State College Magazine


Rick Bryant, the recently retired executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts™, is detail oriented and tidy.

When his parents bought a colonial house near Stormstown that had been built in 1792 by an early settler, John. L. Gray, Bryant looked up the house’s history. Eventually he got a degree in architectural history from the University of Virginia and now he goes on architectural vacations. When he joined the State College Jaycees and volunteered to pick up trash at the Arts Festival, he was showing his tidy side.

“There are a lot of things I can’t do,” he quips, “but I’m pretty tidy.” A volunteer for 20 years, Bryant formally joined the Arts Festival staff in 1999 as the director of visual arts and became executive director in 2005. He’s also responsible for the overall management of First Night State College.

In his final appeal letter, he notes “that the most difficult thing about managing the festival is paying for it.” In an interview, he reminisced about the early days of the festival when “we were a town of mom and pop stores” that chipped in to make the arts festival successful.

The artists have changed, too. Today there are “way more artists with gray hair than brown hair.” Young artists can sell on Etsy or on their own websites. “They don’t want to schlep their tents around to five arts festival in the summer,” Bryant says.

Another change he’s seen over the years is a greater need for security. In the early days the festival could block off streets with sawhorses; today concrete barricades are required.

As for vacations, Bryant will be going to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico in March. He’s already admired the architecture of another colonial Mexican city, Oaxaca. He notes that when he went to Illinois, he made it a point to tour the Edith Farnsworth House, designed and constructed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. A wedding in Massachusetts resulted in a side trip to the home of Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius.

And wherever he goes, he promises to be tidy.

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