The ladies of the Linn House, aka the Bellefonte Art Museum Hospitality Committee, are a merry-making bevy. They entertain at the historic property that now houses an eclectic and integrative art museum once a month on the first Sunday. Their refreshments are homemade and generous, with a menu that changes with the season, and often are themed with the art display that is opening that day.
Dona Goldman is the intrepid leader of the 10 or so volunteers who give their time and energy to help the promote the arts. Goldman has been involved with the museum since 1995, when the Linn House was known as the Bellefonte Museum for Centre County and focused on history. Longtime volunteer Karen Baker remembered rummaging through the trunks in the attic back in the day and putting together an exhibit of Victorian underwear, proof enough that these are some seriously game women, able to think creatively.
In addition to Goldman and Baker, Judy Catherman, Connie Levine, Pam von Flotow, Louise Mason, Susan Hardy, Sally Houser, Maryellen Hill and Catherine Brown comprise the group. Each brings a certain strength to the team, which makes them all get along together very well.
“There are no prima donnas,” Goldman said. “We all pitch in, and it’s a lot of work. Karen always does the centerpieces and uses whatever she finds or has on hand to create something amazing. Judy takes care of the beverages, mixing up our signature punch and providing other options, such as Wassail at holiday time. Connie and Catherine are the kitchen organizers, and Pam manages the production. The overseers of the table are Karen and Susan, who watch and get more platters when necessary.”
The team meets quarterly to plan three months’ worth of first-Sunday events at a time. Everyone contributes to the menu planning, tossing out ideas as they brainstorm. The theme may be related to color — January was white, February red, and March will be green — and they vary the menus to keep it interesting for themselves and the 200 attendees that know what a fun time these public receptions are.
“It is our job to get people in here,” Goldman said. “We started the first Sunday receptions three years ago, and the event has grown every month. Our budget is $200 per reception, so we have to be very creative about what we offer. We are fortunate to have some generous sponsors, such as Heather Luse, the baker from Centre Hall, who is donating some of her Shamrock cookies this month.”
The first Sunday celebrations always herald the opening of one or more changing exhibits in the five separate galleries at the Bellefonte Arts Museum for Centre County. Sometimes the committee is able to tie the menu in to the art that is opening that month. For a Haitian-themed exhibit, they made some Caribbean recipes; for a Japanese wood block print exhibit, some Asian-inspired dishes. In addition to the receptions, first Sundays also feature free art activities for kids upstairs in the Children’s Creativity Center.
In May, the first Sunday, May 3, will feature “Our Favorite Things,” menu items that oft are requested by the regulars who make it on a monthly basis. The committee does not share their recipes with the hungry public who may ask during the reception because they just have no time hang out in the kitchen and chat. They are busy staying on top of keeping the table in the Tea Room Gallery filled while people enjoy the art all around them.
Generally, six or seven members of the committee work each reception and don’t leave until every plate is put away in the China cupboard that holds decades worth of platters in every conceivable pattern. They like to keep it clean in their area. Goldman added with a wink that Levine “will wash a dish until the pattern is gone.” They work hard, they play hard, and they show their mutual love of the arts and of their hometown of Bellefonte in their memorable first Sunday receptions.