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Support local artists

Another arts festival is behind us, although the last one was rather special because it was the 50th and has come quite a way from the days of snow fences and first come, first served for the artists.

As someone who has been around for most of those 50 years, I’ve watched the festival evolve from a down-home event to an annual exhibit of expensive arts and crafts offered by itinerant artists on a circuit of festivals around the country.

The festival gives me the reason to urge Centre County residents to remember that they have access to plenty of good art at good prices year-round. That’s because the county has a deep pool of artists who might not make it into the main event in July but who are just as talented and deserve your support.

It’s a challenge being an artist in Centre County, especially if you’re trying to make a living from it. The opportunities to exhibit are limited.

In order to promote their work, a group of artists has created the Art Buyers Guide, a quarterly publication that features seven artists (including contact information), articles on art and a listing of 12 local art venues. Each featured artists pays $30 for space in the guide.

For those who get out of State College, there’s the Green Drake Gallery in Millheim for one. And the drive to Millheim is a reminder of our rural environment and how lucky we are to live in such a place.

Closer to home is the Bellefonte Art Museum, which has a variety of galleries that usually change every month. With nearly 160 artists in its registry, the museum does not lack for exhibits and has had to change its schedule so it could show more throughout the year.

The Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania, which grew out of the arts festival, places artists in “galleries” in public buildings around the county. That represents a limited opportunity because there aren’t that many places to exhibit and the host’s first goal is not selling art, but, for example, food or books or retirement.

The Art Alliance does seven shows a year in its space in Lemont. The good news, though, is that it is about to open its own gallery on Fraser Street in State College, which will give its members a desired downtown outlet. And Farmland Preservation Artists of Central Pennsylvania just opened a gallery in The Field restaurant at Toftrees, yet another venue for art.

Don’t think of art as an annual festival, but as a year-round event made up of local residents who deserve your support. Next time you’re buying a gift and looking for something original and unique, check out the offerings of local artists.

R. Thomas Berner is the president of Farmland Preservation Artists of Central Pennsylvania.

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