2019-01-01 / Features

The Spark of an Idea …

Last year we asked some of our area’s big thinkers to share with us their dreams of what the Centre Region could be. This year we asked a new crop of leaders and dreamers a more pointed question: What would you like to see happen in 2019 that would move this area in the right direction?

Their separate answers took surprising shape in four collective categories: creating new SPACES for the common good; strengthening CONNECTIONS between diverse communities; enhancing the area’s ECONOMY; and using IMAGINATION to bring more entrepreneurs, artists and energy here.

Read on to see what your friends and neighbors think would make our community even better.


\’spās\  noun. a three-dimensional realm available for a particular purpose

Meet Face to Face
As I shop and dine at local businesses, visit the library and walk the streets, it’s the regular face-to-face connections with owners, workers and neighbors I find rewarding. Many people tell me they make most of their purchases and watch movies on the internet; they are weakening connections to their community.
We need more spaces that regularly bring together a combination of business, the arts, community service and face-to-face conversations in a public setting. Spaces are needed not just downtown, but also in retail centers (e.g. Hamilton Square, Westerly Parkway Shopping Center or the Nittany Mall).

There should be more accessible spaces for local artists and musicians to showcase their work, instead of relying on bars. Also, we need more flexibility in updated zoning ordinances and code regulations to allow innovators and entrepreneurs to work and live in common areas. Let’s take art, music, tech and business to where people live and spark greater connections to our community.
Vicki Fong, State College Community Land Trust

Display Art 24/7
At the Bellefonte Museum for Centre County we are looking forward to offering more opportunity to enjoy the visual arts. As we start our 11th year we are excited about the new ways we can help stimulate our minds and enrich our souls through the visual arts. This month we are launching our “24/7 Display Space.” This is not a gallery but a gorgeous, three-sided window that will exhibit art 24/7 from a variety of sources.

With lighting on throughout the dark hours, our new window space will provide a place to enjoy art at any time of the day or night! We dream of showcasing local artists’ works, art done by visitors to the museum, children’s projects, special works from far and near and more — we are only limited by our imagination! Pat House, Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County

Centre LGBTQA Support Network (CLSN) has been working to make State College obviously welcoming and affirming by providing LGBTQA-affirming social experiences and community education. Local churches offer rooms to hold our meetings and Webster’s provides a supportive space to hold events and drop-in hours — but that’s not enough for Happy Valley.

Our dream is to have a physical center where LGBTQA individuals can feel safe, find resources, meet friends and get support. We often hear from LGBTQA individuals with needs we cannot meet. An LGBTQA community center would offer a safe space for individuals to ask questions and get information, get support individually and in support groups, and hang out and socialize.

We could also house our all-gender clothing exchange closet, display local artists’ work, participate in First Friday, hold our ongoing events (such as the Thanksgiving dinner, drag bingo, youth summit, open mic night and more), and provide a central location for our board of volunteers to collaborate and work toward creating a socially just and affirming Centre County. Chelsea Moroski, LGBTQA Support Network

Enhance Our Parks
CRPR will break ground this year on the long-awaited Whitehall Road Regional Park project, to include an all-inclusive and universally accessible playground — the first of its kind in the area! Families with children of various abilities can play together in a safe and multi-ability space. Not only will there be playground equipment for all, but there will be tactile, visual and auditory activities too. The park will also include an all-season pavilion with a fantastic view.

Another dream we’d like to move forward is the long-discussed Action Sports Park. CRPR’s dream is to find this facility a home and secure funding to make it a reality. The plan would include space for skateboarding, BMX and mountain bikes, and others who may Roller Blade or use scooters.

We’d also like to secure some indoor space that we can call our own; it may not involve building or purchasing, but it could involve leasing some space where our health and fitness and all-ages programming could have a permanent home. In the future, an indoor recreation facility would be ideal, but the public needs to want that too! In the interim, we need some space for our programming so that we don’t continue to move around and customers can count on the space being available to our programming.

Another big dream is to complete the fundraising for the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center Phase II expansion of the Spring Creek Education Building. We’re out of space for indoor programming; our preschool nature program is full and needs more room, and the amount of rentals secured fills the remaining spaces to capacity. Nature programming enrollments are increasing and our building needs to expand for that growth as well. Pam Salokangas, Parks & Recreation

CRPR is kicking off a yearlong Comprehensive Review of Recreation, Parks and Open Spaces for the Centre Region. The first public meeting will be Jan. 30 from 7-9 p.m. at the SCAHS South Building’s Cafeteria. An overview of the study will be provided and there will be time for public input! The agency hopes to use the results of the Comprehensive Survey to formulate its strategic plan for the next 10-15 years. Your input can help us redefine park use, current park areas, future park design, facility recommendations and more.

Listening Spaces
My hope for our community is that we find places and spaces to listen to one another.

I have heard people, including me, bemoan lately that we don’t seem to be able to talk to one another anymore. We seem to have lost the ability or the practice of talking across political, religious, class and racial divides. And while that is certainly true, I’m not sure the problem is as much about talking to one another as it is about listening to one another. In my experience, many of us have difficulty listening even to those who are like us. So the possibility of truly listening to someone who differs from us in age, political or religious belief, gender, race or ethnicity has seemingly vanished. Stephen R. Covey once wrote, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

The places where most conversation happens — coffee shops, social groups, neighborhood groups or houses of worship — are too often echo chambers where we only interact with those who agree with us. What if we created “Spaces for Listening” to one another? In those spaces, participants agree ahead of time to listen without trying to persuade, to speak deeply and truthfully about what is important to them, but primarily to spend as much time listening deeply and truthfully to others with whom they may have little in common.

To participate in such spaces would require a great deal of trust and a willingness to be both challenged and moved. But if we can take the risk and find the space we will be a stronger community for it. Anne Ard, Centre Safe


/kəˈnekSH(ə)n/  noun. a relationship in which a person, thing or idea is linked or associated with something else; the state of being connected

Welcome the New
When dreaming of a healthy, vibrant State College, I’m excited by a cultural landscape that is accessible to all. With active and responsive government agencies and organizations creating economic growth and safety in the region, let’s continue to better serve the emotional and artistic needs of every resident by listening to all who live here. I see great hope as residents craving connection to each other and to the beauty of this region are stepping up to create new spaces for social and creative connections, such as the great work of Trailhead and funding opportunities through the Centre Foundation. The more we allow new voices onto planning boards and into creative spaces, the more diverse our cultural landscape becomes — and we’re all enriched by that.

If we want young professionals to settle here, then we must acknowledge that their choice to relocate here will not only be determined by economics, but also by overall quality of life, including a social scene that offers daily entertainment before 10:30 p.m. and diverse arts offerings. In the new year, I’m excited to launch new events to cultivate connections in our community and to welcome new voices to the table. Let’s be sure we are actively seeking voices that are new to our region and that we are welcoming their ideas and energy to our community and to our arts organizations.

Photo courtesy Borough of State CollegePhoto courtesy Borough of State College

Events like LION Bash and the Central PA Theatre & Dance Fest help to welcome residents to explore the many possibilities to get involved, to serve and to express themselves. But can we do even more to communicate our willingness to listen? I look forward to another year of learning how we can best serve and welcome new residents and to tend to the well-being of all who choose to live here. Elaine Meder-Wilgus, Webster’s Bookstore Café

Volunteers play a huge role in the quality of life in State College. In my workplace, volunteers help the heavily used public libraries in Centre County in daily operation and extend our impact in supporting lifelong learning and reading for residents of all ages.

We are grateful for the people who regularly and generously give their time and talents with passion and grace, and hope that even more individuals will explore volunteering for schools and nonprofits. The return on investment for volunteering will improve the community and lighten the hearts of those who share their gifts.  Cathi Alloway, Schlow Centre Region Library

Build Awareness
May we each make conscious efforts every day to walk in each other’s shoes. We know the Golden Rule — “Do unto others as you want them to do unto you” — but the Platinum Rule is even better: “Do unto others as they want you to do unto them.”

When we meet or learn about someone who appears to be “different” from us, can we celebrate that diversity and our shared humanity, our One Spirit?

It’s a paradox — we can’t truly know another’s experience, yet projecting ourselves into their lives can increase our empathy and fuel compassionate action.

To minimize distortions in our projections, we need to be aware of and work to eliminate our explicit and implicit biases, expand our understanding of history (which is usually biased toward the “winners”), listen deeply to the lives of people outside our demographics. And remember that just because we haven’t experienced something doesn’t automatically make it “fake news.”

Let’s expand our homogeneous social circles (list your 10 closest friends and see how alike you are demographically) and upstand for each other (take free Bystander Training at Stand for State).

And let’s prioritize whatever we do — prayer, meditation, art, music, yoga, walk in nature, whatever — to live more consistently from our Spirit, whose nature is kindness, compassion, generosity and peace.

We all want to be safe, loved and happy. We all bleed red. We all will eventually pass away. Shih-In Ma, Community Diversity Group

Celebrate Perspectives
Community is about connecting and growing alongside others. Throughout my life I have been blessed to be surrounded by an amazing and loving community that helped me thrive in the face of adversity. It is through my family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and other connections that I have found support and acceptance.

Looking toward our future, I envision a community proactively engaged and highly focused on strengthening the human connection. In order to survive, we need positive face-to-face interactions with others. It is through those encounters that we find shared interests and values, belonging, and sense of purpose — the very things that reminds us that we are not alone.

By focusing on the human connection, we can create an environment full of understanding, appreciation and acceptance for all. We can make it known that it is OK to reach out for help if you need it and it is OK to reach out to help someone who might be in need.

In order to achieve this dream, we need to create additional safe experiences, like Mokita® Dialogues, where we can come together and celebrate each of our unique gifts and perspectives. In 2019, I’d love to see pop-up gatherings at parks and in neighborhoods where we have the chance to meet, interact and exchange ideas with the people who live around us in an enjoyable, creative and casual setting.

By strengthening the human connections within our community we can ensure that everyone feels like they have a place to belong.  Marisa Vicere, Jana Marie Foundation


/əˈkänəmē/  noun. the wealth and resources of a region

Photo by Patrick MansellPhoto by Patrick Mansell

Innovation Parks Efforts
I envision a bustling, innovative and forward-thinking high-tech economy in Happy Valley. Penn State is home to renowned experts in a wide array of fields (e.g. advanced materials, digital manufacturing, computer science and AI, electronics, green energy, food technology). This concentration of world-class talent, together with the ideal quality of life offered here, can and should create a hub that consistently attracts and retains new start-ups as well as established businesses.

With the Invent Penn State initiative now well underway, the opportunities and resources available to entrepreneurs young and old has never been stronger. And several new and newish budding companies have chosen to stay right here in Centre County.

Likewise, we are beginning to see renewed interest in what we have to offer from well-established multinational companies — Innovation Park. With our new focus on industry partnerships and a new 30,000-square-foot building specifically designed for light manufacturing research and development at the park, we are realizing the vision set forth by its original founders — we are making Innovation Park truly innovative.

We recently celebrated the arrival of Morgan Advanced Materials to the park.  Morgan now occupies a third of the new R&D building, in a beautiful state-of-the-art R&D center that will be home to at least 25 new high-end jobs.

You will soon see revitalized signage throughout the park, and discussions with several possible future tenants are underway. We are aiming for the critical mass needed to create a domino effect of new, highly innovative business activities that will ultimately enhance all of our local communities. Let’s dream big. Neil Sharkey, Penn State VP for Research

Association Relocation
I’d love to see a concerted effort to attract Pennsylvania state associations to move to Centre County. Most of them are headquartered in Harrisburg, but imagine the economic impact, the number of jobs, the tax revenue generated, the spending on housing, retail, restaurants and other categories if we could convince just 10 percent of the state associations to move here.

Associations congregate in their state capitals for obvious reasons — they want to be close to the decision-making that affects their industries. Similarly, this is why many national associations have their headquarters, or at least a presence, in Washington, D.C.
But at the national level there are many associations that do not choose to locate in Washington, D.C.

We have a great example in Bellefonte: the American Philatelic Society, and they seem to operate just fine here.

One of the biggest challenges Pennsylvania’s state associations have is keeping members from the western part of the state engaged; many don’t make the long trip to Harrisburg for annual conferences and board meetings.

But Centre County, as its name implies, is perfectly situated in the middle of the state, and that, along with the very substantial loyalty and affinity to Penn State from all corners of Pennsylvania, I believe would ensure stronger participation in state associations.

If we are to pursue this idea, we don’t have to limit the vision to State College relocations. Many of the other boroughs and townships in Centre County would be perfect locations for association staff and help stimulate economic growth therein. Let’s make Centre County the Association Capital of Pennsylvania!  Fritz Smith, CPCVB

A Growing Workforce
KCF Technologies wants to see the State College tech community continue to grow and become the east-coast hub for entrepreneurial businesses in 2019 and beyond. As a company who ‘grew up’ downtown, it’s inspiring to see organizations like Penn State supporting entrepreneurship and the CBICC working with local businesses to help them succeed. Without this community support and awesome customers, KCF couldn’t have gone from a handful of employees four years ago to hitting 100 this past October. The company’s goal is to add another 100 jobs to the local economy over the next three years. Jeremy Frank, KCF Technologies

Digital Directory
“Work globally, live locally” is a phrase that resonates with me. Technology has transformed how we work. We can fly to other countries easily to conduct business, or we can talk with clients in a digital platform. But we often miss important personal connections to our local treasures and talents.
We could use a digital directory of the Centre Region with a map so residents can locate local businesses and nonprofits on their computer or mobile devices, with links to their websites or social media. Vicki Fong, State College Community Land Trust

Economic Partnerships
Big ideas abound in Centre County, and innovation drives the economy. Visionary thinking and pride in community are equally evident in State College and the Centre Region, and are leading to resurgence and reinvention in towns such as Bellefonte, Philipsburg, Millheim and areas in between.

A supportive “big idea” environment means having a strong local economy. To that end, we have a responsibility to ensure that Centre County businesses have what they need to compete and grow — from workforce, operational, regulatory and general support perspectives.

Partnerships are essential to effectively address challenges and embrace opportunities that will propel us forward. Fortunately, this collaborative spirit also abounds in Centre County.

Partnering with the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, newly formed task forces will explore air service enhancements and the possibilities presented by agri-tourism. Additionally, the CBICC will soon launch a countywide initiative to address the critical needs of municipal and county governments in finding engaged citizens to serve on authorities, boards and commissions. Vern Squier, CBICC


/iˌmajəˈnāSH(ə)n/  noun. The action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses; the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful

Deepen Our Identity
Nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania is a special place. A place that combines the best of contemplation and stimulation to excite new thinking that can help cure our world. A place where thought and application are taught and celebrated. Where diverse people come together with one purpose — fostering a more sustainable world. This is my vision of Centre County.

We need to recognize the power of this combination of stillness + thought + collaboration + application and celebrate it.

Invite other thinkers and searchers for answers to use us as a place of connection and reinvigoration. A place where others openly share their gifts — of music, of storytelling, of science, of technology, of agriculture — with the sole purpose of improving these gifts and spreading their impact.

What are the implications of this type of place?
We would: Do everything in our power to preserve our areas of nature because they are both our calling card and our test kitchen.

Adopt short- and long-term housing strategies that could accommodate individuals and groups who need a place to contemplate, connect and collaborate. And what if those strategies included barter systems — you create something for the area; we’ll let you stay at x% reduction?

Encourage unique and intimate experiences — performances, education and connections with traveling artists, academics, naturalists. What if Bryce Jordan Center’s negotiations with major artists also incorporated an element of “pop-up” education/connection in smaller venues in the town, e.g. community sing-along with Paul McCartney?

Ensure we add the A to our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) equation by enabling cooperatives of creative thinkers to reframe well-worn topics in new ways to engender innovation.

We could be a place of retreat built for the sole purpose of recharging and surging forward.
We have a very special place. Let’s not reinvent it. Let’s focus on its strengths and deepen the experience. Rose Cameron, R Cameron Consulting

Photo by Robyn PassantePhoto by Robyn PassanteLet Everyone Create
As we start our 11th year at the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County we are excited about the new ways we can help stimulate our minds and enrich our souls through the visual arts.

In June and July, by popular demand, we will be doing another Imagination Celebration. Every gallery will offer a unique way for visitors to create and contribute to collective artworks done by everyone who wants to participate. No age limit, all are welcome to play with ideas and create. And, as always, it’s all free.

Over the last 10 years, we have come to realize our community loves to share, to welcome unique points of view, to see things differently, and to go beyond the rigorous exercise of creating artworks and soar with our imaginations together! We look forward to sharing visual messages with you! Pat House, Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County

Say Yes More
There’s a wave of positive developments all over Centre County. Whether it’s expanding manufacturing in Philipsburg, evangelizing the arts in Millheim, the urban infusion in State College or the reignited energy in Bellefonte, the future certainly looks bright in our collective backyards.
Something that I’ve truly admired over the past year is the number of people who have decided to take the ideas they’ve been mulling over and bring them to life. This seems especially true in my community, Bellefonte, where we’ve had individuals and groups pull off some amazing events during 2018. All it takes is one or two people with an idea and the determination to pull others together. The first step is simply saying, “We’re going to make this thing happen.”

Although the holidays have become a tiny twinkle behind us, I’m sharing my holiday wish list with you, because it’s for us:
I wish that we take that idea in our heads and do something with it.
I wish that we say ‘yes’ to ideas we know will make a positive impact on our community.
I wish that we have the confidence in knowing that others will join us in our pursuit — so we’re not alone.
I wish that we shake off any negativity from any naysayers and push ahead.
I wish that we ask for help without the fear of rejection. There’s always someone worth asking to contribute.
I wish that we always ask, “Why not?”
I wish that we continue to work together.
Maybe we turn these wishes into our New Year’s resolutions. Mark Dello Stritto, Loaded Creative and

Revitalize a Downtown Park
A long-term goal CRPR has is to really redefine how Sidney Friedman Park is used; the department sees this space as a true entertainment area and could be the model for community inclusion and entertainment, with a cool, artsy park vibe. Ideas percolating are an enhanced entertainment stage area, tree lighting, wi-fi, hammocks, large park swings, some park art installations and more.  Of course, this park is owned by the Borough of State College and would need their endorsement and approval, but this is a dream we have.

We’d also love to create a vibrant Art-In-The-Park program through permanent and/or rotating art installations to improve user experiences throughout our parks. Pam Salokangas, CRPR


We asked the visionaries from our 2018 piece on big ideas for our community to weigh in on any developments over the past year that have moved their dreams forward. Their updates show a lot of positive movement in the Centre Region!

The Potluck Brainstorm started by Spud and Katie Marshall brought more than 400 people together over a year of monthly potluck dinners and brainstorm sessions, each on a different theme. It was an interesting community-building initiative that arose and was essentially examples of what co-living spaces could look like around different themed interests. Spud Marshall

The building project that will include a new space for Penn State Hillel, a kosher deli and mixed-use plaza space at the old downtown Garner Street parking lot is still being shaped, but has the potential to provide a unique downtown meeting space that connects the campus and community. Ben Wideman

Trailhead took shape as a community connector and outreach initiative that gave out seven $1,000 Awesome Foundation grants to people wanting to try new ways to build community.

The Bellefonte Under the Lights dinner in September and the Winter Market during Bellefonte Victorian Christmas drew residents, food and craft vendors together along the waterfront to celebrate community and local talent.

ClearWater Conservancy announced the ClearWater Compass, a long-term vision for sustaining a resilient environment, community and economy here in the heart of Central Pennsylvania. The ClearWater Compass has set a course for how we connect, protect, restore and steward our resources for the future. Deb Nardone

BLACK SUN’s Artist Doing Art Series (aka BADASS) hosted GETEXPOSED 2 in the spring of 2018 with over 450 locals celebrating exceptional art, music, food and each other. Michael Black

A downtown space to foster artistic collaboration, innovation and a stronger community was conceived, searched for and secured by Centre Foundation in a partnership with Trailhead, whose members will help to design and host the space, on the corner of Pugh Street and Beaver Avenue.

CBICC’s Centre Ready initiative was launched, helping to prep the workforce through soft skills.

Penn State is currently in the early concept development and private fundraising phases of the first component of the proposed cultural district that will relocate several Penn State museums at The Arboretum at Penn State. On the fundraising front, we are making potential donors aware of the project in broad terms, and have begun active fundraising. We have an initial fundraising goal of $15 million for the first phase of this project; we envision multiple phases will be required to bring the overall vision to completion. William Sitzabee, AVP, Penn State Office of Physical Plant

We experienced higher than normal voter turnout in the midterm elections, especially among college students and young professionals. While they did not win, two young professionals made credible runs for legislative offices. Mark Higgins

Local nonprofits and community groups continued to grow and contribute to our quality of life. An example was Discovery Space receiving a $100,000 grant from the Centre Foundation to expand their space and offer more programming. Mark Higgins

Will Snyder’s “Wild Geese” mural, paid for in part by a $1,000 Trailhead grant, added color and creativity to downtown State College.

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