Festival Banner (the Arts Festival blog)

Mayor Goreham and President Barron
Mayor Elizabeth Goreham and President Eric Barron take a selfie with Downtown Eugene Brown

It must be dreadful to be a college president. On a good day you get to deal with alumni upset that you haven’t fired an athletic coach who’s not having a good year; you spend time kowtowing to legislators who think you heat college buildings by burning money, and you listen to parents upset that there isn’t a better selection of kale dishes in your dining halls. And then there are the not so good days…

Serving as the mayor of a small town can’t be much better. There would be lots of times spent in meetings about zoning, a topic that cures the worst case of insomnia. You’d also listen to folks to complain about parking, and snow removal, and of course, everyone’s favorite topic, taxes. A couple of times a month, you’d have a town council meeting—televised live on public access TV. I don’t know about you, but that’s not my idea of fun.

State College’s two big kahunas, Penn State President Eric Barron, Ph.D., and State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham seem to be holding up well under the pressure of their jobs. President Barron has served Dear Old State since May 2014 while Mayor Goreham is an old pro, having taken office in January 2010. Both have ready smiles and firm handshakes, and are up for a bit of ridiculousness when their jobs demand it.

For years, our Official Program Guide featured the standard welcome letters from the president and the mayor on official looking stationery accompanied by out of date head shots. In the past few years, we’ve photographed our local grandees in a way to promote something interesting about that year’s Festival. Last year we shot them gazing out over Jo Hays Vista to promote our NEA sponsored events called Seeing America. Other presidents and mayors have posed at easels, with musical instruments, even as characters in silent movies. I like to think of it as the equivalent of the Presidential pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey: slightly ludicrous, but in good fun, and a sure way to get lots of free publicity.

Yesterday Barash Media staff photographer Darren Weimert took the photo to promote the 2015 Festival. President Barron and Mayor Goreham posed as they took a selfie with Downtown Eugene Brown, the sculpture that the Festival commissioned on behalf of the Centre Area Transportation Authority and Schlow Centre Region Library. Installed last fall, this work by sculptor Gavin Gardner depicts a life-sized figure of a standing senior citizen waiting for the bus at the Beaver Avenue stop. He has a copy of Dickens’ novel Great Expectations in his pocket as he reads a tablet computer while listening to headphones. Not long after its installation, the sculpture took up tweeting as @DTEugeneBrown.

Mayor Goreham and President Barron
Festival volunteer Brad Fey takes his own selfie while Mayor Goreham and President Barron pose with Eugene.

During the photoshoot, Festival volunteer Brad Fey–the dynamo behind the Fest Zero recycling effort–walked by and decided to get in on the action. He showed the Mayor and President how to take a selfie the old fashioned way–before the adoption way back in 2014–of the selfie stick. The Mayor and the President were good sports with Brad and waved at the small crowd that gathered across Beaver Avenue to watch the action. As you might expect of a life-sized bronze sculpture, Eugene was completely nonplussed by the hullabaloo.

President Barron and Mayor Goreham graciously did their part to help us promote the Festival and the idea of engaging with art. It’s something all of us can do—even on the 360 days when we’re not celebrating the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.