Murphy and Dittenhafer Architects is committed in practical ways to supporting arts in downtown York and the community as a whole.
The Murphy and Dittenhafer Architects team believes in designing spaces where people want to come and spend their time.
Frank Dittenhafer, II, FAIA, LEED AP, President of Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects, believes the same dynamic is important to communities. It’s one reason he’s a big supporter of the visual arts and the entire arts scene in York City and York County.
“Having attractive places to meet and spend time together is important. It adds up to an engaging quality of life,” Dittenhafer says. “Community growth isn’t just about jobs. People are looking at how and where they want to spend their time.”
Arts integral to community growth
Dittenhafer, a life-long York Countian whose firm has designed numerous projects contributing to the revitalization of downtown York, believes a vibrant cultural scene is vital to drawing both businesses and residents.
“People, and companies on behalf of their employees, are looking for opportunities for family entertainment,” he says. “We need performing, visual, musical arts for a vibrant downtown and the community as a whole. Without these intangibles for the overall quality of life, it’s not going to be a growing, engaging community.”
This strong belief makes Dittenhafer personally — and the firm he leads — committed in practical ways to supporting the arts, especially the visual arts, in downtown York.
Exposing art to the community
When M&D expanded to the “c o d” building next door to its downtown West Market Street “Hotel Codorus” headquarters, the company decided to make it a de facto art gallery, where local artists, specifically students, could show their work.
“We decided to make the storefront windows be gallery and exhibition space,” Dittenhafer says.
The building houses multiple types of art, including folk art Dittenhafer and his wife, Sue Ann Kline, have collected from Nova Scotia, and exhibitions by York College and York County high school students.
The firm offers this space for the annual York College Art Walk.
“The curved wall with exposed wood studs gives York College students and the various high schools that use it the chance to put their own stamp on this when they exhibit here,” Dittenhafer says.
Always expanding their reach
Murphy & Dittenhafer receives up to 50 requests for support of arts projects each year. Associate Principal and Director of Operations Beth Reed sifts through these requests with Dittenhafer.
“We’re always looking for ways to increase our level of support for groups we’ve worked with before and for new organizations we can help,” Reed says. “We’re plugged into urban revitalization, so urban projects are important.”
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“We support Marketview Arts, a downtown building where York College students have visual arts, painting, and drawing studios, and that community groups can use,” Dittenhafer says, also noting the firm’s support for the Parliament’s annual Decked Out event, a collaborative art exhibit/fundraiser showcasing central Pennsylvania artists – and benefiting the Reid Menzer Skatepark.
Reed sees these projects helping the arts and the city grow.
“These places definitely draw new people to the city to see the revitalization first hand, that they might not have seen otherwise,” she says.
Making art part of their work
The “c o d” building also houses Murphy & Dittenhafer Interiors.
“When we re-did the building, we had the chance to expand the space and open it to the community, but also to show the natural tie between visual arts and our work,” says Lisa Clemens, senior interior designer, whose studio is in the “c o d” building.
“When we did this building, we decided there would be no hallways or corridors, that the circulation path would be an exhibition and gallery,” Dittenhafer adds. Thus, M&D Interiors’ clients walk though this visual art gallery, including business partners who meet in the firm’s largest collaboration room, which holds up to 60 people.
Clemens, who ran a fine arts gallery and custom frame shop for 20 years, feels visual art plays an important role in many of the spaces she designs.
“A piece of art has been a touchstone and a step off point for many of my designs,” she says. “This is important in building for the younger generation. We’re designing projects for the next 20 years plus, so using art as a basis helps us keep a finger on the pulse of the next generation.”
“This is who we are as architectural designers. We’re creating and reinforcing a sense of place,” he says. “Arts help reinforce a stronger sense of place of ‘where you are.’”