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Art Festivals Bring Culture and Joy to Centre Region

by on July 13, 2014 9:28 PM

A weekend of celebrating the passions of creativity has come to an end as the 2014 Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in State College and the People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts in Boalsburg drew to a close Sunday evening. 

For Michael Smith, whose detailed pen and ink drawings of famous landmarks and antiquated automobiles earned him numerous sales, the end of the Arts Fest is “melancholy.”

“As an artist, you look forward to great shows year-round,” he says. “When you’ve had a successful show, you’re happy for what you’ve done – but it is sad.” 

Arts Fest was a success once again this year, with crowds of approximately 100,000 people enjoying art ranging from painting and sculpture to jewelry and furniture. Like Smith, many people from all over Pennsylvania and the United States look forward to the arts festivals in Centre County each year.

“Arts Fest is the best weekend in State College,” Penn State graduate Brian Egee says. “This is the best crowd of any weekend in town.”

Egge was excited to share the weekend with his family and introduce them to State College and Penn State for the first time. Egee now works as a storyboard artist in the New York after graduating in 2007. He feels Penn State’s reputation for the sciences can sometime overshadows the arts, and says he loves watching the town blossom with artists from all over the country.

James Whitbeck, an oil painter from Massachusetts, agrees that Arts Fest has a festive crowd that appreciates art. He says the festival has “a real energy to it,” and adds it’s among his favorite of the shows he does. Having come for the past seven years, he’s made friends with some of the other recurring artists and looks forward to it each year.

“This is definitely on the top of my list,” he says. “It has the most people, the most interesting conversations and the most paintings sold.”

In Boalsburg at the People’s Choice Festival on Sunday, Centre Hall resident Donna Meyer enjoyed art from all over Pennsylvania, as well as the selection of live music. Her favorite was Brad Crum, an Elvis impersonator who “took me back to my era in the 50’s.”

Though she doesn’t get around as well as she used to, she’s made a point to come to the People’s Choice fest for the past ten years with her husband. She says having both the People’s Choice fest and the Arts Fest enrich the local culture and bring visitors into an area with a rich history and creative community.

Though the festivals have ended, the crowds of artists and art lovers will return. For many people, neither time nor distance can keep them away from State College come Arts Fest. Audrey Slubowski of Eerie, Pennsylvania has made the summer drive across the state for the past 25 years and, like many others, has no plans to stop. 

“It’s such a nice weekend getaway,” she says. In addition to enjoying the arts, the annual festivals give her and her family a chance to visit nearby state parks and “just enjoy the area itself.”

Though Michael Smith finds the ending of the 2014 Arts Fest bittersweet, he looks forward to more shows, including a possible return to State College next summer.

For now, Smith says “you just have to live in the moment and focus on your next destination.”

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Michael Martin Garrett is a general assignment reporter for StateCollege.com, a graduate of Penn State and a published poet. He's also a musician who plays bass in an indie rock band.
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