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When it Comes to Culture, We're State of the Art

by on July 14, 2015 6:00 AM

"Sometimes you just have to let art... flow... over you."

- William Hurt's character, The Big Chill

"Art and life are subjective. Not everybody's gonna dig what I dig, but I reserve the right to dig it."

- Whoopi Goldberg

As I've said many times, I'm an unabashed supporter of two things: arts and athletics. (There's a "jock" joke in there somewhere.)

And if there was ever a time in Happy Valley to support the arts, it was this past week. The 49th Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and the 23rd People's Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts & Crafts had gorgeous weather and loads of art.

Beautiful weather is always a huge bonus during these festivals. It's so much more fun watching performances when the sky is blue and the sun is shining, and walking the booths becomes a nice leisurely stroll with plenty of time to stop and examine anything that catches your fancy. Such as those salvaged brass instruments that serve a new, more technologically useful purpose. Or the peaceful Irish landscape over four panels that spoke to my wife. Right until the 4-digit price spoke to our wallet that then reminded us our water heater is on the fritz again. (General note: avoid gas water heaters like the plague!)

For the artists, specifically the artisans, the huge investment of time, effort and money to display their crafts is so much more worthwhile when the weather is nice. Not to mention the Creamery has to appreciate it. Not once did I walk by when the line was less than ten people, and it was just my luck to order during a run on Death By Chocolate! (Note to Creamery: Please have 2 containers of DBC pre-tempered at all times!)

Here's the really amazing part about these festivals – the cost/value for them is fantastic. For example, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts ("Arts Fest") is routinely considered one of the top arts festivals in the country. It "competes" with festivals in big cities including New York, Houston, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Santa Fe and even Pittsburgh for recognition by various publications and groups.

To compare how things are done in the big city -- the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs is the largest cultural funding agency in the nation, with a capital budget of around $200 million a year. That is almost double the budget the National Endowment for the Arts has for the entire Unites States. And a piece of New York City's Cultural Affairs money goes to support an arts festival or two.

Time for a small digression here...

I enjoy New York City a lot. It is an intoxicating town, and as noted, financially supports the arts unlike any other government entity in this country. However sometimes one or two Big Apple residents need to be reminded that, notwithstanding Saul Steinberg's classic New Yorker cover (see it HERE), there are a lot of Americans out here in flyover country who: A) exist, and B) don't fit their norm. Oh, and also appreciate art.

For example. What's the #1 selling vehicle in the United States for more than three decades? The Ford F-Series pickup truck. It outsells, by more than 200,000 vehicles, the #2 best-selling vehicle, which is of course, the Chevrolet Silverado pickup. Ford likes to point out that if all the trucks they sell every year were parked bumper-to-bumper, they would reach from New York City to Los Angeles and continue 50 miles into the Pacific. Except, when was the last time you saw a pickup truck in Manhattan? Probably a while since pickup registrations there are 80% lower than the rest of the country.

Another example. What's the #1 store to buy anything in this country? Walmart. State College lives large – we have two! New York City, home to 8.4 million people, has none. And a mayor who is on record as stating, "I don't think Walmart -- the company, the stores -- belong in New York City...").

Yet, somehow – magically, mystically – we "jethros" (the name du jour I heard last week) have one of the best arts festivals in the country in our midst. How is that possible?

In any case, back to the point-at-hand – artistic value. Chicago charges admission for its popular SOFA Expo and is run by a for-profit company. Someplace as out-of-the-way as Santa Fe spends $2.8 million on its Folk Art Market. Even Pittsburgh with its Three Rivers Arts Festival has access to great funding – that festival is one of many projects run by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which spent almost $56 million on artistic endeavors in 2013.

Yet Arts Fest spends only around $700,000 to produce one of the best events of its kind in the entire United States of America. Right here in our backyard. Talk about an outstanding return on investment!

So, next year when the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts celebrates a half-century of existence, and the People's Choice Festival celebrates one-year shy of a quarter-century of existence, get out there and enjoy the art.

And while you're waiting, go out and get your fill of art year-round. Go to a play, museum, concert, show, recital, and exhibition.

We live in a valley of great art opportunities – take advantage of them each and every time you can.


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John Hook is the president of The Hook Group, a local management consulting firm, and active in several nonprofit organizations. Previously John spent 25 years in executive, management and marketing positions with regional and national firms. John lives in Ferguson Township with his wife Jackie and their two children.
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New Jersey Man Accused of Felony Robbery for Alleged Thefts Over Arts Fest Weekend
July 13, 2015 3:36 PM
by Staff
New Jersey Man Accused of Felony Robbery for Alleged Thefts Over Arts Fest Weekend
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