Arts festivals across the country often advertise themselves with collectible posters. Some festivals hire an advertising agency to design their poster. Others commission the prior year’s Best of Show winner to do an illustration for their poster. The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts does things a bit differently.
Our posters are unusual in that they’re the work of one man. For more than 40 years Lanny Sommese, distinguished professor emeritus of visual arts in Penn State’s Stuckeman School of Visual Arts, has designed the Festival’s poster. Although Sommese retired from Penn State in the spring of 2014, he has no plans to retire from designing the Festival’s annual poster.
For the third year, Lanny designed the poster with a partner: his daughter Saige. Saige is a 2018 graduate of Penn State’s graphic design program and is the co-founder and creative director for Golden Creative, in Denver. Graphic design is the family business–Saige’s mother, Kristin Sommese, also taught design at Penn State.
Most of the images found in the typical festival poster—the Festival jester, references to art, music, and theatre, are missing from the 2020 poster, reflecting the shift of the 2020 Festival to an online event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the image is a simple sunrise–recalling the optimism of a new day– rising over a stylized Happy Valley landscape. Rather than referring to “Downtown State College and the Penn State campus” the poster’s text says “Happening Wherever You Are”.
The 2020 poster is sponsored by Penn State Health.
See also Festival Posters Tell Stories Too.
A full set of Sommese’s Arts Festival posters is on display in the HUB-Robeson Center on Penn State’s University Park campus.