Weekender

New downtown Art Alliance gallery manager thinks big

William Snyder is the gallery manager at the Art Alliance Gallery Downtown in State College.
William Snyder is the gallery manager at the Art Alliance Gallery Downtown in State College. Photo provided

Midway through his third month at the Art Alliance Gallery Downtown in State College, William Snyder is still excited about his role of gallery manager.

As a public artist and social entrepreneur, Snyder has a lot to bring to the table. His large-scale installations can be seen across the country — notably the 16-foot Big Vespa sculpture that has been displayed in Times Square, Memphis, TN, Sioux Falls, SD and various locations across Centre County. His inspirations include Theaster Gates, Ai Weiwei and Christo.

He’s already started a new event at the gallery: weekly “Art Sympo” events that take place from 6-9 p.m. on Fridays.

Originally from Bedford, Snyder had an upbringing that was partly on stage — in choruses and musicals — as a kid and throughout high school. His parents, his father especially, got heavily involved with the Bedford County Players, who perform at the Old Bedford Village.

Snyder received his MFA in printmaking from Penn State. After graduation, his earlier Shakespeare auditions came to bear, and he worked with Susan Riddiford Shedd on the Nittany Valley Shakespeare Company, playing Puck in the group’s first show, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Later, he played Benedick opposite his wife, Julie, as Beatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing.”

As he began to start a family, his involvement on stage took a back seat, although he did play Bob Cratchit in Fuse Productions’ first year of “Scrooge! The Musical.”

More recently, his hand in theater has been scenic design and building for Nittany Theatre at the Barn.

Below, learn more about the new gallery manager.

Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

A: I wake up looking forward to each new day. It’s a mindset I began this year — to be present and ready to live each day to the fullest.

Q: What is a normal work day for you?

A: My normal days are exciting, challenging and invigorating. I review proposals, research and apply for artistic opportunities. I design or sketch new project layouts, and capture ideas as they come. I’m “on call” 24/7 for moving artists and artistic efforts forward, by whatever means I can.

Q: What were your childhood ambitions?

A: In fourth grade, I really wanted to work at Lego.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: I love my life, and all that comes my way and, thankfully, don’t think I have any spare time. A way to categorize this could be that there are some “non-artistic” things I like to do: such as watching inspirational documentaries or “The Great British Baking Show.” I’ll do origami with our kids, and enjoy scrabble, trivial pursuit and sudoku. I’ll pick up my guitar every once in a while, or sing show tunes in my car. But again, this is all on purpose to be actively engaged and learning, spending time with my kids or scratching a musical itch.

Q: Who are your favorite artists and why?

A: Christo, given the scale and scope of his ambition. I love his drawings, as well as how he carved out a life for himself. I admire Suzanne Lacy who pioneered “new genre” public art. Then there are Banksy, Chuck Close, Alice Aycock, Sophie Calle and Claes Oldenburg. Artists that think big, and get it done ... those are my favs.

Q: Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?

A: Inspiration builds upon inspiration, and the network of my life’s experiences feed into themselves. I take in. I absorb. I respond. I’m the filter for my own thoughts and experiences, and what I put out is the product of the fullness of my life. I suppose, then, that I’m inspired by what I can bring to the table with my current available resources, and be 100 percent present.

Q: What has been the proudest moment of your career and your life?

A: We have dreams and accomplish them. It takes effort to move onto the next dream once one is achieved. I’d mulled over how and when to get my Rwandan commemorative installation to the UN in NYC. It was a huge milestone. It took 10 years from when I’d wondered how to do that, to when it happened. But, after that ended, I still had to go home and dream again. I’m glad I’ve kept dreaming.

Q: What would people be surprised to know about you?

A: I did get a B in an art class once in college. It was a figure drawing class, and I kept not putting the heads on them, which later motivated me to focus on portraiture for a season.

Q: What are your personal and professional goals for the future?

A: For both, I hope to add value to the lives of those around me.

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