The Exchange invites artists from throughout our community to beautify eight picnic tables that will come to downtown Bloomsburg as part of an effort to revitalize the area during the COVID-19 crisis. We will provide paying work for artists, whose outlets have decreased drastically (galleries closed, outdoor festivals canceled), and the project will support local businesses and enhance our downtown.

We seek interesting and inspiring work, and of course 100% family-friendly. The Exchange’s Gallery committee and the Town Park Improvement Association will choose the successful proposals for this round of artwork; we look forward to having too many and figuring out how we can fund future artwork elsewhere in Bloomsburg and beyond. We will not make financial need the prime factor when choosing participating artists, but we do ask artists to give us some sense of how the current crisis has affected their lives so it can enter into our consideration; we will treat your responses with strict confidentiality.

We ask for fairly detailed plans for the artwork on the tops and (if the artist wishes) seats of the picnic tables – each one approximately eight feet long and four feet wide across the top (sizes vary). You may submit drawings, altered photos, or in any other medium. Please submit a letter of interest and your jpgs to [email protected] We have no fixed deadline, but we will start making choices as soon as we have the first five entries in hand.

We have budgeted $340 (three hundred and forty dollars) per table – $100 for materials (including primer and polyurethane topcoat, which we will supply) and $240 to pay each artist, or twelve hours at the local median wage of $20 per hour.

We do not need to get all of the tables finished right away; by documenting each table’s transformation through photographs and video, and sharing those stories on the Web, we can build excitement about the artwork and downtown Bloomsburg as a destination, with something new to see on each visit over a period of weeks.

Town Council approved four locations for these tables, including on the Square surrounding the Fountain; in front of the Diner; and in the Pine Avenue parking lot near Brennan’s Big Chill and Rose Marie’s. The Town Park Improvement Association has offered the use of eight of its tables, which the Town’s Public Works crew will move from the Park to the downtown.

This project takes inspiration from the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, when the federal government hired artists of all kinds; Bloomsburg benefited directly from this program, with the bas-relief carved-wood sculpture in the post office as the WPA’s enduring legacy here. Across the U.S., COVID-19 has had a dramatic and terrible effect on artists; we have seen it here with the Exchange Gallery, Artspace, and the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble all closed, sales at zero, and employees laid off. Giving even a few visual artists the opportunity to earn money from their artwork during this crisis tells the community that we remain committed to the arts and that the arts remain central to our lives in a healthy society.

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