Small Town, Big Culture

Photography by Jadrian Klinger

Home to the Eclectic, Thought-Provoking, Less Traditional and Progressive

On Main Street, right next door to Ritters Hardware, Metropolis Collective shines as a beacon for cutting-edge art on the West Shore and throughout the midstate.  With a contemporary fine-art gallery, a live performance space and a clowder of resident art-appreciating cats, Metropolis Collective’s mission is “to bring eclectic, thought-provoking artwork with a higher standard” to the region.

“We pride ourselves on presenting art, music and film that is not typically found in Central Pa.,” states Metropolis Collective owner Richard Reilly

“The Metropolis Collective is a big-city gallery in a small town,” adds Hannah Dobek, gallery manager.  “We try to give a space for artists that are looking to be a part of something less traditional and more progressive.  Our roster is growing, with the bulk of it being local artists, ranging from self-taught and emerging to established and well-known.”

Why is art important to Mechanicsburg?

Dobek:  Community.  People are wired to believe in something, and to connect with each other, somehow.  Art is mysterious and comes from a spiritual place.  We are all aware of things that we can’t give voice to – artists attempt, and hopefully, capture that voice.  I have seen strange connections forged over the creative energy in this building.  It’s awesome.  People get hooked and bring others.  It’s simple community.

Reilly:  Art is important everywhere.  Culture is part of the human condition and helps us define who we are.  That said, places like Mechanicsburg in particular can benefit from a thriving art scene.  It is a beautiful, small town.

What is Mechanicsburg’s greatest art-scene feature?

Reilly:  The passion and sacrifice of the people attempting to bring art to Mechanicsburg.  The beauty of some of the architecture, the cool little alleys – there are so many interesting things to look at and explore here.

Dobek:  Its potential. We have started a “Sunday Blues Club” on Sunday afternoons at Metropolis, with live music, artwork and video, and the response has been great.  I think people may resort to beer and football out of resignation.  We are here to challenge resignation and get people involved, tapping into the creative force that a lot of them have lost touch with.  We have several galleries here in our lovely downtown, all different, and we feel we complete the circle.

What is the greatest challenge for the art scene in Mechanicsburg?

Dobek:  Bringing in the right patrons, getting others to see the ridiculous potential here.  The people of this town should realize the possibility around them, to be excited and to not be threatened by it and to recognize that true art of any kind brings people together.  That is a hopeful thing, not something to be afraid of.  And I honestly believe that will happen. Art makes me believe in things.

What does the future hold for art in Mechanicsburg?

Reilly:  I firmly believe that if the art scene is nurtured, then Mechanicsburg will become a thriving and influential art destination and haven for artists.

What’s next for Metropolis Collective?

Reilly:  We have many irons in the fire.  We are building a schedule for a Sunday afternoon series of musical, spoken-word and multimedia events as well as planning some very exciting exhibitions in upcoming months.  Our March show [Friday, March 7] promises to be the most ambitious show we have ever done.  It is titled Of Carnivals and Kings and encompasses artwork and performances relating to all things circus, carnival and sideshow.

Metropolis Collective

17 West Main Street

(717) 458-8245 |


Produced, Recorded, Mixed and Mastered

Music is not just performed in Mechanicsburg; it’s also produced, recorded, mixed and mastered at Full Tilt Productions on Gale Street.  Full Tilt owner, operator, audio engineer and producer Jason Shaffer works with just about every type of local or national musician in a variety of genres.

“I don’t have just one niche of music I work with,” Shaffer explains.  “I have the experience and know-how to make any rock, country, heavy metal or rap album come alive, and I also work with tons of singer-songwriters doing anything from folk or pop to rock or R&B.  …Because each project is so different, I aim to make each artist feel comfortable and give them the sound they are looking for.  I really dig into what each individual artist is going after and make that vision happen.”

What do you think of the music scene in Mechanicsburg – vibrant or still growing?

Shaffer:  I think the Mechanicsburg music scene has some really cool things going on, and there are some really good unique artists out there.  I work with many talented artists that are local, so they are out there.  But it could still use some growth just as far as being more open to having original bands or artists playing at venues and finding a place that supports more of that.

What’s the best feature of Mechanicsburg’s music scene?

Shaffer:  I think one of the best features is that it’s a tight-knit family.  I see tons of bands helping other bands out, doing shows together or guest-ing on each other’s albums.  Also The Perfect 5th is a great way to mingle with some talented musicians and make connections that you may have otherwise not met.  I also have a lot of out-of-town clients doing projects that need the help of studio musicians that I call in from my roster of people, and I’d say a big percentage of them are local to Mechanicsburg.  It’s a good feeling to know that, on any given night, three or four bands I’ve worked with are playing on the same night in places like Snappers, G-Man or Johnny Joe’s.

What are you working on now, and what’s coming up at Full Tilt?

Shaffer:  Right now, I am working with an artist named Camela Widad Kraemer, who is a singer-songwriter.  We have been recording basic drum and upright bass tracks and will be jumping into the rest of the tracking very soon.  Also the Colt Wilbur Band – I did an EP for them last year, and they plan on doing a full album this year. Colt is a great country singer and songwriter – these guys really take the music back to what country music is about.  Hot Jam Factory is another band I will be seeing a lot of very soon.  These guys are great and are always pushing the boundaries with their music.  They released an album at the end of 2013 and will be back in shortly to start on their next one.  The band Take 147 also just started production on their first album and will really be diving into that this month.

Full Tilt Productions | 200 Gale Street | (717) 648-0633 |


Upon a Living Canvas

On Main Street, right next to Hershey Violins, there is a gallery where art isn’t merely shown and displayed in the traditional sense.  It is a different kind of gallery where art is created in-house upon canvases of arms, shoulders, legs and backs, among other human locales.  As a worker-owned and collectively managed custom tattoo studio and art gallery, Black Thorn Gallery primarily produces fine art that becomes a permanent physical part of those who commission the work.

“We try our best to service everyone’s tattoo needs and cover a large range of styles,” says Landon Lewis, co-owner of Black Thorn Gallery.  “Aesthetically, it’s also a really unique looking shop with tons of stuff to look at.”

What do you think of the art scene in Mechanicsburg – vibrant or still growing?

Lewis:  The art scene seems to be growing.  There are several galleries downtown, and Metropolis is bringing some really cool stuff to the area.

Why is art important to Mechanicsburg?

Lewis:  Mechanicsburg has always had a history of having cool things happening.  When B-Sides was around, they sold punk and underground records, and there have always been art galleries.  It seems like there’s something that wants to happen.  What is Mechanicsburg’s greatest art-scene feature? Probably Metropolis.  We’ve taken a step back from doing a lot of art shows, and they’re trying to bring some good stuff to the area.

What’s coming up for Black Thorn?

Lewis:  We’ll just be trucking along doing sweet tattoos.  We do Sailor Jerry Day every year in October – half-priced tattoos from noon until midnight. Other than that, just keep checking the website and our Facebook.

Black Thorn Gallery|13 West Main Street
(717) 795-8512 |

Creating Musicians

Learning the art of music and honing young as well as not-so-young talent is what The Perfect 5th Musical Arts Center is all about.  Located on the Carlisle Pike, The Perfect 5th offers a modern music-education facility for over 300 students, with 20 teachers leading private lessons, group classes, master classes, ensembles, workshops and summer camps on everything from voice, guitar and theory to drums, piano and the business side of music.

“Our tagline, ‘Central Pa.’s Resource for Music Education,’ is something we take very seriously as we work to ensure that our students achieve their musical goals,” states Terry Selders, operations manager/music business instructor for The Perfect 5th.

At The Perfect 5th, Selders – along with Eric Wirsing, executive director/guitar instructor – strives to impart more than just musical skills to students.  “I hope we can have an impact on generations to come – not just on the musical abilities of our students, but on life skills and overall well-being,” says Selders.  “It often happens that musicians say they support each other, but that changes when one becomes more successful.  It is our hope that through the nurturing environment here, future musicians will truly support each other and the local scene for the betterment of everyone.”

What do you think of the music scene in Mechanicsburg – vibrant or still growing?

Selders:  Definitely still growing.  We really only have two clubs – Buck Wild’s (country) and Johnny Joe’s (heavy rock).  If you play originals or other styles of music, you are mostly out of luck.  However, it is interesting to see how musicians are utilizing “nontraditional” venues, such as local art galleries, churches and even Wegmans.

Why is music important to Mechanicsburg?

Selders:  Music is a part of any area that is thriving.  We don’t want to just survive, we want to thrive.  Mechanicsburg has so much to offer to those who live and work here, but music sets the tone and feeds the soul.  There’s also an impact on the economy.  While most of our students come from the surrounding communities, more and more people are traveling from further away to get here for lessons and activities.  Those people then eat and shop here.  Also, our student bands are available to perform at local businesses, providing a unique and compelling added attraction for their special events.

What is Mechanicsburg’s best music-scene feature?

Selders:  Jubilee Day™, of course, is the big event, and they do a great job with two stages going all day, featuring local, regional and sometimes national acts, but that’s only once a year.  Having a cool record store in the middle of town (RecordSmith) is great, too.  Now I may be biased, but I truly believe that The Perfect 5th is emerging as the coolest place to be for music in Mechanicsburg.  The students, the teachers, the overall vibe – it’s just incredible.  And we offer a number of activities that are free and open to the public, such as our monthly open mic nights and various jam sessions.  We’re also hoping to have more concerts and other music events here this year.  It just keeps growing!

What’s coming up at The Perfect 5th?

Selders:  In February, we have classes starting for guitar, piano, ukulele and music theory.  Our monthly open mic night will be on the 26th.  Summer Camps will also be announced by the end of the month.  March will be very active with workshops for guitar and banjo, classes for vocals and acoustic guitar, a new class for children ages 4 to 7 called “Wee Sing,” a new themed rock band class focusing on British Invasion groups and our open house on the 16th that includes performances by students and teachers and ends with a jazz jam session.

The Perfect 5th Musical Arts Center | 6240 Carlisle Pike, Mechanicsburg

(717) 691-9100|

Art on Main Street

Housed in a former bank on Main Street, Brath and Hughes Fine Art is a retail gallery that features the original artwork of some 50 different artists.  Owned and operated by Mary Beth Brath and Brownyn Hughes, the aptly named gallery has been open since late 2011.

What do you think of the art scene in Mechanicsburg – vibrant or still growing?

Brath:  The Mechanicsburg area has been nurturing artists for decades.  The Mechanicsburg Art Center started in 1954 and continues to enable artists to hone their skills and exhibit their work.  The downtown business district has enjoyed large art galleries for over 10 years.  Currently there are three large galleries within walking distance – 2nd Floor Gallery, Metropolis Collective and Brath and Hughes Fine Art.  Many businesses such as Warm Hearts Café, RecordSmith, Snappers and all three art galleries offer live music throughout the month. Trez Music, Hershey Violins and Market Street Music are all located in the downtown business district.  The Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg offers various stage productions.  The Mechanicsburg Museum Association and the Simpson Library also contribute to the art scene.

Why is art important to Mechanicsburg?

 Brath:  Art is important in every community. The act of creating and viewing art springs forth new ideas.  Art helps us communicate with one another.  Exhibiting the work of our school students is edifying for the pupil, the teacher and the parent.  A strong art scene can also bring commerce into the area.

What do you predict for the future growth of art in Mechanicsburg?

 Brath:  With the support of the community and passion of the business owners, downtown Mechanicsburg will flourish.

What’s coming soon at Brath and Hughes?

Brath:  In addition to our regular business hours, we have exhibit openings and demonstrations every first Friday of the month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.  All other Fridays, from May through August, we have live “music night.”  For a list of events, go to our website.

Brath and Hughes Fine Art  |  41 West Main Street

(717) 691-1333 |


60 Years of Mechanicsburg Art History

The Art Center School and Galleries originally began as an art club formed in 1954.  Nearly two decades later, in 1971, the club purchased and renovated an old barn located just a couple miles outside of downtown Mechanicsburg.  Today, The Art Center features three galleries and six classrooms and offers year-round art instruction, workshops, lectures and exhibits.  Led by Executive Director Jeannine Swartz, The Art Center provides instruction in painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery, glassblowing, jewelry design, pastel and photography for just about every artist, from pre-school kids to adults.  As a nonprofit, The Art Center’s mission is to “encourage excellence in the creation and appreciation of visual arts in South Central Pennsylvania.”

Why is art important to Mechanicsburg?

Swartz:  Art is an important part of enriching our lives.  It is nice having a group of galleries in Mechanicsburg, each providing a unique experience, but all working to build a greater appreciation for the visual arts.

What is the greatest feature of Mechanicsburg’s art scene?

Swartz:  Variety.  Whether you are interested in purchasing art or looking to create your own, Mechanicsburg has a venue for you. And The Art Center makes a great anchor for the arts community simply because of its longevity; being a constant and ongoing presence in Mechanicsburg.

What is the greatest challenge to Mechanicsburg’s art scene?

Swartz: Spreading the word that Mechanicsburg has great galleries and a full-service visual arts center all within a short drive.

What’s coming up for The Arts Center?

Swartz: Our Champagne and Chocolate Reception for our “Small Works of Art” exhibit on Saturday, February 15, 5 to 7 p.m.  Also, lots of fun workshops – no experience needed!  See our winter course catalog at

The Art Center School and Galleries

18 Artcraft Drive

(717) 697-2072 |


The Magic of the Little Theatre

Within what was once the one-room Kohlertown School House, originally built in 1863, The Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg (LTM) is the home of live theatre in Mechanicsburg.  Inside the intimate, 64-seat theatre, local actors and actresses light up the stage with performances of well-known dramas, comedies and musicals.

“Our organization started as a group of play enthusiasts in the late 1940s; meeting at Mechanicsburg Junior High School,” explains Duane Baker, president of LTM.  “The group incorporated as Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg in 1950.  The building was purchased in 1964 for $10 and converted over the years into The Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg as it is known today.”

Kathie Spacht, vice president of LTM, adds, “We offer a season of laughter and tears and the ability for our community to come together.  We open-cast for all shows and often cast new first-time-auditioning actors who stay to become lifetime members of our family at LTM.  Come and spend an evening with us and leave with the magic of our ‘little’ theatre in your heart.”

What do you think of the live-theatre scene in Mechanicsburg – vibrant or still growing?

Spacht:  Speaking for LTM, in the past few years, we have been looking at bringing some new (to the neighborhood) ideas forward and exposing our audiences to shows that are a little more on the edge.  So, we truly find our theatre in a growth spurt.  To our delight, most everything has been received quite well by our community.  Overall, we have seen a small growth in the arts in general in our lovely community.  We are encouraged by the love of the arts and the continued support of the arts in general.  We would all truly support an increase in the vibrancy of theatre.  With less disposable income in our economy, we have been able to maintain our patron-ship.  As with any sustainable business, the support of the community is the foundation of its success.

Why is live theatre important to Mechanicsburg?

Spacht:  We are looking for a way to relieve our stresses or just add a little laughter to our lives.  An evening away from our daily lives filled with laughter or sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for the next twist or turn of the plot is a nice escape.  The theatre is close to everything in Mechanicsburg.  It’s all about you and an evening or afternoon out with friends, your spouse, significant other, family or even just time for yourself.  You can literally reach out and touch our stage and our actors.  We don’t recommend that during live performances, but it’s a lively experience, and some shows do lend themselves to being audience interactive.  At the end of your evening at LTM, as you drive away, you can’t help but think to yourself, “Wow, that was the closest I have ever been to being on stage.”  We offer our children’s programs to open the doors of theatre to the little ones by offering them the chance to learn about theatre from the auditioning process, to building a set, to making costumes, to starring in a show.  We don’t just “put on a show”; we build friendships that last a lifetime.  Why is that important to Mechanicsburg?  Because it is all minutes away from your front door!

What is the greatest challenge for the live-theatre scene in Mechanicsburg?

Baker:  Until recently, in part, it was trying to get newer things out to the public on our stage. We have crossed that line and plan to continue.

Spacht:  One thing that always is a challenge is money.  We rely heavily on ticket revenue, but even more on generous donations from our audiences and local businesses who want to see theatre thrive in the Mechanicsburg area.  We have a wish list at LTM – it ranges from a new vacuum cleaner to a new roof.

What’s coming up at LTM?

Spacht:  In February, we will be continuing our farce, It Runs in the Family by Ray Cooney, and holding auditions for Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  March brings Christopher Durang’s comedy,Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them.  The musical Reefer Madness, based on the 1936 cult film rounds out our regular season in June.  Immediately following our regular season, we offer the children’s show, Hush Little Celia, Don’t Say a Word and an original play, End Papers – both in July.  We are excited about our entire season, but especially excited about our original play this year.  We were chosen by the American Association of Community Theater as one of six community theatres in the country to host a winning production from their AACTNewPlayFest.  We are featuring End Papers by Barry Weinberg, a playwright from Bethesda, Md.  We are looking forward to hosting this event and meeting the folks behind it!  Evening performances begin at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinee performances begin at 2:30 p.m.

The Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg | 915 South York Street

(717) 766-0535 |


The 2nd Floor Experience of Art

Located in a 19th-century former church on Market Street – a block away from Main Street – 2nd Floor Gallery has served as a trailblazer for the Mechanicsburg art scene since its opening in 2002.  Owned by Jeffrey Van Boskirk, 2nd Floor Gallery features the works of more than 70 local artists as well as an assortment of investment pieces.

“I started out with just art from my collection,” Boskirk recalls.  “As we sold those, we brought more and more local artists in.  …I only had six local artists when I opened – everything else was international.  We still have international art, but that’s not our main focus.  As we started to get more people calling us, we brought in more local artists.  And it’s all local artists who rent the studios here.”

Boskirk, alongside Terry  Kennedy (executive director and artist at 2nd Floor Gallery), want clients and visitors to experience the art, not just view it.

“Our philosophy with the artists,” explains Boskirk, “is we want the artists here talking to the clients, telling them how it was produced.  …We don’t want to just sell paintings, we want to provide the experience of the art.”

Why is art important to Mechanicsburg?

Boskirk:  Art, in general, is important.  And the layout and architecture of our building just lends itself to being a good place for art, and the local artists are fantastic.  When we first opened, we got calls from New York and San Francisco, from artists who’d moved out of there because they couldn’t make it or there weren’t enough venues here.  They called me and said, “Now you open the place up, after I moved, and I’m paying all this money.  I could have been there.”  It’s interesting because we have artists that show in D.C. and Philly and San Francisco, but they live close to us because it’s easier here.

Kennedy:  Our primary motivator is to bring art to the downtown area, and to also educate people as to why it’s important.  One of the big concerns you hear all the time is that they’re taking art and music education out of the schools, so we’re trying to not only show people that art is important, but we’re also trying to give an opportunity to all the local artists to create work and hopefully sell it.  I think, whenever you’re passionate about something like this, and we try to find people who are passionate, that it is contagious.  Whenever other businesses come into town, whenever people first move into town, they at some point pass through our doors, and we share our passion with them.  They get real excited, they tell all their friends, and because we are an art gallery, it just happens to be that art is the source of that passion.

What’s the biggest challenge to the art scene in Mechanicsburg?

Boskirk:  I think it’s just to get people to come to the town.  We try to educate people on art as much as we can, and one of the things that a lot of people who may come in, but have maybe never been here before, or don’t necessarily know what to expect with an art gallery, is that they expect it to be a real stuffy type of a place.  We try not to have that atmosphere at all.  We want everyone to feel welcome.  If they don’t understand what it is they’re looking at, we try to explain it to them, like what the difference is between a type of print and an original piece.

Kennedy:  We try to create an atmosphere so that if somebody does walk in and really has no idea, we want people to feel comfortable enough to ask questions.  And not just feel like they have to walk around and pretend like they understand, and then they’ll walk out.

What does the future hold for art in Mechanicsburg?

Boskirk:  I think as long as everyone continues to work hard at it, it’s going to continue to grow.

What’s coming up for the 2nd Floor Gallery?

Boskirk:  We have our monthly event and live music, and on February 15th, it will be Jonathan Frazier, the musician.  It’s always the third Saturday of the month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

2nd Floor Gallery | 105 South Market Street

(717) 766-1825 |


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