Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Art in the Burg: Our fine arts columnist takes a stroll up Verbeke Street during 3rd in the Burg.

Works by Ann Benton Yeager adorn the wall of “The Gallery” at The Millworks.

Usually in an art column, one starts with the art and its impact felt by those who view it. This time around, it is important to discuss three components that go into making an art event work.

The first is an “A” for atmosphere. Is the stage set to provide the tone the artists want to convey? For last Friday’s 3rd in the Burg, we narrowed that stage to Verbeke Street, nicely tucked between the two art blockbusters currently in Harrisburg (“Picasso: A Life in Print” at Susquehanna Art Museum and “Art of the State” at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, both reviewed previously).

Tara Chickey is the art director of the Millworks, presiding over a beehive of activity in this art enclave on Verbeke, just across from the Broad Street Market. We got the inside buzz for the new show that opened Friday night and runs through Sept. 15, including the lineup of artists that will be featured for the citywide Gallery Walk on Sept. 8. The Millworks has been a natural home for local artists creating their own nest within the larger art community. Tara knows that, to keep the colony productive, there has to be a sense of cross-pollination. Think of the artists as vital to the sociality of the hive.

Ann Benton Yeager’s “Modern Art” on the main floor, studio 103, revealed her “cold wax and oil” painting. The finished product is “cool” to say the least, but it is the process that makes it so unique. Yeager will demonstrate her art for Gallery Walk. Next, onto the Millworks’ first-floor Market Place, a room filled with treasures for art lovers of all flavors. From candles to leather goods, textiles to trinkets of an artistic bent, jewelry and clothing, all touchable and tempting, provide visual stimulation to those who enter.

We next traveled upstairs to Studio 319, a shared space with a trio of artists who refer to themselves as “the three-ring circus.” This includes Tina Berrier, who spoke to the stories behind her colorful and quirky portraits of people and animals. A personal favorite was a cocky chicken named Clyde smoking a cigarette (pictured). Colonel Sanders would frown upon that activity as this character proved to be a “Kentucky Clyde Chicken.” Fellow painter Judy Kelly gave us the lowdown on their place in Millworks history, as the trio has been part of the creative hive since its inception. Mary Gelenser, with her fiber art, rounds out this group of friends.

Sharing studio 323 is none other than Caleb Smith and Tara Chickey, the Millworks studio’s resident married couple. And TheBurg’s own creative director, Megan Caruso, adds her “Quiet Clay” vessels to the charm, elegant in their clean lines. In the back half of 323 was Maddie, gallery assistant to artist P.D. Murray, whose paintings were drenched in rich colors with wildly imaginative subjects. The hive atmosphere carried over into the restaurant and bar, a hub of after-work gatherings with weekend wishes already starting to come true, enhanced by the clink of glassware and gab. In a glamorous and gregarious way—that’s atmosphere.

We next ventured up the street, to No. 258, also known as “Vivi on Verbeke.” Here, Vivian Sterste and Jeb Boyd had a welcoming stage set up outdoors and in, with a bench and chairs and the most comfortable divan. Perfect pottery by Vivi and painterly photographs by Jeb added just the right amount of pop that also snapped and crackled. Again, the relationships they make with 3rd in the Burgers create a lasting bond. In promoting that mindset, an outsized community painting (pictured) waits inside for visitors to add their own creative marks.

Just up the street at 214 Verbeke, La Cultura makes networking a nuance not to be outdone by any other organization. Elyse Irvis, owner and operator of this unique establishment, subscribes to her mission statement of, “For the culture…franchising the disenfranchised.” Her plan allows local businesses and artists to rent space within the premises for special events and art exhibits, limited only by the imagination. Coming up on Sept. 21 is a self-care workshop from entrepreneur April Ashe. Her line, “UnBottled Expressionz,” combines bath salts and beauty, proving that, if you are relaxed in spirit, you beauty shines through. The artist on hand was Dillon Mitchell, CEO of Art Only LMG, and his line of artistic products, including tees and paintings.

All told, 3rd in the Burg took a leisurely three hours in our tour of art on Verbeke Street. That brings me to the “T.” Time flew in the best sort of way. What we experienced in our investment of that ever-fleeting intangible commodity is something you cannot measure in quantifiable terms. Our night at all three venues was enlightened by rich cultural exchanges, atmospheres completely individual. The hive at Millworks in all its layers of “Art.Food.Brewery” and the venturous vibe at Vivi on Verbeke, completed by culturally committed La Cultura, all add up to “Atmosphere,” “Relationships” and “Time,” immeasurable gifts to be relished. So when the hourglass flips for the next 3rd in the Burg, may I suggest pursuing moments worth remembering?

The next 3rd in the Burg will be held on Friday, Sept. 20, through downtown and Midtown Harrisburg. For more information, visit http://thirdintheburg.org/.

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