Of the three parts of the name "Origins Art Space," it wasn't, ironically, the origins or the art that came first, but the space. One might say the space was the origin of the art.
"Spencer [Sweeting] and I - we're involved in the City Alliance Church," Lycoming College senior and director of the gallery Joshua Troxler said. "And Tracy Ferrell [the owner of For Men Only] goes to Greenview Alliance Church in Montoursville, where Spencer holds a small position. Ferrell said that she wanted to give something to our church plant [at City Alliance Church]."
That something was a storage room at 300 Government Place, next to For Men Only, that the two could use for whatever church purposes they wished.
"Spencer called me up and said, 'We got this space and we don't know what to do with it.' " Troxler said. "I thought, 'Instead of using it for bible studies or something like that, what do you think about turning it into an art gallery?' "
Once the idea was had, the plans for exhibitions came fast.
"I came up with the concepts for the first, second, third and fourth show," Troxler said. "Then I said, 'We have a plan and I can start making contacts.' "
And although the duo knew they wanted the art gallery to be faith-based, they knew that they didn't want it to be religion-based and they didn't want it to be exclusive.
"I said I want to get some voices in here that are not Christian," Troxler said. " I want to open this space up to artists of all different kinds and have conversations. If we were a religion-based gallery 100 percent, we would only have religious artists and that would cut us off from the community. That would put a sign on our door that said, 'Christians Only.' That's not what Spencer or I feel like we're called to do."
The first show that the gallery organized opened in July and was called "Old Glory." It featured mostly original artwork by 13 local artists and was a success, according to Troxler.
"Between the first show and this show [the second exhibition, which was on display at the time of the interview], we've had probably close to 300 people combined for both First Fridays," he said. "We've had people from churches and not from churches coming in and staying for a good 30 to 45 minutes .... we're really thrilled."
The first exhibition moved on to Avenue 209, 209 Bellefonte Ave., Lock Haven, Origins Art Space's partner-in-art, where the second exhibition, "Old and New" is going now that it's over.
"We've made a partnership with Avenue 209, which is a church plant as well," Troxler said. "The owner, Josh Grimes, he's actually the pastor of the church there [The Common Place.]"
(For clarification, a "church plant," from what I understand, is a fledgling church group that is nurtured by an established church until it is ready to be independent.)
"Old and New" featured work by 24 graphic designers from "all around the world."
"It's a collective that came together from two men - Troy De Shano and Jim LePage," Troxler said. "They have the same stance Spencer and I do - they don't think church art is very good and they think that there are really great contemporary artists that have the potential to do great work with religious themes."
Troxler and Sweeting raised money to produce the prints of the works through private donations.
"This is a nonprofit space," Troxler said. "We didn't have the money to print the pieces ... but some friends of ours helped us out."
The new show, "Fall/Rebirth," will open at 5 p.m. Friday as a part of the First Friday festivities and will feature mostly word-based art, which Troxler said has been a big draw so far.
"We're excited to have writing back again," he said. "[This show] is going to put a stronger emphasis on writing, which keeps people in the space. I've seen so many people walk by the works and they're really into the text."
The show will feature 10 local artists - five of whom will exhibit artworks that deal with the fall of David and the fall of man and five of whom will handle the rebirth after the fall. The exhibition will include an abstract poem installation by Ty Russell and a hand-written letter by Steve McQue.
Troxler has plans for an exhibit in February that asks area artists to use only "invented" colors (mixed colors, not colors directly from the tube) to render their interpretation of the beginning of the world. He also hopes to eventually have bands perform on the portable stage they have set up in the space.
But however it is used, ultimately, Troxler will be happy if the space just keeps sparking good conversations about God.
"Our goal is to start conversations with whomever walks in the door from whatever religious background," he said. "We have some atheists who create work for the gallery and I've been in some great conversations with them. Our No. 1 rule is just, 'respect the text.' You may not agree with it, but respect it and we can have a healthy conversation about it."
For more information about Origins Art Space, visit originsart.org or find the group on Facebook by searching "Origins Art Space."
Artgoers should enter the gallery through the alleyway entrance from West Third Street, next to For Men Only, 230 W. Third St., instead of the 300 Government Place entrance.