Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts

Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts

The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts (officially abbreviated as CPFA) is held each year in State College, Pennsylvania and on the campus of Pennsylvania State University. Penn State students commonly refer to the event as "Arts Fest".


The first Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts was held in July 1967, and lasted nine days. Sponsored by Penn State's College of Arts and Architecture and the State College Chamber of Commerce, the first Festival was opened by Governor Raymond Shafer. Musical performances took place downtown and on campus, and the first sidewalk sale and exhibition consisted of people hanging work on snow fence along "The Wall" on the southern border of the Old Main lawn. The show wasn't juried, so one could purcahse art that was good, or not so good, created by professionals and amateurs. Patrons could even buy kittens. The festival is now five days long, from Wednesday through Sunday in early July each year. A large portion of the event takes place in the Borough of State College, PA, and the remainder on the adjacent University Park campus of The Pennsylvania State University.

Governance and Mission

The festival is governed by a Board of Directors, half of whom must have an affiliation with Penn State ("gown"), while the other half represents the "town" interests. The Board employs a staff of three to manage both the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and First Night® State College. The board established the mission of the festival which is to “celebrate the arts with presentations of diverse, high-quality visual and performing arts through the cooperative volunteer support of the community and The Pennsylvania State University. The essence of this organization is the enrichment and education of the audience, grounded in personal interaction between artist and audience."Approximately 1000 volunteers help bring the Festival to life each summer.

Children and Youth Day

The first day of the Festival is always Children and Youth Day. It features the Children and Youth Sidewalk Sale, free children’s art and craft workshops, and performances by and for young people on two outdoor and one indoor stage.

Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition

Consistently ranked as one of the top outdoor fine art and fine craft shows in the nation, the Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition brings artists and craftspeople from across the nation to State College. More than three hundred exhibitors will offer a wide variety of objects for sale including baskets, ceramics, jewelry, fiber, painting, photography, and wearable art. There will be something to suit everyone’s taste and pocketbook. As part of the Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition’s jury process, almost 900 artists from the United States and several foreign countries submit digital images of their work to be juried. Each February, a panel reviews the images and the artists receiving the highest scores were accepted into the Sidewalk Sale & Exhibition. To encourage and support the visual arts on a regional basis, the Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition sets aside booth spaces for artists whose primary residence is in the following Central Pennsylvania counties: Blair, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Huntingdon, Mifflin and Union. Though the Central Pennsylvania Division of the Sidewalk Sale, many artists have been introduced to exhibiting at juried outdoor shows. All exhibitors in the Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition are subject to the same rules, pay the same fees, and are eligible for the same awards. Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition exhibitors are eligible to receive over $17,000 in prize money.

Performing Arts

In addition to the Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition, the Festival presents performers on seven outdoor and indoor stages in downtown State College and on the Penn State campus. Currently the Festival presents indoors in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, [http://www.scpresby.org/ State College Presbyterian Church] , and the [http://www.thestatetheatre.org/ State Theatre] in downtown State College, and Schwab Auditorium on the Penn State Campus. The Festival also erects outdoor stages on Memorial Field (the State College Area High School football stadium), on the 100 block of South Allen Street, and on the lawn of Old Main, Penn State’s administration building. The festival also erects the Accu-Weather.com Youth Stage in Central Parklet. Each July, about fifty different performers are presented. Most performances are free, some require a Festival button for admission. Music presented covers a wide range of genres, from classical to rock to bluegrass to jazz to symphonic band. Performers are of international, national, state, and regional standing.

Images Exhibition

[http://www.arts-festival.com/images.html Images] is the Festival’s juried gallery exhibition in the Robeson Gallery on the University Park campus of Penn State and hangs from June through July each year. It is open to artists living in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Work entered in exhibition is to be no more than three years old. Images accepts works in ceramic, fiber, and paper, in addition to the traditional fine art categories of drawings, painting, mixed media, photography, printmaking, watercolor, and sculpture. Artists must have their primary residence in Pennsylvania, one of the adjacent states, Virginia or the District of Columbia. While exhibition is regional in scope, it is a very large region. In fact, it includes over twenty percent of the population of the United States. The works in Images 2008, our mid-Atlantic regional fine art and fine craft exhibition, will be selected by our juror, Dinah Ryan, the Director of the Staniar Gallery at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia. Through the years the exhibition has been juried by curators and directors from the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Albright-Knox Gallery, and major university galleries.


Arts festivals across the country often advertise themselves with collectible posters. Some festivals hire an advertising agency to design their poster. Others commission the their prior year’s Best of Show winner to do an illustration for their poster. The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts prefers tradition. The posters are unusual in that they are the work of one man. For the past 30 years Penn State Professor of Visual Arts Lanny Sommese has designed the Festival’s poster.

The Sue Crowe Memorial Annual Arts Festival Races

The Arts Festival 10K is the oldest and most storied race in Central Pennsylvania. First run in 1975 as a 10 Miler, the Arts Festival race became a 10K race in the late 1980s. The course has gone through numerous changes over the years. In 2005, a 5K race was added and a new course created that combines the best of the East and West Campuses. Proceeds benefit youth running activities in Centre County and the continuing operations of the Nittany Valley Running Club. In 2006, the Arts Festival races were renamed in honor of Sue Crowe, who died in February 2006. Sue was a local running legend who also gave back to the running community through her work coaching young competitors. Sue was a fixture at the Arts Festival races. Sue and her family competed in most of them, and Sue herself was a five time winner. Sue won three times while the race was a 10-miler and two times after it became a 10K race.

Downtown State College Italian Street Painting Festival

Italian Street Painting has been a tradition in Europe since the 16th Century and a tradition in State College since 1999. In Renaissance Europe, underemployed artists would draw on the streets as a form of advertising their skill. In America today artists make street masterpieces for the joy of creating and for the entertainment of appreciative crowds. This portion of the Festival is on the 100 block of Hiester Street, a few blocks away from the main Festival zone. The Downtown State College Italian Street Painting Festival features street painters of national significance, in addition to a Young Artists Alley. At least 30 smaller works measuring 6’ by 4’ are drawn by a variety of local visual artists, State College Area High School art students and Penn State art majors.

Other Festival Programs

The Festival also produces “Art Thrives on 45” the Route 45 Artists and Artisans Trail, an artisans’ trail on a 90 mile long scenic secondary highway in central Pennsylvania; First Night® State College, an alcohol-free, arts centered celebration of the New Year, sells ice and festival management services, and manages commissioning projects for public art in Central Pennsylvania.

External links

* [http://www.arts-festival.com/ Official web site]
* [http://www.artthriveson45.org/ Art Thrives on 45]
* [http://www.naia-artists.org/ National Association of Independent Artists]
* [http://nvrun.com/ Sue Crow Memorial Arts Festival 10K Race]
* [http://www.sa.psu.edu/usa/galleries/robeson.shtml/ HUB Robeson Galleries, Penn State]
* [http://www.ianstaintonpottery.com/ Participating Artist]

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