Samek Art Gallery opens affiliate downtown

By Jen Lassen

Arts and Life Editor

What is it called when contemporary art and entrepreneurship mix? Collaboration.

Our small yet proud Lewisburg experienced such collaboration on March 30 with a private opening of the Downtown Art Gallery, an affiliate of the Samek Art Gallery at the University, and the Bucknell University Entrepreneurs Incubator in the completely renovated DeWitt Building.

This new, three-story structure will revitalize the arts both downtown and at the University, and allow for the start of a new entrepreneurial movement to take place right in the heart of Lewisburg.

The gallery opened to the public on March 31. The first floor of the DeWitt building is home to the art gallery itself, the entrepreneur incubator occupies the second floor and the University’s Small Business Development Center occupies the third floor. Several individuals, connected to both the University and the community at large, played a significant role in the gallery and incubator from start to finish.

One such person is Richard Rinehart, director of the Samek Art Gallery at the University. “When I started with the University in May of 2011, they told me ‘Oh, by the way, you’re going to help with opening up a new art gallery downtown.’ And, of course, I said, ‘Sure! Let’s do it!’” Rinehart said.

Many people are confused, wondering if the Samek Art Gallery is moving downtown. Rinehart assures that this is not the case, but that this new, second gallery will provide more opportunities in terms of programming.

“The downtown gallery relates to the Samek Art Gallery, but the programming is different. We are looking to bring in one contemporary artist per month [to the downtown gallery], and this allows for two opportunities for galleries,” he said.

Since he arrived, Rinehart has worked closely with many on this project, including James Rice, associate provost and dean of graduate studies, and James Hostetler, director of construction and design. Rice brainstormed the idea for a gallery downtown while Rinehart and Hostetler designed it. Hostetler oversaw the actual construction of the gallery/incubator.

At the private ribbon-cutting ceremony, attendees were welcomed by Pete Mackey, vice president for communications and community relations. President John Bravman presented a speech following Mackey’s introduction.

In his speech, Bravman commented on the important purpose of the gallery and incubator in the DeWitt building.

“This has brought art in a new way downtown, and there is the beginning of business upstairs. This is a wonderful example of how a town and university can work together; it is an important rebirth between Lewisburg and Bucknell,” Bravman said.

Mayor Judy Wagner also said “the DeWitt building is a bridge from Bucknell to downtown.”

“[The incubator] will help small businesses get started. About 30-some interns from Bucknell will become a part of this program in addition to the entrepreneurs who apply. Art and entrepreneurship will be flowing through this building,” said Steven Stumbris, an employee in the Small Business Development Center.

Andy Hirsch, director of media communications at the University, said that entrepreneurs can use the space to develop new ideas. They will have 24/7 access to the space when granted.

The 3,000 sq. ft. incubator is complete with a lounge and art pickings straight from the Samek Gallery. It is a place meant to encourage creativity.

“Someone pointed out the connection to me between entrepreneurship and art/creativity, and it was something that I had never thought about before. Now, I can clearly see how the two relate,” Hirsch said.

“This gallery will be a party for the mind, and you’re all invited,” Rinehart said.

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