It takes as many volunteers to put on the Mount Gretna Outdoor Art Show as the number of residents in the charming Lebanon County community.
This weekend, hundreds of artists from all over the country will converge on the village, filling their 12-foot or 24-foot parcels of real estate with all manner of artistic expression.
For two days, Mount Gretna will be nothing like its quiet, bucolic reputation.
But you likely won’t hear a complaint from the 200 or so residents, since most of them in some measure or another are involved in making the mammoth event an annual success.
“We are practically run by volunteers,’’ says Linda Bell, who after more than two decades as show director is passing on the reins this year to fellow resident Kerry Royer.
“All of them are as excited about the art show as Kerry and I. The rest of the community looks at it like a big party.’’
“It’s a celebratory feeling in Mount Gretna, even leading up to (the show),’’ she says. “There’s this electric anticipation.’’
Royer particularly enjoys the sense of community that the show brings to the town. Even those who may have no interest in art are chipping in to help.
Local fire personnel help park cars, Lebanon County Emergency Management helps with logistical planning and the local police step in to help with traffic control.
“I am excited about the civic involvement in the entire planning of the art show,’’ Royer says.
Some historians credit the show, which began in the mid-1970s, with jump-starting the town’s reputation as an arts community.
Within a few years of its inception, Music at Gretna was founded, and the local playhouse, which had been dark for a time, began hosting productions once again.
Today, the Mount Gretna Outdoor Art Show is rated as one of the top 200 in the U.S. “We get applicants from all over the country,’’ Royer says.
Competition is tough for the juried show. The only artists who do not have to reapply are the 30 Judge’s Choice Award winners from the previous year.
The rest must reapply each year. In order to keep the show fresh, a different team of jurors is selected annually.
The show features both fine art and fine craft, according to Royer, who lists painting (in all kinds of media), jewelry, wood, ceramics and pottery, fiber arts, glass, leather, metal, sculpture and photography among the types of works to be found.
While competition is tough for seasoned artists, show organizers have always felt it was important to provide a venue for both young artists and emerging artists, too.
Twelve prime exhibitor spaces are reserved each year for artists who have never exhibited in an art show before.
While they don’t go through the standard jurying process, the best submissions are selected by an artist.
“We look for artists with potential,’’ Royer says. “We get a lot of good talent in our emerging artists.’’
Royer is currently finishing up her masters degree in art education at Penn State. Involving children in the arts is something close to her heart.
“I enjoy working with and facilitating the arts,’’ she says. “I feel like the art show is a really wonderful platform for that in our community.
“I enjoy art education in informal spaces like the art show.’’
To that end, the show will once again host its own Children’s Art Show, featuring about 50 artists who will have their own stands showcasing their work.
“We are firmly rooted in developing kids as artists,’’ Royer says.
She says they are doing a lot of other things for younger patrons, as well this year.
“For one thing, we’ve partnered with Gretna Music who will be leading a make-and-take percussion craft. And as entertainment we’re going to bring in drum circle leaders on the Chautauqua playground. Kids can use their percussion craft at the drum circle.
“I like combining art with the art of music at our show.’’
This year’s show features a number of changes, something that doesn’t happen too often in Mount Gretna.
For the first time, all the parking for the show will be on-site at Soldiers Field. The Chautauqua recently purchased land, which enabled organizers to park everyone nearby.
There will be no satellite parking or shuttle service, however golf carts will be available to transport those needing assistance.
On-site parking allowed the closing of Route 117, which will now be used for exhibit space, a change organizers hope will help artists in case of inclement weather.
Royer says routes are clearly marked and people will be on duty to help direct traffic.
Another new element is in the show’s food court. For the first time alcohol will be available.
The food court is housed under a large tent, and Gretna Brewery also will be serving in the Hall of Philosophy.
Although Bell is helping with every aspect of this year’s show, Royer says she’s thrilled to be directing the show she’s been visiting since she was a teenager.
“I have always loved the art show,’’ she says. “I believe in the culture of our community.’’