Bellefonte is known for many attributes, among them being the home of governors and celebrating Victorian Christmas. But the borough is also a coming art venue, one that needs to be exploited and promoted. Staying in place won’t be enough.
The main art attraction is the Bellefonte Art Museum, which just expanded its presentation space by adding a gallery at Cool Beans on High Street. Coincidentally, a young lady named Jodi L. Myers opened Black Horse Studio on North Allegheny just catty corners from the Bellefonte Art Museum.
How does Bellefonte build on this?
The borough needs to actively seek more gallery space and more artists. And don’t say the borough’s too small to support more galleries. This summer we visited a daughter in West Jefferson, N.C., population 1,300, and were pleased to visit five galleries.
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Closer to home is the home of my youth, the coal and rail town of Tamaqua, similar in size to Bellefonte. One Tamaqua effort that Bellefonte should copy is establishing an artist relocation program.
In Tamaqua, borough officials realized they had several downtown buildings with vacant upper stories that would make great space for artists. First, borough officials got grant money to improve facades on some downtown buildings. Then they successfully started recruiting artists.
Tamaqua’s pitch to artists was based on its proximity to high-rent New York City. Well, Bellefonte’s only another hundred miles and it’s all interstate highway. Bellefonte has a facade-improvement program and has just enhanced land along Spring Creek. The borough has many intangible amenities that artists would appreciate.
Bellefonte recently celebrated the opening of 13 new businesses, including the Black Horse Studio and new ownership at Cool Beans. With the entrepreneurial attitude that’s taken over, let’s increase the presence of local art and make Bellefonte an art town.
R. Thomas Berner is the president of Farmland Preservation Artists of Central Pennsylvania, a member of the board of the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania and the artist registry at the Bellefonte Art Museum. He is also a member of the board of the Historic Barn and Farm Foundation of Pennsylvania.