133 North Allegheny Street Bellefonte, PA 16823
By Serge Bielanko
It won't be long now. Soon they will park the school buses and knock the lights out in the classrooms. The long halls over by the cafeteria will fall silent, the sound of the clocks ticking away will be the only sound at all. Over in one of the third grade rooms: the crayons and the books all lay silent in the cool dark. Over in the art rooms: nothing stirs except the for occasional blast of air conditioning making last year's construction paper and yarn people blow around like lonesome leaves.
Where does the time go?
Don't try to answer that. We don't have time, of course. Even as June explodes into our yards and kitchens really soon in the form of sweltering days, lemonade, and fruit flies (am I the only one?!), there will come returning, amongst parents who totally strive to be active and engaging, that seasonal syndrome in which we each want, no...NEED... to find things for our kids to do in order to ensure that they don't wither away on the intellectual vine that grows rampant across the video game summer.
Which is why the Bellefonte Art Museum's (BAM's) annual Imagination Celebration, which runs from June 1st through July 28th, is such a remarkable event for all of us to have such easy access to each year. The brainchild of Gallery Manager, Lori Fisher, and Executive Director, Patricia House, this two-month long special exhibit is kind of a hands-on, interactive mini-art camp for kids of any age from like 2 or 3 all the way up to 110. After that age: you probably will just want to hang out in the AC with the remote control, a cold beverage, and a bag of BBQ chips. But for everyone else, this exhibit offers participation galore all mixed in with lovely little lessons about life and art, about how the two depend on one another to actually exist.
What the heck am I talking about?
Let me show you by example. This year's fest is shaping up to be one of the best, most engaging yet. So I want to give you a rundown of what you can expect. But first, I was super curious to know what exactly is the thread that ties everything about 'Imagination Celebration'. So I asked Fisher.
"I guess for me, it's all about creating an experience," she explains. "I often refer to last year's Dot Room and the response I received when describing it to someone for the first time. Most people couldn't comprehend the emotion or feeling you experienced when simply placing a colored sticker dot on the wall or piece of furniture. It wasn't until they actually stood in the room and felt the creativity and magic that you can only feel when you realize this is something more than just a dot, you are now a part of something bigger, something that others have contributed to, and something that will keep evolving as time goes on. That's a pretty powerful experience."
And one that- like all art, really- can play at the heartstrings when all is said and done.
"It was actually an emotional time for me when removing all the dots and saying goodbye to that magical room," Fisher confides.
Which is precisely the point of this show, you see?
This isn't about you and your kids or your girlfriend or your grandpa merely LOOKING at art. This isn't about people CONTEMPLATING a work done by someone else (not that there's anything wrong with that: there is not). Instead, An Imagination Celebration is all about art being created by the people visiting the museum. You walk through that front door and SHAZAM...you're the artist now.
So what can we artists-in-waiting expect to be creating this summer at the museum?
Let's have an in-depth look at some of this year's highlights.
'Measuring the Community'- Sieg Gallery
Inspired by the renown NewYork City's Museum of Modern Art exhibition, Measuring the Universe by Slovakian artist Roman Ondak, this one starts with nothing but an all white room. Then gradually, as each visitor participates by recording their name at the spot on the wall that shows how tall they are (just like many folks used to do in pencil on a wall in their home), a masterpiece of community art is born.
'Life Size Lite Brite'- Windows Gallery – Gallery I
Remember Lite Brite? I sure do. A thousand tiny colored plastic pegs and a backlit black screen filled with holes. It's a concept so simple and yet astonishing in just how artful it really was. From Seattle to Miami, from Cape Cod to Tijuana, once that first Lite Brite hit the American streets in 1967, every playroom and kids' bedroom in the country suddenly took on a whole new artistic slant. So introduce your own kids to the concept by adding to this massive life-sized Lite Brite wall on your visit.
'Emoji Quilt'- Windows Gallery – Gallery I
From the vintage greatness of Lite Brite's 1960's to the more modern expression of art that has taken a front seat in all of our lives. All hail the emoji, that tiny simple work of art that says more than anyone could have ever dreamed. In the spirit of recognizing the emoji as a true form of artistic expression and meaning, and inspired by another notorious recent MOMA exhibit, the museum folks will paint walls with chalkboard paint and tape squares with white masking tape so that undiscovered artists like you and I can use liquid chalk to draw our own brilliant emoji creations into the squares.
So....what emoji will you dream up? And what will that say about you?
'String and Abstract Line Art'- Windows Gallery – Gallery II
In these two different creative activities, each inspired by the American Conceptual Movement master Sol LeWitt, museum-goers will utilize either string or drawing to follow LeWitt's easy directions. They'll be using grids and lines to add to an ever-changing work which again stresses the art of community...and the community of art.
'One Thousand Origami Cranes'- Community Gallery
According to ancient Japanese legend: anyone that folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by the gods. Happiness and eternal luck are said to fall upon the artist who creates these cranes too, so why not make it a community project and let everyone in on the prospective fortune, right?! Come make your own crane using this very old custom of origami and learn all about how culture and art have always depended on one another at the same time. Once they're folded, your crane will join all the others by being placed in large acrylic cylinders throughout the gallery.
'An Imagination Celebration' doesn't stop there either. Not even close. From a Canvas Swap in which visitors can paint a painting and then swap it for another one painted by a previous guest, to making Puppets, to helping construct a massive 3-D Lego sculpture in the 24/7 Display window on the street, the Bellefonte Art Museum has a summer planned in which every single person, young or old, who walks through their doors will leave feeling like they've just been immersed in all the glory that is making art come alive.
Then you can go out for ice cream.
I mean, c'mon, Picasso. You've sure earned it.
'An Imagination Celebration 2019'
June 1 - July 28 Friday, Saturday, Sunday 12:00-4:30
Bellefonte Art Museum
133 North Allegheny Street
Museum hours Friday, Saturday, & Sunday 12;00 - 4:30 p.m.
While at your visit to BAM, head up to the 3rd floor to witness Underground Railroad: A Journey to Freedom exhibit. That permanent feature highlights the escaped slaves who sought safe passage to freedom in the north via a secret network of people who wanted to help abolish slavery altogether.
*This exhibition is supported in part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency fund-ed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
The Bellefonte Art Museum is supported by the Central Pennsylvania Convention & Visitors Bureau. Learn more about the CPCVB by visiting www.visitpennstate.org.
A whole lovely green space in the park will be transformed into a real-life wonderland of many of Central Pennsylvania's top brewers, distillers, and wineries.
This band is an extremely close recreation of the Fab Four. 'About as close as you can get', they say.
Bellefonte is well-positioned as both an outdoor destination and gateway to The PA Wilds.
Take the whole When-in-Rome thing and stroll into a local cafe, right in downtown Bellefonte.
As many as 15,000 car lovers have roared into town seeking those common bonds that all of mankind (and machine-kind, it turns out) yearns for.
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