133 North Allegheny Street Bellefonte , Pa 16823
Here in Centre County, I'd be willing to bet to bet a nice crisp Abe Lincoln that no one, and I mean NO ONE, can make it through a single day without hearing or seeing at least one thing about Penn State football. It doesn't matter if you like or care about the Nittany Lions. That's not what I'm getting at here. What I'm getting at is a much more irrefutable truth.
Because what I'm saying is that I believe it is utterly impossible to wake up in Snow Show or Pleasant Gap or Aaaronsburg or Hublersburg or any old one horse town in this county and avoid the omnipresence of Penn State University Football. Think about it; it just cannot be done. Penn State football. Those Nittany Lions. They are as much a part of our daily lives, of our very presence in this big beautiful world, as the trees and the deer and the Brothers Pizza places that populate our home county.
So it makes truly perfect sense that in due time, an art museum- in this case the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County (BAM) would at some point make it part of their daily life too.
"We Are - Nittany Lion Football Fans", kicking off with a First Sunday Art Opening and Reception on Sunday, September 2 at the museum, is a look at Penn State Football in a way that has never really been done before. In the late '90s/early 2000's, Gerald Lang, the esteemed photography professor who founded Penn State's Digital Photography Studio in the College of Arts and Architecture, decided to turn his camera away from all the action on the gridiron in order to capture the passion of the people who outnumbered the players like a thousand to one.
I'm talking about the people in the stands. The Penn State fans. The Nittany Lion die-hards. And what he found was nothing less than Shakespearean.
Why do these intimate shots taken on the sly work so well?
Lang, himself, perhaps explains it best when he reflects on why he redirected his muse back then.
"The extraordinary roar and focus of the fan’s enthusiasm inside the stadium caught my attention and I turned my camera to the crowds."
Fair enough. And since American sport and American Art rarely cross paths outside of Leroy Neiman's Doctor Office depictions, or maybe even Norman Rockwell's wink-wink folksy Little Leaguers, it all makes sense somehow, because there IS art and humanity at a football game. A lot of it, in case you've never been to one. And therefore there are most certainly moments of tenderness and vulnerability caught up in the massive Beaver Stadium crowd on any given Saturday.
But still, I wondered. How the heck did Patricia House, executive director and founder of the nonprofit BAM, come to recognize that this exhibit of photographs would make for such a remarkable show at a Centre County art museum?
"Art sweeps the board when you think of art as personal responses to society and surroundings," she reflects. "The passion and loyalty of fans to Penns State is seen in their devotion to the game. Gerry artistically captures this passion- it’s not the subject but the human emotion. Gerry’s photography makes stunning art."
Many local artists have been able to feature their work in Bellefonte's art museum over the past decade, a fact that probably has a lot to do with the unbelievable number of accomplished painters, sculptors, and artisans who flourish in our midst. But for the most part, their focus is on the quieter side of Centre County life. The landscapes. The natural aura of our fields and our rolling hills. It adds up; we live in a gorgeous part of the world. But there's more to us than hiking trails and fall foliage.
This one is different. This one captures a very integral part of our humanity.
I know it seems bonkers, but part of me wishes that this exhibit could travel to Beaver Stadium for one home game this year. There: under a big white tent, ALL the fans could see how dramatic and powerful this art really is. Once upon a time Penn State's own Gerald Lang brilliantly bottled the essence of Nittany Lion fans. With his camera and lens, he froze them in their most fevered moments, recorded them as their breath was held and their hearts raced hard, as the football soared high above the people below in all their human splendor. So how about an art show in the middle of the Beaver Stadium field??!!
Probably not. So get down to Bellefonte in September to see this.
Just don't try tailgating out front the museum.
Then again… that would be kind of epic.
"We Are - Nittany Lion Football Fans": Photographs by Gerald Lang
Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County, 133 North Allegheny Street, Bellefonte, PA
First Sunday Art Opening and Reception: Sunday, September 2nd, 2018. 1-4pm.
Exhibit continues throughout September. Fri-Sun, 12-4:30pm.
Groups and private parties are welcome to schedule separate hours.
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.
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