ArtsLehigh accepts 2012 Institutional Service Award from the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission

Thursday, October 4, 2012 at the Payne Art Gallery of Moravian College.

The image on the left is a photo of the hand crafted award created by a team of artists: Linda Gardiner, Barbara Fraust and Sandra Gillen.

The following is the transcript of Silagh White’s acceptance speech.

We need the arts. We need them to enrich our culture, illuminate our society, and give us fun things to do. Of course, we also need audiences, so that the artists can be appreciated, understood, and perhaps even paid from time to time for their important contributions.

When students arrive at college, they do so more and more focused on job training, giving our higher education institutions greater challenges in the arts, while students become less interested in them.

To a greater extent, colleges and universities must play the role of introducer, presenting elements like the arts in accessible ways that even the most disinterested can find enticing and enriching.

The idea of ArtsLehigh was born from a collection of what we campus insiders call, “the usual suspects”. They are the faculty and administrators who believe that the arts are a vital part of campus life, not only for the mission of the institution, but also something intangibly necessary for the human development of all students.

ArtsLehigh is the result of the recommendations from the 2002 Committee on Reconceptualizing/Revisioning the Arts at Lehigh. The specific recommendations of the committee were to help the University communicate more effectively the excellence of many existing programs, develop new institutional structures that allow for a more integral approach to the arts and education, and also promote the development of new and innovative curricular and non-curricular activities which serve to connect Lehigh with the community at large.

The list of the Usual Suspects to thank (or to blame) are Greg Farrington, Ron Yoshida, Bobb Carson, George White, Todd Watkins, John Ochs, Rick Weissman, Ricardo Viera, Pam Pepper, Nadine Sine, and most of all, the wisest and weirdest faculty member of well-earned repute, Norman Girardot.

The ArtsLehigh program officially began in the academic year 2005, funded by (at the time) the Provost’s 2020 initiative. Since 2005, there have been countless staff, faculty and administrators who have supported and partnered with ArtsLehigh: too many to list. However, I must mention the program’s greatest champion, Anne Meltzer, who guided and supported the program during her tenure as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

ArtsLehigh’s vision remains a strong component of arts advocacy on campus and in the community. The mission is to facilitate and deepen engagement in the arts at Lehigh University among students, faculty, staff and the local community. We meet that mission by being an active part of the art and cultural life on campus and in Bethelhem.

To be a successful program in the community is also due to the willingness of so many artists and arts supporters in Bethlehem who share the vision. I must extend gratitude to all the business owners, leaders of cultural institutions and individuals who have taken a few crazy steps with ArtsLehigh. They have demonstrated tremendous faith in the program, and in our efforts. I can’t thank you all enough for your work and trust. Special thanks to John Saraceno for the nomination.

I need to share a little secret with all present. All of the work put into ArtsLehigh didn’t come from one person. Without the careful attention to detail, the support and energy (and the occasional face palm) from Susan Scrima, ArtsLehigh would simply have been a lot of lip service. Greatest thanks to Susan for all of her dedication.

Finally –I need to recognize my husband, Steve. His graciousness and support allows me to hang out on campus and in Bethlehem as much as I do. I also need to thank my own private audience development program, known as our children Bridget and Stephen, for patiently walking First Fridays with me and wait while I stop for a little chat; and for all of the nights I go back to work for another meeting, program, rehearsal, exhibit opening, play or concert. It is through their eyes and experience that I continue to see the wonder of art. They are my bounce.

(Note: When Silagh showed her children the photo of herself with the Mayor, they were a bit indifferent. Guess it’s just another day at the office for Mommy)

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