133 North Allegheny Street Bellefonte, PA 16823
By Serge Bielanko
The Bellefonte Art Museum (BAM) would, of course, always rather see your bright and shining face inside their halls. But as we all know: lately that is not possible. As virus safety precautions have forced most Americans into their homes, places like museums and libraries are suddenly lost to the public behind locked doors. Places that depend upon human presence are, quite tragically, totally void of it.
It is an unfortunate part of this necessary process, but in the end we will all be better off because we stayed at home. Still, that doesn't mean we have to completely deny ourselves culture. In fact, in a fairly ironic turn of events: many of us are finding ourselves with more down time than we have had since we were 12 years old! And to accompany that strange twist, legions of museums and libraries are among the organizations and people offering up free virtual experiences on-line.
Concerts, lectures, lessons, and even just casual conversations by interesting people are being beamed into living rooms and kitchens across the land as we speak. It is, I daresay, a sort of forced cultural mini-revolution. And we are lucky because of it.
The folks at our very own Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County have gotten in on all this too. Each week, Deputy Director, Lori Fisher has been updating both the museum's Facebook page and Instagram page with a bunch of photos of works currently on display in the lonesome museum as well as short but informative videos exploring different parts of their collection via a virtual walk-thru. Hosted by Fisher herself, herself, these brief escapes from the monotony of homebound living are perfect for art lovers or anyone else who simply needs a break from kids fighting over which YouTube video they're going to watch next. (Trust me, I know).
So what have art have they shown so far?
Good question. I asked Patricia House, Executive Director of the Museum, that same thing..
"So far we have featured the 'Golden Apple' exhibit by Nancy Brassington and various paintings in the Celebrating Our Women of Achievement exhibit," House explains. "We are offering viewers the chance to send in their nominees of women to be honored, and we are adding those to our viewing sites. We have also toured a sculpture show and our print gallery."
This past week's virtual video tour proved to be a fascinating look at an exhibit about the famed American illustrator and artist, Lyn Ward. Even if you don't recognize that name, I can almost assure you that will recognize Ward's remarkably unique wood cuttings almost instantly. Especially if you were one of the millions of kids who read one of his many wordless children's books growing up. His book, The Biggest Bear, was a Caldecott Medal winner in 1953 and remains a staple in most library Kid Sections.
And what is perhaps most amazing about Lori Fisher's two-minute stroll through this exhibit of Ward's life and art is the fact that, although he never lived in our are, his daughter does! And because of that, because she is a State College resident, she was willing and able to loan BAM so many special pieces that her father created. This is a one-of-a-kind exhibit and we are lucky to have it...even if you can't go see it in person!
And fortunately, people ARE noticing.
"We are getting good responses," House reflects. "Our communities are looking for ways to spend their time and ways to feel better. We now have viewers sending in images of women they would like to honor and we are putting those on our site. Also, Lori and I have been discussing ways to make our offerings more interactive as well as ways to increase viewers participation. Our plan includes an activity for children, some additional interactive video events and even a chance to shop items from Twiga, the museum store."
So go follow Bellefonte Art Museum on social media and get your daily dose of art. You know you need it.
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 Happy Valley Adventure Bureau. Learn more about the HVAB by visiting happyvalley.com.
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