Has anyone else noticed the growing arts movement in our community? A recent rise in exhibitions, the number of art venues, and practicing artists are only a few indicators. Two organizations in our community are leading a wellspring of local creativity and providing unique benefits to lovers of art across the region: the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania and the Bellefonte Art Museum.
I was first introduced to the Art Alliance while selling oil paints at Uncle Eli’s Art Supply in State College. A patron discovered I was new to the area and exclaimed about “the Alliance” of which she insisted I become a member. After attending a few exhibitions and browsing their Gallery Shop I signed up because of the range of artwork their members displayed.
Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, the Art Alliance runs art classes non-stop. Hundreds of students take classes every year, across all age groups. They are known for their children’s art camps, teen lessons, PSU student events, Pop-up art classes for busy professionals, and a strong contingent of senior citizen artists. I now teach three classes at the Art Alliance: oil painting and a couple drawing courses. Over the several years I have worked with Art Alliance managers Marie Doll and Diane Kesidis, I have seen them constantly benefiting the greater art community. In addition to being the area’s staple for art education, they also operate three artist studio spaces, coordinate dozens of exhibitions with local State College businesses, and connect hundreds of art enthusiasts. One of the most inspirational qualities of this group is that year after year I see students hone their skills and go on to exhibit and even sell work in the community.
The amazing local art bubbling up around us often passes through the Bellefonte Art Museum. The museum began sending ripples throughout the region when it was founded nine years ago and “provides enrichment to our communities through free art shows, classes and cultural exhibits.” I am inspired by the work of Patricia House and Lori Fischer, only two of the amazing organizers involved. They have grown an institution that engages an artist registry of over 140+ creatives with a large community membership. Their popular First Sunday events are a hit for adults and kids alike!
Recently the Bellefonte Art Museum (known affectionately in the community as BAM) reached new heights. Starting in 2016 they are operating several galleries with monthly rotating exhibits in each. Having worked in galleries, I know that is a monumental task!
They’re not stopping there either. The Bellefonte Art Museum’s influence is drawing the attention of neighboring regions. They recently published a book, Landscapes of Central Pennsylvania, which is the first comprehensive art book showcasing some of the most prominent working artists in our area. Some of BAM’s exhibits have received out-of-state reviews and they hope to continue attracting visitors from outside the region.
If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many artists in the area or why there is so much cool art displayed in various businesses, galleries and libraries, it is likely due to these two organizations. If you’ve ever wanted to be a part of a growing local art movement, then the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania and the Bellefonte Art Museum are for you!
Sean Bodley is an artist (also founder, writer and editor of this magazine!) living in Lemont, PA. Sean’s drawings and paintings can be found at various venues around town and also online at seanbodley.com.