A creative collage of town and gown

July 14, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In the summer of 1967, Penn State's College of Arts and Architecture and the State College Chamber of Commerce sponsored an arts event with the idea that it would encompass all of the arts in a true town-gown collaboration.

Held partly on campus and partly downtown, activities would include local musical and theatrical performances, a film festival, artists in action, and a sidewalk sale and exhibition of artistic works displayed on a snow fence along the stone wall that runs parallel to College Ave.

The festival opened July 22 with Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond P. Shafer landing in a helicopter on the Old Main lawn. According to that year's fall issue of the Penn State Alumni News, in an article by 1955 alumna Donna Clemson, the governor was "pleased and impressed" and declared the programs in theatre, music, art and film "excellent" to University President Eric Walker. The event transformed town and gown into a "giant museum-theatre-concert hall" for nine straight days. Then -- as now -- artists and visitors were "undaunted by capricious weather," taking cover only to "reappear when showers ended."

After the festival was over, Arts and Architecture Dean Jules Heller prophetically said, "This year we only scratched the surface...in years to come, when people want to know what is going on in all the arts, they will come to Central Pennsylvania to find out."

Fifty years later, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts — more simply known as the Arts Festival — is in full swing on the streets of the University Park campus and downtown State College. The event began Wednesday, July 13, with Children's Day and runs through Sunday, July 17, bringing artists, visitors and alumni to the area from all across the country.

Among the myriad festivities added over the years since that first successful event, this year also brings public tours of the Penn State All-Sports Museum, a Sunday celebration of National Ice Cream Day by the Penn State Berkey Creamery, and a University Libraries' Special Collections exhibit on Arts Festival history, which will be on display through July 29.

  • Arts Festival 1960s at Penn State

    Professional and amateur artists' work is displayed on a snow fence lining the stone wall separating the University Park campus from downtown State College, during the first few years of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

    IMAGE: Penn State University Archives

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 14, 2016