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Arts Fest To Launch Virtual Events Beginning July 8

For the first time in its 54-year history, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts won’t be drawing crowds to downtown State College and the Penn State campus this summer. But organizers have begun developing an online experience to showcase and celebrate the festival and artists.

The virtual festival will take place on the scheduled dates of July 8-12, executive director Rick Bryant wrote on Monday.

“In a way, we’re harking back to what Wally Lloyd and his colleagues did in the summer of 1967 when they created the first Arts Festival,” he wrote. “We’re trying out new ideas and, since the economy has ground to a halt, we’re working with a shoestring budget.”

Though there is much to be worked out still, some of the events have begun to take shape.

The Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition — the festival’s signature event — will take place online with patrons able to browse and shop from a selection of juried artists.

“We plan to present videos by artists talking about their work so that audience members can connect with them just as they do at the show,” Bryant wrote. “Only artists who have a website or other e-commerce option will be invited to the virtual Sidewalk Sale, so shopping will be a breeze.”

Bryant added that if someone is looking for a specific artist they don’t see online, festival staff can help get them connected.

Images 2020, the festival’s juried gallery exhibition, will still take place, but instead of being displayed in Schlow Centre Region Library and Kish Bank Expect More Store, it will be online. It remains open to artists who reside in Pennsylvania, with a submission deadline of May 29. Artist Emily Burns is the juror.

The banner competition also will continue, with a June 19 submission deadline. 

“While we won’t be hanging them over Allen Street in 2020, we’ll hang them in the State College Municipal Building and in non-traditional locations around the county as soon as it’s possible,” Bryant wrote.

Banners also will be displayed on the festival website, and prizes will still be awarded in professional, general, and youth divisions. The 2020 banners will be hung over Allen Street along with the 2021 banners during next year’s festival.

Lanny and Saige Sommese will once again design the festival poster. Lanny Sommese, Penn State professor emeritus of graphic design, has been creating the festival’s posters for more than 40 years, and last year began collaborating on it with his daughter Saige, a 2018 graduate of the Penn State graphic design program.

While posters are typically available at businesses and other establishments around the region, Bryant said they are still working on how they will be distributed this year. Posters also will be available for purchase from the festival website for a small fee.

“I think if there’s any Festival to remember with a poster, it will be this one,” Bryant wrote.

The festival is looking to find a location for the popular street painters to work while maintaining social distancing, and art from previous years’ street painting will be shared as well.

Planning has begun for ways to showcase performers through live-streamed and pre-recorded performances, and Bryant said the festival is also working on how to bring Children & Youth Day online.

“The Festival is the quintessential live, in-person, anti-social-distancing event,” he wrote. “There’s a ton of work to do to bring it to you virtually, but our paid and volunteer staff is going to give it a shot.”

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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