SHAPE Gallery, known as Shippensburg Arts Programming and Education, is a gallery situated in downtown Shippensburg. Known for its extensive gallery exhibitions and art education, SHAPE has been a part of the local community for over 20 years.
Its newest exhibit, “Alfresco: Open Air Photography,” made its debut on Jan. 14 and will be showing through Feb. 18.
Featuring a wide range of photographers, Alfresco puts a lens around the real world and, as the name implies, the outdoors. The display features works from urban sprawls to the rural backwoods. All the photographers are from different backgrounds from experienced professionals using high-tech cameras to beginners using smartphones.
“We don’t hand pick artwork… we don’t judge at all,” Joshua Rosetta, a SHAPE Art chairman, said. Since 2010, Rosetta has worked alongside dozens of artists who have come to SHAPE to learn and exhibit their works. Rosetta and Tonya Sheaffer, an associate at the gallery, spoke highly of the SHAPE art program and its educational aspects.
“Here at SHAPE, if anybody has an idea — even if it’s crap — we encourage others to try it out,” Rosetta said. Shippensburg, like many small towns in the area, has a hard time being introduced to new artwork.
“It’s different when you go to D.C. or Pittsburgh or Philly or New York. You don’t have labels. When you have students grow up around areas where art isn’t as prominent, expression isn’t always looked at,” he explained.
SHAPE has been one of the leading organizations fighting to rejuvenate art in the area. SHAPE offers a host of outreach resources like summer camps, art classes, live demonstrations and art auctions. For young artists who are starting out or those who want to continue to hone their skills, the program works to fund art supplies to support students.
The gallery itself offers an advantage as well; submitting artwork is free and has no additional requirements for entry. Matt Hathaway, a Shippensburg University senior has never shown his work at SHAPE before. His works are now on display in “Alfresco.”
“Really when I planned this show, I had (Hathaway) in mind,” Sheaffer said. Young art students pose some of the best potential to bring art culture in town.
“The underground art world, even here, is very unique,” Rosetta explained.
SHAPE has continued to highlight the uniqueness and individuality that some students’ artwork brings to their door.
“It’s not always about what you can hang on the walls… it’s not always about the same mediums like photography or oils,” Rosetta said. “Sometimes it’s something completely unique. When we have art that’s completely different — that’s what some people grab for, which is why we try to get people from different cultures so people in this area can get exposed to these different forms.”
SHAPE has worked over the years to make the gallery a melting pot of different works and ideas. One of the most noteworthy was an exhibit it did in Octotber 2019, dubbed “Creature Feature: A Dark Art Exhibition,” which featured more surreal and macabre artwork than what would usually be seen in a gallery.
Some of its exhibit ideas for the 2022 year include a woodworking-themed exhibit, a naturalistic-themed exhibit and an environmental impact exhibit. In all these exhibits, SHAPE is determined to get SU students more involved.
“We really want to team up with the university to help students get a real-world experience with art… art is so unique to the individual, and the advantage is now to get your work out there,” Rosetta said. “It’s the perfect time for students to get their name out there. Really try to make those connections.”
For more information about SHAPE programs or to become a member, visit the SHAPE website at shapeart.org.
The information is also available through SHAPE’s Facebook page @ShapeArt for more details.