Atmosphere Creation Station

fbbanner2 Modern Art presents the ATMOSPHERE CREATION STATION: a collection of beautiful objects from the 20th century and beyond including ceramics, hand-crafted furniture, glass, jewelry & fine art popping up in Modern Art one weekend only. Piloted by artist Christopher Ness with navigation by fellow artist, David Jones

Join us for a little party to bask in the created atmosphere on Saturday, December 17 from 4pm - 6pm. or pop in at any or all of the times below: Friday, December 16: 4pm - 8pm Saturday, December 17: 10am-6pm Sunday, December 18: 11am-5pm And be sure to come to the casual reception on Saturday, from 4pm-6pm.

Office Pete: A Modern Art Gift Shop

OfficePEte Alongside our Tiny Modern Concert this Sunday, December 13, we are turning our former sublet into Office Pete: A Modern Art Gift Shop. We'll have paintings, signs, t-Shirts, stickers, lovely Lovebirds, and anything else we can fit. (It was a sad day when our friend and solar-energy advocate Peter Olmsted -- Office Pete-- flew the Modern Art coop for a new job in Albany. We miss him, but someone's got to help save the earth, and he's really good at it.)

Haiku Slam Champ!

IMG_2509 Congratulations 2015 Haiku Slam Champ Hunter! You wowed us with your perfectly-syllabled bits of spontaneous poetics about our boob-like hanging lights. Taking a tip from your winning poem: We are not worthy.

Here we see our finalists (Tim, Dave and Hunter) challenged to Haiku-Off by the audience to determine the


And a big thanks to all our brave participants. Your abilities to slam, both with syllables and tequila shots, was inspiring.


HaikuSlamEMAIL Just when you thought you've seen it all...behold the brand new Haiku Generating Machine of Magic™! The HGMoM will make its debut this Saturday night at Modern Art's very first and very special Haiku Slam! with music by the Schenlie's. Come one, come all. Bring a Haiku or generate one from the machine. A trophy will be awarded to the slamin'ist haiku and a gorilla will serve drinks by donation or you can BYOB. Starts at 7:30pm / $5 at the door.

OMG. So Embarrasing!

embarrassed-75Thank you The Triangle & everybody who came to our special Embarrassed! evening this past Saturday night. Readers & storytellers made themselves vulnerable on stage. The audience was swimming in a sea of emotions and hilarity ensued.  Highlights included: an impressive amount of teenage poetry, a list of young Jason Mundok's (passionate) likes and dislikes, Michelle Johnsen's time capsule (what a roller coaster ride!), Roller Derby Rachel's illuminating and dirty diary entries and more! Stay in touch because there will definitely be some sort of sequel down the road. Please enjoy these stunning pictures by  Code from Growing Tree Photography.

We want your embarrassing stuff!



Remember that sappy love poem you wrote your first boyfriend? Those goth song lyrics you wrote about hating your parents? The painting you made of a sunset in middle school? We’ve all been there, baby!
Modern Art is looking for your embarrassing materials.
Think of any creative endeavor you're embarrassed to have ever made or been involved in. We want to use it as part of an on-going installation in our storefront:
Journal entries (high school, middle school, LiveJournal entries…)
Poetry or Stories
Sketchbook drawings
Notes/Love Letters
Songs (you’ve written or performed)
Or anything else you want to share
Items can be emailed to or call (717) 824-5563 to arrange a drop off time at Modern Art (529 W. Chestnut Street, Lancaster City).
Join us on June 6th for the opening of this embarrassing exhibition, including a reading hosted by The Triangle and Modern Art. Performers are invited to sign up in advance to read/share their embarrassing item. Help us celebrate the creative histories we all have.
Note: You can participate in the exhibit, the reading, or both!
To learn more about this project, visit  or call (717) 824-5563


Dared By A Drawer!

Here is our latest installment of Dared By A Drawer! It is when we share with you a heartwarming story from one of our favorite projects, Truth or Drawer. Below is the story of Cheryl's art dare. fall_art_walk_2014-104 Cheryl selects a drawer. fall_art_walk_2014-105 The dare is "Find the book titled: 'Ready to Use Old-Fashioned Animal Cuts.' Turn to page7. Find the solo cat head. Write a poem about this lovely sweet cat head. Leave the poem in this drawer." fall_art_walk_2014-107 Cheryl finds the lovely sweet cat head. fall_art_walk_2014-106 Can you find it? fall_art_walk_2014-108 Cheryl composes her poem. fall_art_walk_2014-110 Cheryl tries to keep it together while reading her poem to a small group of onlookers (onlisteners?) fall_art_walk_2014-111 Cheryl graciously receives applause. fall_art_walk_2014-112 She is presented with a special trophy, fall_art_walk_2014-137 a cat-head trophy.

Modern Worker: (insert profession here) in Residence

Modern Worker in residence BREAKING NEWS!!! The "Modern Worker (insert profession here) In Residence" has just been announced. And we are so pleased that the inaugural Modern Worker will be the talented Erin Dorney, Writer, and co-founder of The Triangle.

Erin will be in residence at our studio for the week of January 19, 2015. She'll be working on her manuscript of erasure poems sourced from Shia LaBeouf (yup, Shia) media interviews. Two of these poems have been published in the Silver Birch Press Celebrity Free Verse Poetry Series and five more are forthcoming from Hobart this February.

It is very important to provide the proper productive environment for Ms. Dorney. So we need your help. Please raid your People magazine, your US Weekly, your Paris Review for any and all photos of Mr. LaBeouf that you can find so that we may cover her cubicle with them. Send them to Modern Art, 529 W. Chestnut St., Lancaster, PA 17603 asap. Your efforts will be acknowledged gratefully-- in print and over coffee as we talk about how awesome you are.

Modern Art will be open throughout the week of Erin's residency, so please stop in and see our very first Modern Worker  (insert profession here) in Residence at work! You can watch her write, ask her questions, and learn all about career trajectories of former Disney child actors.

For those of you modern workers who are interested in making the residency a "Your profession here"-in -Residence: Please send a letter of interest, briefly describing your work and how you think the residency will benefit you to Please note, we are open to all (legal) professions.



Truth Delivery

What better day than today to share with you a story from our Truth or Drawer folder. Please follow along below.fall_art_walk_2014-77 Jo explains to Evan & Jenny the premise and rules of Truth or Drawer: T/D is a game for one player at a time. The player chooses between two options: Truth or Drawer. If the player picks Truth then s/he is led to a seat and the Truth is delivered to him/her. If the player picks Drawer then s/he is instructed to choose a drawer from our Aqua Cabinet of Mysteries. Each drawer contains an art dare. Whether the player chooses T or D, s/he has to follow though with his/her chosen option. The player will be rewarded with a prize after completing his/her Truth or Drawer. fall_art_walk_2014-78 They find these rules funny. Jo is pleased. fall_art_walk_2014-79 copy After choosing to have a truth delivered to her, Jenny is surprised by what she sees. fall_art_walk_2014-117 She sees a gorilla coming towards her. fall_art_walk_2014-84 The gorilla is holding a tray of truths that have been lovingly attached to the backs of vintage postcards. Jenny selects one. The gorilla is pleased. fall_art_walk_2014-85 copy Jenny reads the truth. fall_art_walk_2014-86 fall_art_walk_2014-88 Jenny holds her truth. Pleased?

For more outrageous stories like this click here. To learn more about Truth or Drawer, click here.

An ArtBike Story

drewandsamanthaOne of our favorite ArtBike stories is about Drew & Samantha. Drew is a neighbor of ours. His daughter Samantha was in town for a bit over the summer. They came by one day to borrow a bike. It went well so they came back again and again warming our hearts with each visit.

Dared By A Drawer

We'd like to share with you another heart warming story taken from our Truth or Drawer files. A young man and his family stopped in to play. Below are pictures of his experience.Read more about Truth or Drawer here. DRAWERPULL2fall_art_walk_2014-31

DRAWERPULL2fall_art_walk_2014-11 DRAWERPULL2fall_art_walk_2014-33 DrawerPull2FALL_ART_WALK_2014-75 You may not be able to see him barking (or maybe you can), but let us assure you, he did bark and it was funny.


Ways If I Just

artwalk2014-92Well, it's about time that we tell the story of our project, Ways if I Just. We set word paintings free on the streets of Lancaster, PA this past spring in hopes of engaging with people that might not normally walk through the doors of Modern Art. We were also very interested in seeing which words would come back, if any. The results were surprising. Here's the full story.

ArtBike Case Study #2: The Super Powerful Magic of Failure

Libby Modern paints CASE STUDY #2: The Super Powerful Magic of Failure

 I haven't failed. I've just found the ten thousand ways that won't work. —Thomas Edison

Months ago I came across the quote above—it was the hidden witticism in a New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, only fully intact when the puzzle had been successfully solved.  Despite weekly attempts, I rarely actually finish the Sunday crossword, so it was with great pride that I found myself in a position to be reading Edison's words of advice. I kept it on my coffee table all week so I could stop and admire my accomplishment. It wasn't until a few days later, after many stops and stares, that Edison's words actually sunk in: I haven't failed if I just found the ten thousand ways that won't work.

Failure. For more than 2 years, I'd been working diligently with some wonderful volunteers and partners on the Super Power Magic Motion Machine (a project conceived to creatively address the issue of climate change, funded by the amazing Invoking the Pause grant). We'd spent countless hours researching, brainstorming, designing, scavenging, building, welding, coaxing generous folks to help....


.....then more dreaming, more design, more ideas....


....after missteps, obstacles, more parts, more metal, more busted tires, toes, and fingers, more redesigns, rewiring, and small explosions, finally, FINALLY we'd created it:


The Super Power Magic Motion Machine: An aluminum bike trailer, which, when stationary, you could attach and stabilize three bikes which, when being pedaled vigorously by three strong adults, could spin a shaft that spun a generator that could power a....

(drum roll please) 

Nicole Heller

...a small light bulb for about 30 seconds.

There it was. Our extremely heavy, awkward, barely mobile, slightly dangerous and not-so-powerful Super Power Magic Motion Machine. Needless to say, it was not the piece of innovative creative genius that we'd spent all those hours dreaming of. In fact, we'd just expended an insane amount of energy creating something that was supposed to show folks how easy it was to create alternative energy. It was discouraging. Desperate not to admit failure, we continued to toy with it. Moved it around. Took off parts. Maybe we could transform it into something else—a stationary piece of public art? A bike rack? An exhibit to show how HARD it is to create energy? Or maybe just an event where we dramatically destroyed the rig and tried to harness all that frustrated energy to power...a tiny light bulb??? Clearly, it was time for a pause. As we paused, we contemplated some of the electricity lessons we'd studied:

Energy is a measure of the capability of an object or system to do work. Energy comes in many forms. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.

Around the same time we had "finished" the SPMMM, I had found beautiful storefront studio to rent. I moved my design business from my home, and with it, moved the SPMMM from the welder's shop who had been helping us build the machine (big shout out to George). We thought we could put the whole project aside for awhile. The rig took up half of the back room. It sat there, daring me not to think about it. I tried to ignore it. I stubbed my toe daily on it, pinched my fingers, pulled my back out whenever I needed to move it (which was often) and constantly yelled to my kids not to touch this thing (this thing that I had bragged was going to be a cool arty educational thing for them!) Folks walked by my studio every day and, seeing it from the window, would ask me what this big aluminum machine was. Sometimes I'd tell them it was just a machine, sometimes open up and give them all the details, but usually I just hopefully replied "its going to be a creative way to harness energy and community spirit"—our original goal. Perhaps if I just said it over and over it would be so.

But the fact was, I couldn't ignore it. I couldn't admit failure.  There had to be a way to turn this project back into what we'd originally imagined: a creative way to harness energy. I knew it would eat at me forever if I just let it die, so I set a date of Lancaster's Spring ArtWalk to turn it into something. We had 3 months. Along with the trailer/machine parts, we'd collected a handful of cheap old bikes that we'd hoped to use to power the project. While working on the trailer, I'd spent much of the time thinking of ways to turn these bikes into pieces of art that would work with the SPMMM—it was a nice break from all the technical aspects of creating the pedal power that were so foreign to me. And something I knew how to do: make art. The light bulb went on: Why not take these bikes, turn them into mobile pieces of art. We could then give them out for anyone to ride, for free. This would get people out biking more, remind them how easy it is and how FUN it is. Lancaster was the perfect place to do this: a city that is flat and small with wide roads and alleys, but that oddly, people are afraid to bike in. The bikes, and their riders, would each be their own Super Power Magic Motion machines. It was a new way to creatively harness community energy and spirit. It would encourage people to do something they like to do that also just might help our warming planet. We are all deeply anxious about climate change, but this project would not be about that anxiety, it would be about having fun. 

We culled more bikes from Craig's List, the classified ads, friends basement, and turned them each into their own conceptual piece. We created "Gosh Yarnnit!", a bike covered in Yarn, The Bookworm (a trike covered with pages from books and with its own mobile library), The Letterman (complete with a 1956 high school yearbook on the handles), and the Pretty Lady (a nice pink number with a vanity mirror), among others. ArtBike was born.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 9.45.42 AM


As we worked on the bikes in the backyard of our studio, we met all sorts of new friends and neighbors who just happened by and helped us fix up the bikes that needed tuning up. In Spring of 2013, at our new studio (now called Modern Art), we opened our doors to anyone who wanted to borrow a bike and explore the city. It was paired with Lancaster's ArtWalk weekend—two days during which galleries all over the city open their doors and put on special events. Folks could grab a bike, an ArtWalk map, and hit all the events on their borrowed bikes. Our first Artbike started with a community bike parade and the momentum has been building ever since. After three successful and fun ArtBike weekends, we now have our fleet available for anyone who'd like to borrow a bike—and its all free.


The reception of ArtBike has continued to inspire and guide our work at Modern Art. How can we work together to create art, harness the exciting and creative energy of our community, and make the world a better place? This last spring, as a sly ode to the light bulb of the Super Power Magic Motion Machine project, we paired ArtBike with an interactive community project called "Ways if I Just".  Jo and I painted the words of the aforementioned Thomas Edison quote on nine pieces of wood, then strategically hid the painted words all over the city in places they'd be seen, but not obvious— Central Market, the Public Library, a coffee shop, a Church garden. On each piece, we included a note on the back reading "Please return to Modern Art. You will be handsomely rewarded". We hung "LOST/REWARD" signs with pictures of the pieces, hoping folks might find them. Not knowing which, if any, would make it back, we were curious to see what sentence the words that did come back might read. (Perhaps just "FAILED" will come back, we joked.) But whatever words did would create a new statement that in itself would be interesting. In the end, seven of the nine words came back, all accompanied by surprised, excited, if not a bit confused, folks who'd found them hidden and answered the call. Each left with a portrait under the winner banner and a fancy new trophy. And quite a few with an Artbike ride to top it off. (Check out some great photos of the event here.) 

About half way through the SPMMM project, when we hit a particularly rough speed bump with the design, I reached out to a friend who runs a huge tour/staging design company to see if he had any advice.  His company builds things like Lady Gaga's 400-ft moving castle and the Olympic's largest human powered screen, so I thought he would be helpful— and he was—I just didn't realize it at the time. He told me I needed to trash the thing and start over. At that point, I was too invested in the project. We'd spent too much time and energy making this big clunky thing, I was going to make it work. "But Libby, it's a prototype," he said "On every project, we always destroy our first prototype. It's part of the process. Making something that doesn't work allows us to learn about what WILL work. Failing is how you learn."

Every failure is a step towards finding out something you didn't know before. Why'd you fail? Sometimes you're asking the wrong question. Or maybe looking for a solution to a problem that isn't the problem you're trying to solve— its a project. An opportunity. When we dreamed up the Super Power Magic Motion machine we were imagining creative ways to address issues of climate change. We'd each been thinking of this problem, and its potential solutions for years and years in our work. It was always something we were trying to solve and we thought so hard about ways to fix it. So hard that we took it literally: we need more alternative energy. We just never thought about exactly what that energy could or should be. Because maybe the problem of climate change, as we understand it, is not what we are trying to solve. Sometimes the answers are not things we HAVE to do, but things we GET to do. We don't HAVE to bike more, we GET to bike more. The answers are right in front of us, we've had the tools for years, its just that we forget about them. Sometimes we need someone to point it out—maybe cover it in yarn—for us to remember.

Check out more Artbike photos here. And the start of some of our great Artbike stories here. And a huge thank you to all of the amazingly generous people involved along the way, those who gave their time, bikes, parts, expertise, advice and support: Jo, Nikki, Marci, Danene, George, Joel, Don, Jessica & Tim, Chris & Brad, Michelle, Steve, Nicole M., Adam, Jacob, Maggie and Invoking the Pause.



Our Identities Unedited...on Wheels

IMG_9627 Lancaster Public Arts Manager, Tracy Beyl, and grammy-winning sound artist Stuart Hyatt grabbed a couple of Modern Artbikes recently for a tour of the City. In partnership with the Lancaster County Community Foundation's Our Identities Unedited project, and the Lancaster Bureau of Public Art, Stuart is creating a “sound map” of Lancaster.

Stuart will be spending hours traversing through areas of our county with an audio field recorder, microphone, and camera- talking to whomever he meets along the way. He'll be gathering stories, moments, music, contradictions  that will ultimately yield a more nuanced sense of place. The resulting sounds and images are being placed in interactive web-based map and gallery.  Hyatt will also use these field recordings to compose an album of original music in collaboration with regional musicians. The album of music will be packaged in a book documenting Hyatt’s explorations of the county.

We are so proud that our ArtBikes got to escort these two around, and can't wait for the grand finale.




doubledrawerdare Modern Art has been very busy preparing a new event for our dear friends during Lancaster's Fall ArtWalk:

Truth or Drawer. A risky game of art, excitement, and some other things.

Here's how it works:

You come visit  Modern Art on Saturday or Sunday, Oct 4/5 between 12-5.

You are confronted with a choice: Truth, or....DRAWER.

You decide...

...perhaps you pick Truth? You have chosen to sit yourself down on our truth couch and answer one of our probing truth questions. We record these answers for posterity. (And then use to create a stunning piece of artwork.)

..or dare you pick dare? Aha! You are bold! You have chosen to select a drawer from the card catalog which will direct you to complete one of our Modern Art dares. Perhaps you'll need to create something, act out something, eat something, drink something. Maybe do an errand for us. Maybe ask us to do an errand for you. Maybe have your portrait painted on the wall. You wont know until you pull that drawer.

Whichever you choose, you will be HANDSOMELY REWARDED!!! (And you will be handsome.)

Come play. We double dog drawer you.



Ode to the Bookworm

It's been a mere three months since we bid adieu to our dear friend the Bookworm. And so here, a tribute: Complete with a basket full of compelling books (covering a variety of genres, and including some of our favorites: The Brothers Karamazov, Freedom, How to Talk to Your Dog, Advanced Thermodynamics and Fifty Shades of Gray), the  Bookworm is a fully-functioning mobile library. The advanced checkout system, powered by cutting-edge technology, allows you to check out a book by signing your name on a card attached to each book, then stamping it with the date on which you are asked to return.

After spending much time with the Bookworm, Modern Art decided it was time to set our fine friend free. We donated him to the Lancaster Public Library Art Auction in hopes that he would flourish and prosper with a new group of book lovers. We wish you well, big guy!

An ode to the Bookworm would not be complete without an Ode to two wonderful folks without whom the Bookworm would not be. To Brian Frailey, original namesake of the Bookworm, owner of our favorite bookstore Dogstar Books. Modern Art itself would not be if not for him (and the fact that he moved his store to a bigger location so we could move in to its old place.)

And to the amazing Steve Carlson who so generously lent...then donated....the amazing trike to Modern Art to transform for ArtBike. Thank you, Steve, your kindness will not be forgotten!



bookworm DSC_0038    wheel


ArtBike: Case Study #1 Happy Loving Couple

In honor Modern Art's third ArtBike, and grand pronouncements, we present to you some of our favorite ArtBike case studies. Whether they are life changing for the subjects or just for us is up for debate. But we still like the stories. CASE STUDY #1: Happy Loving Couple



Early on one ArtBike Sunday, a young couple popped in to Modern Art excited about borrowing a couple bikes. They happened to catch us at a slightly chaotic moment (not uncommon)—many children running around, bikes still being set up, furniture being moved around— so before we had a chance to get their names, IDs, and have them sign a waiver, they'd chosen two of our favorite bikes and pedaled off. Oh well, surely they'll come back, we thought.

Hours passed. The day grew cloudy. We lent out more bikes and continued on, wondering who the mystery couple had been.

More hours passed.

More clouds. And rain.

More hours.

We waited nervously, peeking out for the bikes every few minutes.


As the day grew to a close, we really started to worry. Everyone had come back, but our two bikes (one with a gold-framed picture of Jo's husband Jeremy) were still out. Perhaps our naive idea that we could lend bikes out, for free, just for fun, was finally backfiring. It wasn't going to work. Our faith in the inherent goodness of our community started to fade. The bikes were gone. We called it a day and started closing up.

And that's when it happened: As we were locking up,  loud shouts and laughter approached on wheels. Our wheels! Our mystery couple! "WE HAD THE BEST DAY EVER!!" we heard them scream. They jumped off the bikes, ran up to us holding hands and smiling widely at each other. Kissing even. "We went everywhere! All over town! Thank you so much! WE FELL IN LOVE AGAIN! " 

As it turns out, the mystery couple was out for a rare afternoon without their 18-month old. They'd stumbled upon ArtBike, jumped at the chance to ride, and in doing so reset the spark in their relationship. And reset our faith that if you do things just for the love of it, even little things, it'll all work out. People are good. And a day on a bike with some art thrown in can change you. It may just have been our very best Modern Art moment ever.

Here's to you, happy, adorable, lovely ArtBike couple! Thank YOU for changing our lives.