LEWISBURG - When works of art from Bucknell's Samek Art Gallery don the walls of the new Milton Public Library later this month, it will mark a milestone for the borough about five miles north of the University.
It will be the community's first permanent public space dedicated to displaying art.
"We're likely the only space in Milton where art is going to be so front and center," said John Meckley, vice president of the library's Board of Trustees. For him, partnering with the University for the library's first show was a natural choice.
"The Samek Art Gallery and what it's trying to accomplish in the broader community links very well with what we're trying to do," Meckley said. "Bucknell is a tremendous resource in the Susquehanna Valley, and we're proud to partner with them to share a little of Bucknell and the Samek Gallery with the Milton community."
According to Samek Art Gallery Director Richard Rinehart, the exhibition advances the University's initiative to bring visual and performing arts to the community encircling its campus, building on Bucknell's 2011 purchase and total renovation of the Campus Theatre and 2012 opening of the Bucknell University Downtown Art Gallery, both on Market Street in Lewisburg.
"My mission is to scan the world for great art and put it in front of the eyeballs of Bucknell students and the community," Rinehart said. "This is an extension of that. Having a temporary exhibition in Milton, we can bring more art out to a new community."
The Milton Library show, which opened April 27, brings together 17 works from the 19th and 20th centuries depicting Pennsylvania landscapes. Mostly composed by Pennsylvania artists, the landscapes depict not only the natural splendor of the Susquehanna River Valley and other picturesque corners of the state, but bridges, rock quarries and other alterations human hands have wrought upon that land.
"Underlying, literally, all this commerce, politics, religion and living is the land," Rinehart wrote in his curatorial introduction to the exhibit. "Pennsylvania landscapes, renowned for their natural beauty, don't always show the dynamic history that is written across their lush surfaces and wedged under their cracked soil.
"While their rich history has shaped them, they offer us the feeling that we are freed from history and that each time we enter them we are refreshed and re-made."
Rinehart selected the works with the exhibition space, the library and its goals foremost in mind.
The library greatly expanded its floor space - from 4,000 to 11,000 square feet - with its move to a Georgian-style mansion on six acres of property in 2012, and with that expansion it has added space for children's LEGO building workshops, communal quilting and other community endeavors.
Milton's library strives to be not only a place to borrow books but a community gathering space - part of the fabric that binds the town together. Both the library and Rinehart wanted the show to reflect and highlight that sense of community.
"I was thinking about the relationship between Bucknell and Lewisburg and Milton - what connects us - and looking in the collection for where I could find echoes of that," Rinehart said. "The one thing that I saw in the collection that connects us was this Pennsylvania landscape."
Meckley said the library wanted to focus on the concept of community in its first art exhibition, and that the works in the show pair well with the library's goal of creating a "public dialogue" about the community that its patrons call home.
"I think both organizations share a view of how education, and in particular a liberal arts education, can take many forms," Meckley said. "One of those is expanding people's exposure to different ideas, and art is an important way to do that."