By Aaron Gantz, Executive Director of Downtown Revitalization
Did you know the last public art installation in downtown Reading was completed in 2016? Before the close of 2020, downtown Reading will welcome over 60 new pieces of public art – with more on the way. Public art plays a critical role in economic and community development through beautification, connectivity, and a sense of pride, while creating new points of interest for both residents and visitors.
Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA) through a strong partnership with Berks Arts, City of Reading, Reading Parking Authority, and South Central Transit Authority (BARTA) launched Art for Hope, Healing and Community Unity in the Public Realm in June, 2020. The initiative sought local artists, ranging in skill levels from amateur to professional, to produce small murals that respond to and are inspired by our community today.
Beautifying Downtown Parking Garages
The partnership with the Reading Parking Authority will feature twenty pieces of art on the South Penn Garage and the 4th and Cherry Garage in downtown Reading. The diversity of the artist submissions showcased the incredible artistic talent in our local community. This model will allow viewers to experience a variety of styles of artistic expressions in one corridor. Nearly 60 entries were submitted for review and consideration from local artists.
The 20 artists selected to have their art on display are Ailey Albright, Suzanne Biebuyck, Suzanne Cody, Kimberlee Dawn, Greg Didyoung, Emily Dreibelbis, Serena Ercoli, Hannah High, Zoungy Kligge, Jessie Knuth, Ashley Kolpak, Faith Miravich, Cassi Rodriguez, Marlen Sosa-Rosa, Janice Torres, Enlly Torres, Elizabeth Trumbore, Tammy Updegrove, and Kristen Woodward.
Enhancing Downtown Bus Shelters
The partnership with the South Central Transit Authority will feature eight pieces of art on the Penn Street bus shelters in the 400 and 500 blocks. Nearly 30 pieces of art were submitted for consideration from local artists.
The eight artists selected to have their art on display are Katherine Addison, Julia Cocuzza, Theron Cook, Nicolas Fay, Suzanne Fellows, Eric Leatherman, Jennifer Nitka and Alicia Tejeda.
Weather permitting, the art will be ready for viewing on the garages and bus shelters the week of Aug. 17, 2020.
Enhancing Store Fronts and Street Scape
In addition to the outdoor art galleries being installed, Berks Arts Council’s Fast Lane Art, a juried contest and exhibition that celebrates and displays the work of Berks County high school students, will be coming to downtown Reading too! Selected pieces from the exhibition are currently showcased on street pole banners in both the City of Reading and West Reading. In addition to the pole banners, nearly 20 pieces of art will be featured in numerous downtown Reading business windows and vacant storefronts, all within a walkable area.
Another colorful (and tasty) public art project was recently announced by the Albright Science Research Institute (SRI) at Albright College. This summer, Albright students mentored and supported middle and high school students at the summer SRI program. Highlights of the program included take-home science kits and a collaborative art project with students in Reutlingen, Germany. The art project is a collection of unique pretzel art that will form a mural and will be permanently displayed in downtown Reading.
These public art projects originated through collaboration and a commitment to enhancing downtown Reading through the arts. We know these projects will catalyze and empower future public art efforts in the City and downtown Reading area. Stay tuned!