3 Dots Downtown

Art exhibits are visible from the street front outside of the performance and event venue, 3 Dots Downtown, on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in State College, Pa.

Throughout the pandemic, barriers have blocked most conventional means of artistic expression: Theaters went virtual, museums limited capacities and State College’s 3 Dots Downtown temporarily closed.

Sitting at the corner of Pugh Street and Beaver Avenue, 3 Dots is a community art space. In a normal year, local artists could perform or display work here.

Erica Quinn, executive director of 3 Dots, recently stepped into her role and has been “immersing” herself in the organization over the past month.

Quinn said the 3 Dots team closed the space out of “an abundance of safety and caution,” but the distribution of monthly $1,000 grants for artists has continued.

“Our granting has been really consistent, that's happened monthly, and I think that's great because you know a lot of other grant funding has paused,” Quinn said. “I feel like we've been really grateful to keep putting that money into the community throughout the whole pandemic.”

Quinn said since the actual space is closed, 3 Dots partnered with the State College borough to have an art exhibit inside of the building’s windows.

“Right now, you can walk on the corner of Beaver and Pugh and see an amazing exhibit of paintings and some sculpture by a local artist named Tiara Zhanè. And that is really great — we've had a ton of foot traffic from that,” Quinn said. “It's just been nice to have a way to safely engage with the community as we're developing exciting plans to really blast off in the summer.”

Jeff Erickson, a 3 Dots board member, said he hopes within the next year, the nonprofit can reach the level it was at when it initially opened.

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Erickson is a former business owner and has been a board member since 3 Dots opened in 2019. He provides business insight to the organization.

“My hope is that we get open, and we get back to where we were in year one,” Erickson said. “We had a fantastic space going, and we had featured local artists — both musical artists as well as the arts in general.”

Spud Marshall, innovation director for 3 Dots, said the organization was designed to be “incredibly nimble and responsive,” and this framework led to an effective pandemic response.

The artistic space is hoping to reopen this spring or summer. Marshall said while he hopes the new coronavirus vaccines will accelerate the process of reopening, he understands circumstances are subject to shift.

To counter this volatility, Marshall said 3 Dots is planning “sprint windows,” where it will test the waters of event capability. Marshall said he believes the earliest 3 Dots will be able to open is the middle of May.

Marshall said updates on the reopening plans for 3 Dots are likely to be posted on the organization’s Instagram account.

With a possible reopening on the horizon, Quinn said 3 Dots will be participating in a downtown “art walk” on the weekend of April 30, where the Happy Valley Bonsai Club will have an exhibit outside of 3 Dots.

Even while facing artistic limitations, Quinn said she believes the work being done at 3 Dots is important for the State College community.

“It's such a sign of a healthy community to have a group of people who are doing this important community engagement work.”

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