Most museums don’t offer original art that visitors can purchase or even wear home, but the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County is doing just that with its new gallery. The gallery, which opened in September, features jewelry made by a different designer starting on the first Sunday of every month.
“We’ve had quite a variety of pieces already, including inlay work, various metals, beads and precious stones,” said Patricia House, the museum’s executive director. “There’s always something new in the gallery.”
While the museum does feature paintings, sculptures and other types of pieces typically found in art galleries, House said she strives to include a wider range of art forms.
“The idea to add jewelry came from that concept of trying to represent all of the ways people express their artistic vision,” House said. “People can relate to jewelry as an art form. They can relate to adorning themselves. Humans have adorned themselves since they were in caves, so it’s a really natural human process to think about.”
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A jewelry designer first must apply to the museum’s artist registry to be considered for the gallery. A committee then votes on whether to feature the applicant. Regardless of the quality of their work, designers must meet specific criteria.
“Our jewelers do all of the work themselves, and they are all from Pennsylvania, both of which are important for our artist registry,” House said.
If a visitor likes a piece of jewelry they see in the gallery, he or she can buy it. There have only been a few exceptions in which a designer featured a piece that was not for sale.
The gallery currently features a selection of felt and fiber art jewelry, and starting Feb. 1, the museum will display and sell pieces made by designer Brittany Hostetler Chiles.
“She does silver chainwork that have unique designs and include beautiful stones. This is another new type of jewelry that we haven’t featured yet,” House said.
Making sure the gallery only offers pieces that are original and handmade is one of the reasons House is glad people have a chance to take home any of the jewelry.
“A replica is fine, but any time you can buy an actual piece of original art is so important because it reminds you of the diligence, sacrifice and creative genius that went into making it,” she said.