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More Than Landscapes on the Pennsylvania Arts Experience Trails

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

WHY: Artists in action, salvaged treasures and drive-by galleries.

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HOW FAR: About 23 miles from start to finish, and 90 miles from Washington.

Take your creative drive out for a spin on the Pennsylvania Arts Experience trails.

Next Sunday, the nonprofit arts group will open the Pennsylvania Arts Experience Orientation Center, a starting point for a trio of trails paved with oil paint, blown glass, quilts, ironwork and other materials. Featuring more than 60 museums, studios and galleries, the cultural corridor encompasses the Lower Susquehanna River Valley, Brandywine and the Delaware River Valley. It's Monet territory, without the accent.

The area closest to Washington is the Susquehanna River Valley, which meanders around the hills, dips and farms of York and Lancaster. The birthplace of painter Charles Demuth, progenitor of American modernism, was also the muse for a collection of realist landscape painters who rivaled the 19th-century Hudson River School painters to the north. Today, the agrarian region is home to dozens of contemporary artists such as York loom-inary Phyllis Koster, who weaves pastoral scenes with a traditional shuttle and hand-dyed yarn, and Lancaster painter Mark Workman, whose landscapes fetch upward of $20,000 in galleries across the country.

"When you put it all together, there's an amazing range and collection of American arts history here," said realist painter Rob Evans, who maintains a studio at his grandparents' farm overlooking the Susquehanna and has had his work shown at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. "Contemporary artists have settled here because of the privacy of the country and the proximity to urban arts centers in Washington, Philadelphia and New York."

The privacy, however, does not extend to the artists, who gladly open their doors to travelers to watch them create and witness the final product.

--Ben Chapman

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