friends, was tasked with approaching Horne with the idea.
Museum manager Matthew Hileman said, “Since arriving in Bradford in 2017 and learning how the museum came to be, I have been thinking of a way to make Jim's story a permanent part of the museum. Without him and the special bond he has with Marilyn, the museum may never have happened.”
Marilyn Horne, who turned 85 in January, added, “I am so grateful for all he has done to reconnect with me with the old home town, and I include all he has done for Bradford. Bravissimo, Jim!”
To honor Guelfi for his role in the creation of the museum, a public ceremony will take place Saturday June 1 at 2 p.m. Incoming Pitt-Bradford president Dr. Catherine Koverola will be part of the presentation along with Pitt-Bradford Director of Arts Programming Patricia Colosimo and museum manager Matthew Hileman. The ceremony will be followed with light refreshments. Friends and colleagues of Guelfi are encouraged to attend. The presentation will serve as the museum's annual anniversary celebration.