While the vendors of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts capture a majority of the attention from festivalgoers, side performances and exhibits create a diverse and well-rounded celebration of the arts.
The Italian Street Painting Festival, slightly off of the Arts Fest path in the 100 block of Hiester Street, is a unique part of the festival that not all visitors are aware of.
Two artists are chosen each year to paint larger works, and about 30 smaller works are drawn by a variety of local artists, State College Area High School art students and Penn State art majors.
This year, Abby Cramer, of Bucks County, returned to her hometown to participate in the painting festival as one of the featured artists.
Cramer grew up in State College and began painting for the festival in 1999 when she was a student at State High.
“I did the smaller ones starting in ninth grade and all through high school, and then when I was at Penn State, too,” Cramer said. “Then, in 2006 they asked me to start doing the big ones.”
Cramer chose to depict the piece “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” by John Singer Sargent for this year’s display.
“My grandfather, who recently passed away this year, gave me a book called ‘The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris,’ and in that book it talks about artists and doctors and writers who went to Paris to study in the 1800s,” Cramer said. “And John Singer Sargent was one of them.”
The unique style of the painting is what drew Cramer in.
“He painted this piece, which is a lot brighter in color than what he usually did; he was a portrait artist mainly,” Cramer said. “This French Impressionistic style is one of my favorites. I really like the colors in it.”
Cramer estimated she spends about 25 to 30 hours total on the paintings each year, and will be finished by Saturday evening.
“It’s really the only art I get to do throughout the year because I’m an art teacher,” Cramer said. “I really like art history, that was my minor in college, so I like bringing the art history aspect into what I do and then talking about it with the people who walk by.”
Greg Glenn, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., shares his art in a different medium for the festival.
“I think I prefer sculpting over illustration or sketching or anything just because it’s more natural for me,” Glenn said. “I think that way; I think more three dimensional than I do on a flat sheet. It’s just the way I’m wired.”
Glenn has been a full-time sand sculptor since 1987 and is a founding partner of Sandscapes.
“Our company has been coming here since 1994,” he said. “There have been three sculptors and it just depends on where we are and what we’re doing. So this was my year.”
Glenn enjoys Arts Fest because of the similarity of State College to his home.
“I like the town,” Glenn said. “It’s kind of like where I live. It’s a smaller town around a university, so it’s kind of the same vibe.”
The inspiration for this year’s design came when he was flipping through a book of artwork, Glenn said.
“This is kind of a riff on a James Christensen illustration that I saw,” Glenn said. “I was going through one of his books a couple months ago and I saw it and thought, I want to do that someday. And luckily, I could.”
Even the unpredictable weather didn’t interfere with Glenn’s determination.
“I have plastic sheeting standing by for storms, so I just bag it up,” Glenn said. “I always have an eye to the sky; when you’re in this business, you better. I’ll tell you, smartphones are the best thing that ever happened to us because now you can watch the radar live and go, ‘OK, we’ve got 10 minutes!’ ”
In addition to these ongoing exhibits is the 48th annual banner competition and exhibition.
Individuals and groups submit entries to one of the three groups: professional, general and youth, then the banners hang over the festival route until the prizes are awarded.
Banner competition winners will be announced Saturday at the Sidewalk Sale Awards Ceremony at 9 a.m. on the Allen Street Stage.
Casey McCracken can be reached at 231-4646. Follow her on Twitter @CMcCrackenNews.