G.K. Chesterton, the English philosopher, once wrote, “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” It’s fitting that he was an art critic. He was also known as the “Prince of Paradox.” I could argue that this past year was filled with paradoxes. One thing is for certain, for me 2020 was a year for wondrous gratitude at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts. 

I witnessed the GoggleWorks board and staff modify programs and the campus to meet rigorous public health standards and touch the lives of thousands of visitors, partners, and students with unique interactions with art. I saw our teaching artists reimagine their classrooms using online tools and “carryout” art kits. Artists in our community, including our Studio Artists, mounted dynamic shows, installed public art, and continued exhaustive studio practices. Nearly 100 volunteers repurposed 3D printers to produce over 60,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE). More than 20 organizations collaborated on a camp conglomerate called Summer Camps Unite! Our art community joined with people of color in our community listening and planning for ways that we can use arts to advance social equity and justice. 

All told, GoggleWorks came together to continue over a dozen programs and plan, fund, and launch 10 new initiatives—from Pop-up Drive-in Movies to free Art Explorer packages and Micro Weddings—in order  to serve the community and respond to the public health crisis. 


I heard stories from a lot of you this year. Your encouragement and feedback made our work more relevant during a year of such turbulence. So many of you visited and shared with us how your art experience at GoggleWorks was a “first”—the first time you had been out of the house in months; the first time with your grandkids or loved ones; the first time you had ever visited or made anything!

While the pandemic ravaged the scope of our impact, access to programs for many groups actually broadened. We realized we had to change our online payment forms to accept foreign currencies because now we were reaching international students with online classes. Our After School Arts Program (ASAP) drew record numbers of schoolchildren from downtown Reading and Berks County. While the economy threatened our finances, loyal and new contributors ensured that we could launch those new programs, reduce debt, and maintain operational sustainability. 


Yet, G.K. Chesteron would love this: my wonder is also somewhat of a paradox. To feel it, I had to be stripped of many things that normally garner my gratitude. I had to lose my regular schedule, my interactions with coworkers and volunteers, and my physical connections to our community. I missed would-be exhibition receptions and live performances. Graduations, weddings, funerals. I saw friends and colleagues out of work and businesses shuttered. I lost a friend to COVID-19.

Deep, painful wonder.

Indeed, there are too many that don’t have the privilege of circumstance to feel such gratitude. For them and for all of us, I only hope that the arts can play some small role in bringing meaning, equity, consolation, and wonder in all its forms.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. And Happy Thanksgiving.

Levi Landis,
Executive Director