BWW Reviews: Destination ARTS! Gallery Fest in Waynesboro, PA - Weekend Getaway In South-Central Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is, without doubt, one of the more popular tourist states. It boasts historical attractions such as Philadelphia and Gettysburg, two major league football teams and two major league baseball teams as well as all of the other major sports, and then, of course, there's Hershey, home of candy bars, amusement parks, and the Hershey Bears. Recently, however, one of the small Central Pennsylvania towns near Gettysburg, and south of Hershey, has become noticed as well - for something not historic, sports-related, or chocolate-covered (although there's chocolate to be found there, and plenty of it). Waynesboro, on state route 16, west of Gettysburg, currently has one of the largest collections of pop-up art galleries in the country, in a few-block area.
Destination ARTS! has made Waynesboro a weekend stop for the Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia areas rather than simply being the very pretty town along the way to your intended stop. That seems only appropriate, as only six miles away, Blue Ridge Summit was once one of the grand vacation destinations and weekend home sites for wealthy East Coast residents (in the summers there was a regular train run between there and Baltimore). It's now, alas, a historical footnote as the birthplace of the Duchess of Windsor, but it's very close to the new activity in Waynesboro.Destination ARTS! is a project of the Arts Alliance of Greater Waynesboro, headed by Andrew Sussman. Vacant buildings and local storefronts - and an active furniture store whose owners are delighted by the project - have been turned into galleries of fine and decorative arts, with pieces ranging from oil paintings by esteemed Baltimore-area artist David Buckley Good to local jewelers and fiber crafts artisans displaying their wares, almost all of which are available for sale. However, the latter points do not indicate that this is primarily a crafts show - it is, in fact, a curated event, with trained volunteer docents at each gallery location. The senior curator, Marjorie Tressler, is the former gallery director of Mansion House Gallery in Hagerstown, Maryland, as well as a portraitist and oil painter. Her assistant curators are Jeannie Woods, the retired director of the Washington County (Maryland) Museum of Fine Arts and Tom McFarland, a retired area arts instructor and professional artist.
Exhibits at the galleries change as sales are made, but major changes in each are planned for six-week intervals. A second "grand opening" of the event will be held on September 6 with new installations at each of the galleries.
Of the seven galleries and eight storefronts, three are worthy of particular note. The gallery occupying 50 West Main Street, "Small Town Hosts Big City Art," features fine arts, mostly representational, and primarily paintings, the centerpiece at the present being a French street scene by David Buckley Good, although works by Ben Jones, Fritz Biggs, and Brad Clever, among many others, are also on the walls. Although all of the artists are contemporary, there's an astonishing mix of painters, styles and techniques present - watercolors, oil paintings and acrylic works are all featured, ranging from highly stylized, brightly colored, very modern waterscapes to small, traditional still-lifes; quality is the only firmly-defining characteristic among the pieces.The gallery at 22 West Main, "Through The Lens And Of The Earth," features pottery and ceramic sculpture, fiber arts, and jewelry as well as photography. Most of the photographers are partial to nature subjects, although there is a mix of styles as well as of artists' backgrounds; one is a former White House photographer now doing art photography. Photographers include Janie Moltrup, Danny Bingaman and Raymond Gehman. Ceramicists include Hilda Eiber and Mike McIntyre. Fiber arts shown include quilting and hand weaving. Lovers of art quilting may be disappointed that there are not more, and larger, pieces on display, at least at this time, but what is there, including Carolyn Wolff's not-for-sale "We Went To Vermont In October," is worth seeing; Wolff's piece must be appreciated in person to admire the stitchery involved. These are exhibits of the sort that put to rest the ideas that ceramic sculpture means little figurines or just one more bowl, or that fiber arts are one's aunt's annual Christmas sweaters or the Pennsylvania Farm Show's "sheep to shawl" contest. Wolff's wall hanging and Gitte Kolind's ceramic "Lotus" are arresting pieces that deserve to inspire comment.
"Homegrown Art" at 37 West Market Street, at the Furniture Market showroom, features artists living or raised in the Waynesboro area. Artists shown include oil painter Donna Bingaman as well as photographer Brandy Shelley, whose 3-D effect color piece of an abandoned school bus in the country is both visually and emotionally striking as the best photography should be.The festival accompanying the gallery exhibition runs through October, as do the galleries, although several galleries will continue into the spring of 2014. All events are on weekends. There is a series of children's programming including interactive arts and crafts lessons, storytelling, music, and drum circles. Other programming includes outdoor concerts at various galleries, which have included folk groups, concert pianists, steel drummers, and singer-songwriters. Aside from gallery locations, indoor musical performances are on Friday nights at Christine's Café on West Main Street, and at the Beck and Benedict Music Theatre at 118 Walnut Street, which is regionally known for its weekly public bluegrass jams. Christine's Café also hosts Saturday evening open mic nights. The Destination ARTS! music schedule is available at the Arts Alliance website, www.artsalliancegw.org.
A second grand opening of Destination ARTS! featuring a new art collection for the galleries will be held on September 6, 2013; information on the event should be available on the website.
However, humans do not live by art and music alone. If you come to Waynesboro for Destination ARTS!, your entire weekend won't be filled merely by gallery browsing and music. What's a visitor to a small town to do? In the case of the Waynesboro area, Renfrew Museum and Park, 1010 East Main Street (open Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00 pm) provides a look at historical decorative and functional arts, including a notable collection of John Bell pottery. Visit www.renfrewmuseum.org. The grounds of the park also play host to outdoor concerts and occasional theatre, including an annual August Jazz Festival. The connected Renfrew Institute for Cultural and Environmental Studies (www.renfrewinstitute.org) schedules outdoor events ranging from owl walks and bird walks to astronomy lessons and kite flying festivals. Plan Destination ARTS! one day and Renfrew on your other afternoon - or for a non-musical evening of owls and howls.
For other recreational activities a short drive away from Waynesboro, the Fort Ritchie (Maryland) Community Center is only a short drive away. Located in the tiny hamlet of Cascade, Maryland, on the site of a former military base that was a major employer in Waynesboro years ago, it now hosts a huge collection of activities - everything from speakers to Zumbathons to boating and fishing in not one but two lakes. Although many of its activities are parts of regular classes, visitors are welcome. The directions, the schedule, and a full activities list and very clear fee schedule are available at www.thefrcc.org.
And then there's golf: Waynesboro has its own 12-hole municipal course, and approximately 15 minutes away from the town are the Penn National courses, which are 90 minutes from either the Washington Beltway or the Baltimore Beltway. Penn National's two courses, the Founders Course and the Iron Forge Course, have both been awarded four stars by Golf Digest; information is available at their website, www.penngolf.com. For information about the municipal course, which is on the southern edge of Waynesboro, call 717-762-3734 or visit www.waynesboropa.org.In the past, Waynesboro boasted a destination outlet mall. That mall is now gone (Beck and Benedict's Music Theatre is in that location), but there are certain destination and boutique stores in town. Two of the most interesting are The Candy Kitchen and the adjacent Neverland Games, both on the square on Main Street. The Candy Kitchen, which has a second store in Frederick, Maryland, is known regionally for its artisan hand-dipped chocolates, which have been created at that location since 1902. Owner John Leos, a member of the original family, owns the company and continues producing chocolates and other candies according to his mother, Despina Leos', original recipes - he is proud that the store still has her personal cookbook and recipes. One of the few successful historically family-owned candy businesses that hasn't "gone corporate", its products include hand-dipped truffles and a dark-chocolate-covered habanero sea salt caramel, as well as chocolate-covered butter almond toffee. The peppery caramels are not numbingly hot, but are chewy and delicious. As for the toffee, Leos, who is deceptively slim, professes to have wound up eating an entire pound at one time - though admittedly taking more than a few minutes to do it. This is not a promising worksite for "I Love Lucy" (if one remembers the iconic candy-packing episode). The store boasts original marble-slab candy counters, stained glass, and a collection of antique candy and chocolate molds that are still occasionally put to use, but are on display in the store. Although it once had table service for sandwiches and drinks, those days are over, and that area is used for display now. Alas, chocolate production does not take place before your eyes, but packaging of chocolates in their signature boxes does; you still pick out the chocolates you want from the hypnotic display of milk-and-dark-covered nuts (check out the dark chocolate cashew clusters), caramels, and other assorted chocolate delights spread out in glass cases on the counters and watch them go into the box. If you're lucky, one of them might make its way directly to you while you talk with Leos or his staff - yes, there just might be free samples, especially for younger members of your party. Sugar-free chocolates are made here, but not necessarily on a regular basis; call (717-762-3969) to check on availability. Neverland Games, owned by Tony Vigil, puts to rest any notion that game-lovers are couch potatoes who live in their mothers' basements. Located in a stunning first-floor store on the square with exposed brick walls, the store sells everything from poker chips to Mah-Jongg tiles, as well as Magic: The Gathering and similar fantasy role-playing games. A huge room behind the main shop hosts casual gaming, evening and weekend tournaments, and just hanging around to meet other people - socializing is encouraged, and at the counter, a glass-front soft-drink cooler signals that sitting around being comfortable is encouraged. Whether you need a Nintendo game or a chess board, it's here, as is a games library that allows customers to decide whether they might enjoy a game by allowing them to try it themselves. Not a high-volume, low-service electronic games store like the one at the mall, it exudes warmth and encourages browsing and idle chatter - you're likely to make a friend or two before you leave the shop, whether you're buying electronic games for younger relatives or a new backgammon set that you didn't intend to walk out with. Browsers are welcome, and likely to return. If it's early enough in the day when you leave, chocolate is waiting for you next door.