Current and Coming features detailed information about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania. Originated as “Currents.” Retitled “Current and Coming,” Winter 2003, and then retitled “Out and About,” Fall 2005. Revived as “Current and Coming,” Winter 2013. Ran regularly, Spring 1984 to Spring 2008, and then occasionally, Winter 2013 to Spring 2015.

Grown and Sown

For two centuries following the founding of Pennsylvania by William Penn in 1681, the lives of most Chester County citizens were tied to the land. “Grown in Chester County: The Story of Nineteenth Century Farming,” mounted by the Chester County Historical Society at its History Center in downtown West Chester, tells the story of early countians who accepted the promises and challenges of the land, making the county one of the richest agricultural regions in the Commonwealth and the nation.

Visitors to “Grown in Chester County” experience the seasonal rhythms of early farm life as they walk among cradle scythes, plows, hay rakes, and winnowers and learn about the area’s primary agricultural goods, wheat, flax, and dairy products. The exhibition opens with an introduction to the county’s agricultural heritage, and immediately emphasizes the importance of community through challenging farm activities. Some agricultural tasks were too large to be accomplished by a single family, and neighbors routinely helped one another with rye harvesting, corn husking, and apple butter making. Shared work, meals, and conversations created an undeniable sense of community among Chester County’s farmers and their families.

Central to the exhibition are examples of equipment used by farmers during the nineteenth century. This equipment is arranged by the season in which it was used, beginning with spring. During this time of year, farmers prepared the soil with wooden rakes. The summer months, naturally, were the growing season. Haying was an important activity, and farmers used a mowing scythe to cut hay and bull rakes to collect it. In 1822, a revolving rake was introduced which made the gathering of hay faster and more efficient.

During the autumn and winter months, the focus shifted to harvesting corn, vegetables, and fruit, to butchering hogs and cattle, and to gathering wood. Farmers used devices and specialized tools to perform long and tedious tasks, such as cider presses for juicing apples. The exhibition’s segment devoted to dairy farming gives visitors a look at the lengthy process of making butter from milk.

The exhibition was designed to provide a number of “hands-on” activities for children, as well as a play station actually incorporated in the installation. The activities include books, farm puzzles, a barn with toy animals, and baskets of plastic fruits and vegetables which children are encouraged to examine.

“Grown in Chester County: The Story of Nineteenth-Century Farming” will remain on view through June 2, 2001.

The Chester County Historical Society interprets more than three centuries of life in southeastern Pennsylvania through changing and permanent exhibits, research facilities, and public programs.

For additional information, write: Chester County Historical Society, 225 North High St., West Chester, PA 19380- 2691; telephone (610) 692-4800; or visit the Chester County Historical Society website. Admission is charged.


Hearing is Seeing

Established in 1977, Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory is a museum of contemporary art that commissions, exhibits, and collects site-specific installations, as well as serves as a research and development laboratory for artists. As a museum, the Mattress Factory presents innovative installations to the broadest possible audience and maintains selected works of art in a growing and distinctive permanent collection. Its physical and organizational environments have grown out of – as well as in response to – a central focus on the process of creativity.

By aggressively educating and encouraging viewers – regardless of prior experience – to examine the relevance of art and creativity in their own lives, the Mattress Factory enables visitors to more directly access their own experience than is generally possible in a traditional museum setting. By collecting installations for its permanent collection, the Mattress Factory has established a frame of reference for seeing and understanding contemporary works.

The current exhibition at the Mattress Factory, “Visual Sound,” asks visitors, “Do You Hear What I See?” This show features installations by groundbreaking artists from throughout the world who are considered leaders in the field of visual art that use sound as an integral component of their work. The exhibition features new installations by nine artists working with sound, a format rarely presented in the United States and when shown usually showcases only one artist By presenting several artists, “Visual Sound” provides a comprehensive experience for visitors to understand and appreciate this art form. “Visual Sound” is divided into two segments, the first showing works of three artists, the second part consisting of works by six artists.

The first portion of “Visual Sound,” on view through July 31, 2001, features the work of Patrice Carre (French, born 1957), who carries on the early twentieth-century tradition of synchronism in which sound, color, space, and form are synthesized; Takehisa Kosugi (Japanese, born 1938), who incorporates mixed-media sound performances and installations that combine ordinary, everyday materials with electronic technology; and Robin Mi­nard (Canadian, born 1953), who addresses the effect of sound in the environment on the physical and emotional well-being of the listener. (Minard’s installations are always site-specific and attempt to alter the space in the same way that color and light affect it.)

Opening in spring, the second phase of “Visual Sound” includes works by Terry Fox (American, born 1943), Rolf Julius (German, born 1939), Christina Kubisch (German, born 1948), Hans Peter Kuhn (German, born 1952), Akio Suzuki (Japanese, born 1941), and Qin Yufen (Chinese, born 1954). This portion will continue through December 2001.

Acclaimed as “a low-key Pittsburgh institution that has become one of the nation’s leading centers for installation art” by the magazine ARTnews, the museum is housed in a turn-of-the-century, six-story warehouse on the city’s North Side, where mattresses were once made. The Mattress Factory was also featured in a special issue, “Best of the ’90s,” of Art Forum International, published in Deceiver 1999.

To obtain more information, write: Mattress Factory, 500 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh, PA 15212-4444; telephone (412) 231-3169; or visit the Mattress Factory website. Ad­mission is charged.


Lenfest Exhibit Opens

Less than one year after Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest made the remarkably generous gift of fifty-nine outstanding Pennsylvania impressionist paintings and a three million dollar donation to the James A. Michener Art Museum, “The Lenfest Exhibition of Pennsylvania Im­pressionism” recently opened to rave reviews at the Bucks County institution.

Lenfest, one of the country’s pioneer­ing cable entrepreneurs, with his wife, began collecting less than a decade ago, focusing on work created in the areas where their companies provided televi­sion service. When they built a corporate complex in Oaks, Montgomery County, they turned their attention toward southeastern Pennsylvania’s impressionist school and assembled a collection of works by nineteen well-known painters whose artistic activity centered on the community of New Hope. While Bucks County was home to a number of important artists earlier in the nineteenth century, the real story began in 1898, when two nationally recognized landscape painters, Edward W. Redfield (1869-1965) and William L. Lathrop (1858-1938), arrived. Their presence began attracting other artists and within a few years an art colony, centered in New Hope, began to form along the banks of the Delaware River. Like Redfield and Lathrop, many of these artists enjoyed successful careers and prominence, and they came to be known for a style of landscape painting called Pennsylvania impressionism (see “You Can Go Home Again: An Interview with James A. Mich­ener” by Michael J. O’Malley III, Winter 1993). These artists were associated with a vigorous realism, grounded in love of the land and embodying America’s populist, pioneer spirit, and free of French influ­ence. Lenfest grew enamored with the impressionists because he grew up on a farm north of Lambertville, New Jersey, across the Delaware River from New Hope, where many of the paintings were created.

Housed in the newly remodeled Put­nam-Smith Gallery, “The Lenfest Exhibition of Pennsylvania Impression­ism” represents the heart of the museum’s permanent collection, which now includes the finest selection of Pennsylvania impressionist paintings in public or private hands. Drawn largely from the Lenfests’ gift, as well as from the museum’s extensive holdings, the long-term installation tells the story of the area’s renowned art colony whose work was praised by noted critic and artist Guy Pene du Bois (1884-1958) as “our first truly national expression.”

The exhibition illustrates the Bucks County painters’ varied responses to the region’s landscape, from the atmospheric, moody landscapes of Lathrop, to the vigorous, rugged paintings of Redfield, to the refined, evanescent beauty of local scenes captured by Daniel Garber (1880-1958). The impressive array of paintings includes works by important Pennsylvania impressionist painters such as Fem Coppedge (1883-1951), famous for her vibrant, expressive use of color; George Sotter (1879-1953), known for his magical, starry nocturnes; Charles Rosen (1878-1950), who captured ephemeral glimpses of nature in transition; and Walter Emer­son Baum (1884-1956), admired for his use of light and shadow in wintry snow scenes (see “Painting a Sense of Place: Walter Emerson Baum and the Lehigh Valley” by Martha Hutson-Saxton, Spring 1997). Works by John Fulton Folinsbee (1892-1972), Harry Leith-Ross (1886-1973), Arthur Meltzer (1893-1989), Kenneth Nunamaker (1890-1957), Robert Spencer (1879-1931), Walter Elmer Schofield (1867-1944), Henry B. Snell (1858-1943), and Fred Wagner (1864-1940) complete the survey.

An innovative series of public programs, including lectures, gallery talks, teacher workshops, and children’s activities, complements “The Lenfest Exhibition of Pennsylvania Impressionism.”

For more information, write: James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine St., Doylestown, PA 18901-4931; telephone (215) 340-9800; or visit the James A. Michener Art Museum website. Admission is charged.