One of the things that we are finding is that people in the community of Williamsport value the art culture downtown and the First Friday gatherings. One of the people who contributes to that facet is Converge Gallery owner and Graphic Hive Director John Yogodzinski, who returned to Williamsport and opened the gallery about five years ago. One of the things he noticed was how much Williamsport has matured and grown. “I’m trying to do something, going against the grain, trying to elevate the culture of what’s available here,” he says. When he first opened the gallery, he brought in work by artist Daniel Dallmann, which included some of his nudist pieces. The show was not well-received; however, John knew that he had to push this kind of progressive contemporary art on the residents if he was ever going to change their artistic perceptions. Recently, he’s shown some more work showcasing nudity and it was generally accepted by the community. This is the kind of growth he had foreseen when he first arrived — that Williamsport has the potential to sustain. “Art is a luxury item. People are not coming here looking for a specific thing,” he states. John also has a great deal of respect for the other innovative thinkers in the area who are becoming a part of that growth and maturity, such as those downtown at The Brickyard or Stonehouse. John also helps other independent businesses with good design and the work he does with The Graphic Hive, a creative marketing firm.
Another original thinker who came to town looking to revive the art community is Mark Winkelman. He arrived nine years ago and fell in love with the old Pajama Factory building. He became devoted to bringing new life to that building, a giant complex of eight buildings around a courtyard. He’s created a unique setting for people, as well as tenants and artists in residence, to gather and collaborate. They have a community dark room and a community wood shop for people to use. “I hope to change the neighborhood. I hope we can bring it up,” Mark comments about the area surrounding the Pajama Factory, which is separate from the downtown. What he loves about Williamsport is the accessibility of the industries and businesses. He says that it’s like New York City, where he resides most of the year, but more accessible and functional. Not only did Mark fall in love with the building, but he also has come to love the people in this smaller art community he has built. Owner of the coffee shop in the area, Todd Foresman, recognizes that “it’s a building full of characters,” to which Mark agrees. “The neighborhood around the Pajama Factory is what I hopefully like to someday call a ‘Makers’ District,’ which is the idea that you can live and work in your home,” he says.
The kind of innovation and development that these two men have brought, and continue to bring to Williamsport, is a huge part of that beloved art culture. They are catalysts for the movement of an elevated community as well as collaboration with other businesses and entrepreneurs.
Story by Sophie Herzing
Video by Christopher Cizek
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