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Susquehanna Art Museum: Harrisburg Museum Finds a Home

By Allison Wilson

For 25 years, Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Art Museum, or SAM, has offered residents and visitors a space to experience local, national and international works of art. Driven by its mission to "educate, inspire and foster creative exploration, collaboration and public engagement," SAM has become an important cultural destination for the community.

"Art can help a community to appreciate and reflect on its diverse cultural heritage, showing us how we got to where we are today," says Liz Claypoole, Marketing Manager for SAM. "Its value is in the inspiration it can provide to all ages and shows us new ways of self-expression. Our mission from the beginning was to provide Pennsylvania's capital with a dedicated art museum."

SAM began in 1989 and, over the past 25 years, has moved from home to home around Harrisburg, sharing and renting space. On January 16, 2015, it moved into a museum building of it's own - the renovated Keystone Trust Building in Midtown Harrisburg.

"With us has come many additional revitalization projects for this Midtown area," says Claypoole. "We also share a block on 3rd Street with 'education row,' which includes the Cyber Charter School and Harrisburg Area Community College. We've become a fun, educational location that is in walkable distance for this community. We're able to open our doors to special events that community members of all ages can enjoy."

Current exhibits at SAM include "Everyone can Fly," an all-ages exhibition focused on literacy and its relevance for local youth. The centerpiece of this collection is the original artwork from Tar Beach, a children's book by internationally-renowned author, painter, quilter and lecturer Faith Ringgold. Local and regional illustrators are also featured.

Another exhibit of note is the upcoming "Found in Translation." This inaugural juried exhibition in SAM's historic bank building will feature contemporary works by Pennsylvania artists whose processes are as essential to the work of art as the final product. Also upcoming is "Quilts 20/20," beginning June 19 and running through August.

"We're very excited to be hosting this show," Claypoole says. "This exhibition of contemporary and historic quilts honors the traditional roots of the quilt, shown side by side with the art quilts by today's cutting-edge fiber artists. The design of the quilt, whether made in the 19th century or the 21st century, holds dynamic strength in color, form and line. The juxtaposition continues the dialog between the two worlds and furthers the research relating a traditional craft to what has become studio art."

In addition to its exhibitions, SAM provides educational activities, including youth and adult classes, group tours and "VanGo!," a touring gallery on wheels. The museum also hosts story time on Sundays in the bank vault left behind as part of the historic restoration.

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Allison Wilson is an award-winning writer and communications professional whose...

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