There's no denying that Williams-port's art scene is growing at an exponential rate; gallery shows that bring in a multitude of artists, well-attended First Friday events, the artisan community that is the Pajama Factory, and much more, have all been coming together to help the art scene flourish.
But what also is aiding Williamsport's artistic prosperity is the presence of a kind of alliance between local establishments.
The connection between art and dining is a historic one, so it certainly comes as no surprise that 3 Gringos, Williamsport's newest restaurant, would seek out vibrant decor to enhance their customers' ever-important dining experience.
Many restaurants, even fast-food joints, generally always have some sort of artwork hanging. Perhaps it's noticed, though a lot of times, arguably, it isn't.
For 3 Gringos, 343 Pine St., in Pine Square next to The Brickyard, their newly acquired artwork is not in the boat of going unnoticed.
3 Gringos is a Cal-Mex-style restaurant; they like to call it "Tex-Mex's free-spirited surfer cousin. Like Bodhi from 'Point Break,' but with just the right amount of cheese."
Naturally, the vision for the owners' new restaurant encompassed themes from Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead - a popular Mexican holiday that celebrates death.
Despite its morbid focus, Day of the Dead has a distinct and beautiful artistic style. Much of it is vibrant with swirling patterns, and emanates an idiosyncratic ambiance that is both pleasant and mischievous. Its "mascot," so to speak, is a caricature of a human skull.
3 Gringo's helps facilitate that pleasant and mischievous atmosphere through carefully chosen art and decor that was purchased recently through Converge Gallery. The selected artwork chosen, though not exactly the Dia De Los Muertos "cartoonish" style, owner David Hertwig calls a contemporary spin on the Day of the Dead theme.
"We are doing a Cal-Mex restaurant, which the basis of that type of food is Mexican. One of their major holidays is Day of the Dead, which is where we were kind of going but also contemporary. We kind of took a little spin on it," he said.
A restaurant bought some art, but so what? What makes this transaction important and symbolic is its devotion to staying local.
"We try to do 99 percent of what we can do locally as long as it's not totally cost-prohibitive," Hertwig said.
Most everything at 3 Gringos, right down to the metal beams in the building, come from local ties.
"It's something I learned a long time ago if you spend your money - if you spend a dollar, at a local place, like three times as much of that money stays here."
"Spend your money at a chain, where 90 percent of the profits go down to Florida or wherever, nobody sees it," he explained.
"If I buy from a local artist, he pays his rent to a local person, and so on ... you know, it just works. We live in this community, and it's our choice whether or not to make it better or worse."
Hertwig and his partners choose to make it better by buying locally to support the community as a whole. Converge Gallery owner, Casey Gleghorn expressed his gratitude for 3 Gringo's support.
"We at Converge Gallery are very excited, this is the first privately owned business to invest in this amount of art. It confirms for us, as a contemporary art gallery, that we are going in the right direction," Gleghorn said.
3 Gringos purchased art from a total of five artists, two of whom are from the area.
A set of dark, gritty works, nine all together, came from Chad Andrews of Williamsport.
"The Three truck prints, the estes prints, were a personal project; they took 13 years. They are near and dear to my heart. The skull prints and plates were a collaborative effort with Christopher Leete - (we) worked on them at the studio at the Pajama Factory and were designed to be kind of the Day of the Dead imagery. That's how Casey linked it all together with 3 Gringos," Andrews said.
Three of his skull plates hang high above the liquor shelves behind the bar, overlooking customers.
"The place feels fantastic, I feel thrilled to be shown with these guys. 3 Gringos has a good vibe. It's setting precedent for other restaurants to have good, solid, original fine art. It says something about the city," Andrews said.
Goings is from Clinton, N.J. His works were a last minute purchase for the restaurant; his pieces are similar to baseball cards but are a homage to the artist Marcel Duchamp.
Jennifer Gunlock of Los Angeles, Calif., was an artist-in-residence at the Pajama Factory in 2010. 3 Gringos purchased a large door-piece.
" 'Ground Control' is a collage-drawing on a found door that is suspended on the top by a chain. I made it on-site at Converge Gallery a year ago when I was preparing for my solo show. We pulled the glass-paned door up from the Converge basement, dusted it off, then I spent the next two and a half weeks in a studio upstairs working on the piece," she said.
She believes it's vital that art exist in any and all places, outside of galleries and museums, so that it is accessible to everyone.
"Art can startle one out of his busy little head and busy little drama for just a brief minute, and shift the mind into an altered state of thinking," she said.
An employee himself at the Converge Gallery and 2013 graduate of Lycoming College, Kasey Lyon was actually commissioned by the restaurant to make a portion of the artwork that was purchased from him.
"The pieces of mine that were purchased are any of the metal sculptures that you see in the restaurant. There are two commissions as well as three other separate works," he said.
Having seen his work on display at 3 Gringos, he's happy with the outcome.
"I have seen the pieces on display and I love the way all of the work fits. Four very different artists with completely different styles and mediums, yet in the setting they're in, they really mesh well," Lyon said.
Out of the group of artists, Johnny Romeo, of Sydney, Australia, is the most distinguished in his artistic career, having had countless exhibitions, reviews in major publications, television appearances and more.
His work is very much pop art, with extremely vibrant colors and "comic book aesthetics." He recently completed a collaborative work with pop-punk band Blink-182.
"Pennsylvania has a very rich history and to be able to show my work there is both an honour and very exciting for me," Romeo said.
"The gallery has recently sold out of my works and I am thrilled that my work has been so well received in Williamsport," he added.
Having contacted Romeo more than a year ago, Casey Gleghorn made sure to get Romeo to show at Converge. After meeting Romeo in Chelsea, N.Y., they discussed plans for the future show.
"Casey Gleghorn is a very passionate art dealer who is very innovative and progressive in his dealings. I knew instantly I wanted to be a part of that. He has a global plan for Williamsport and his enthusiasm and energy for art in his gallery and city is contagious. For me, not being from Williamsport made it all the more important to want to show there," he said.
Ultimately, the art comes together in a cohesive way that customers are noticing and enjoying.
"Art and food go together very well, they compliment each other, they are one in the same, it's just a different way of expression. Different places call for different types," Hertwig said.
3 Gringos is going to be a set theme but left a lot of open space to keep adding more. All the while, Williamsport's art scene continues to grow.