With each new season, The Gallery at Penn College always has some surprises prepared for artgoers. Last year, "Full Deck: A Short History of Skate Art" took the gallery to new places both in terms of subject (skateboards) and presentation (skateboards everywhere). This year, the gallery's curveball is "Out of This World: Landscapes of Our Solar System," an exhibition that Gallery Director Lenore Penfield said will feature artistic renderings of outer space.
"I'm really excited about this," Penfield said. "It's a mixture of actual photographs and space art that has been created by artists who study the different photographs. It's based on realistic images but they're not."
While the gallery sees all its exhibits as educational, the scientific element of "Out of This World" particularly lends itself to pedagogy.
"We hope to bring in some classes of students from around the area for the exhibit," she said. "Our physics and science instructors will be doing work with kids and there's going to be some collaborative learning going on during the exhibit."
To add to the "universal" appeal of the show, a documentary featuring narration by someone who's had some space adventures of his own - none other than Harrison Ford - will be a featured part of the exhibition.
The space exhibit won't be on display until March 2012, but artgoers won't have to wait until then to experience something exciting and new at the gallery - The Society for the Art of Imagination will visit Madigan Library July 14.
According to Penfield, this exhibit was created for a museum in Shanghai, China, and it has traveled across the globe.
"It's an exhibit of umbrellas, which will be hanging all throughout the library," Penfield said. "The artists were instructed to devise an original way to use ordinary objects to create art and this is what they come up with."
This display will be up through August 28 and will coincide with the show that officially kicks off the gallery's new season, Doug Tausik's "Bodies Under Pressure," which opens July 12.
According to the gallery brochure, Tausik's sculptures are "organic in form or, as the artist asserts, matter-of-fact representations of the invisible forces that affect a body as it undergoes transition."
Penfield said that some of Tausik's wood sculptures are 56 inches tall and that, in the gallery's effort to alter the space to fit each show, they're still considering what will suit the artist's work best.
"Because the sculptures weigh so much, we're grappling with whether we want any walls at all or whether we're going to just have the sculptures in the space," she said. "I have a feeling that when you see these things you're going to go 'Wow.' "
The gallery will continue to host music acts during the year (Alfonse Ciaccio is scheduled to perform at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 9) and this season is the first that the gallery will host an alumni exhibit.
"We've had an employee exhibit and an art teachers' faculty exhibit but this is our first alumni exhibit," Penfield said. "The neat thing about the alumni exhibit is that it's not all art students - it's a real mix of alumni."
Like other seasons, this one will end with a textile exhibit - this time featuring the work of Cathy Breslaw.
"The last show of each season has tended to be a textile exhibit," Penfield said. "People are now saying, 'Who's your textile artist this year?' There are people who will only come to this exhibit. There are a lot of people interested in textiles."
When planning a season, Penfield said that the gallery's board members never have themes in mind but rather try to emphasize "diversity."
"We try to balance it out so that we have a diversity of the mediums," she said. "I think we did a pretty good job this year without it being really intentional."
Each year, artists submit work with hopes of exhibiting at the gallery and the board reviews the submissions.
"We usually ask for 10 images and an explanation for their work," Penfield said. "We advertise nationwide and internationally on different websites. We get entries from around the world."
Seasons have to be prepared far in advance - so much so that even though the 2011-12 season hasn't even begun, they're already planning the 2012-13 season.
"We have to start putting the catalogue together in February," Penfield said. "We're always looking ahead."