Art and nature meet at Rhoneymeade

Roger Pollok’s bronze sculpture “Lantern” is part of the Rhoneymeade Aboretum and Sculpture Garden.
Roger Pollok’s bronze sculpture “Lantern” is part of the Rhoneymeade Aboretum and Sculpture Garden. Centre Daily Times, file

Editor’s note: This story is part of the Road Trips special section.

In a hidden oasis in Centre Hall, art and nature combine for a truly spectacular experience that any art or nature lover can surely appreciate. Sitting on 150 acres nestled between the Nittany and Tussey mountains, the site has been farmed since 1794. The 1853 farmhouse still sits in the center for the property.

The farm was purchased by the late Richard Morgan, of Penn State, in 1984, and Rhoneymeade Sculpture Garden and Arboretum was born not long after that. Now, the land combines arboretum, sculpture garden and history into one fantastic and breathtaking setting.

“Rhoneymeade is a public sculpture garden, where people can contemplate art in a natural setting and place themselves in the landscape — literally, of course, and imaginatively,” said Laura Reed-Morrisson, chairwoman of the Rhoneymeade board of directors. “There are gazebos and arbors where visitors can sit among the gardens, and there’s a labyrinth and trail for people who want to step into the woods. But it’s more than that: Being at Rhoneymeade encourages people to be mindful of their surroundings and the history of the landscape. When you’re there, you’re walking on land that was settled in 1794 and has been thoughtfully cared for, for more than 200 years. The fields around the house are still under cultivation today.”

Reed-Morrisson said there isn’t another place like it in the region.

“Rhoneymeade’s slogan is ‘where art and nature meet,’ and our exhibitions and events help nourish a sense of place,” she said. “We encourage an appreciation of the history of the valley, but it’s not a static appreciation. We welcome plein-air artists to use the grounds, and we show the work of established and emerging artists in the studio and house; people can come to a lecture, a bird walk or homesteading demonstration, or just enjoy a picnic on the grounds among the gardens.”

Guests enjoy rotating exhibits in the art studio, which change on a monthly basis, and a variety of sculptures by multiple artists scattered through the grounds. There are a multitude of paths and trails to explore, as well as self-guided tree and sculpture walks. The tree walk makes a large loop around the Rhone House, with six trees still standing as they were when the home was built 150 years ago, and features 28 types of trees.

However, for some visitors, the appeal is neither the art nor the nature — it’s the history of the place that provides the real value. James Lesher, the executive director of Rhoneymeade, who has worked on the grounds in various capacities for more than 20 years, said his favorite thing about the local gem is imagining scenes about the farm families of the past — the Rhones, the Brooks, the Rimmeys.

“As on any farm, there was life, death, love and loss, joy and much pain,” he said. “It’s not difficult to imagine Leonard Rhone writing speeches for Grange rallies in the historic house or planting trees on the grounds which we now walk under. It’s painful to imagine Mrs. Brooks losing her husband in 1937 and the barn burning to the ground six months later. I can vividly picture Edgar Rimmey picking the orchard’s apples and crating them on a wagon a mile down to the Gregg Station, where they were picked up on the Lewisburg and Tyrone line of the Pennsylvania Railroad.”

To discover more about Rhoneymeade and its past, you can visit every weekend during the summer. The arboretum and sculpture garden is a budget-friendly option for those exploring the region, with free entry every 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends April through October. The Rhone House, studio, arboretum and labyrinth are all open during these hours.

If you go

What: Rhoneymeade Sculpture Garden and Arboretum

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April through October.

Where: 177 Rimmey Road, Centre Hall

Info: www.rhoneymeade.org