Memories of Musikfest

Musikfest and LehighMy introduction to Musikfest came in 1985 as a freshman at Lehigh University. At the time, Musikfest was scheduled for the week before classes started. Freshmen were required to arrive on campus a few days before upperclassmen for orientation. Not only was I becoming acquainted with college life, I was also being introduced to Bethlehem. Musikfest became a part of my college experience.

My first year to attend Musikfest was only the second year of the event. I remember being able to explore the streets of downtown Bethlehem by walking down the middle the temporary pedestrian highways. The abundance of food and beverages, especially beer, was everywhere. The main attraction of Musikfest was obviously the music.  There was loud and mellow music. There was national and international music. There was obscure and well-known music. The diversity of the sounds was enough to please almost every musical taste.

Musikfest became synonymous with my return to the Lehigh University campus each year as a student. It marked the end of my summer before the rigors of my academic responsibilities started for the semester. When I graduated, I continued my annual pilgrimage to Bethlehem for Musikfest. It became an opportunity to get together with college friends.

My wife Stephanie and I made attending Musikfest a regular date every August. I remember us listening to Eddie Money sing his hit songs “Two Tickets To Paradise” and “Take Me Home Tonight” one year. We always looked forward to the final night that featured a brilliant fireworks extravaganza. We would join the patchwork of blankets on the lawn by the public library with our picnic basket of snacks and wine.

In 2002, we moved to Dallas, TX. It has been many years since we’ve attended Musikfest. The event holds special memories for us. We miss the sights and sounds that are unique to the summertime tradition in Bethlehem.  We miss spotting The Chicken Lady. We miss randomly meeting people that we know. We miss the variety of music. We miss meat-on-a-stick. We miss laying on a blanket and looking up at the fireworks dancing over the Lehigh river.

I’m looking forward to attending Musikfest again in the future. I hope that it’s sooner rather than later because it also means that I’ll get to visit the beautiful Lehigh University campus too.

Michael Kirkpatrick writes about his friends and experiences in Africa on Independent Global Citizen.

Principles of Creativity

Ugandan Artist Fred Mutebi

Ugandan Artist Fred Mutebi

Editor’s note: The author is a Lehigh University alumnus (’90) with a BS in Computer Science.

I love telling people that I graduated from Lehigh University. I remember being a student at Pennridge High School in Perkasie, PA when I needed to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life after graduation. My only college application was for Lehigh University. I didn’t want to go anywhere else. It was  Lehigh or bust.

My time at Lehigh was challenging and unforgettable. I will always be an “Engineer”. My diploma was my ticket to wealth and corporate conquests. I spent the next 20 years of my life climbing the corporate ladder and enjoying the financial benefits that my employment brought me.

My comfortable life was then interrupted by serendipitous events that challenged my worldview. I met Ugandan artist Fred Mutebi in 2004 as a result of repeated visits to Uganda. He is an internationally recognized artist who has shown his amazing artwork in exhibitions and galleries all over the world. Fred immediately became my “brother from another mother”.

Our unlikely friendship was a blessing despite our differences. I was an analytical engineer. He was a free-thinking artist. I was a white American. He was a black Ugandan. I was raised with all the opportunities and privileges of suburban America. He was raised with all the struggles and obstacles of rural Africa.

Through his life and artwork, Fred taught me something that I had not yet learned in life: the principles of creativity. I had the intellectual knowledge of these principles, but now I was experiencing them applied in the life of a friend. I wanted to apply these principles in my own life.

  • Creating something out of nothing
  • Survival strengthened by perseverance and persistence
  • Unconventional thinking
  • Inspired by visions and ideas
  • Ability to envision the final product
  • Proficiency at overcoming obstacles and detours

Soon after returning from visiting Fred in Uganda during December 2007, I learned about ArtsLehigh at my alma mater. I spoke with the director, Silagh White, to understand the mission of ArtsLehigh on campus. She graciously invited me and Fred to come to Lehigh and participate in a program that was facilitated by the Global Union and Bill Hunter. We visited the campus in October 2008.

Fred spoke with Lehigh students. He explained his amazing multi-colored progressive reduction method of printmaking and his efforts to use art as an educational tool to reach the underprivileged and vulnerable children and communities in rural Uganda. He also spoke with students at The Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts and conducted workshops with young students at Holy Infancy School and the Banana Factory. The principles of creativity were a part of his discussions with students.

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Fred Mutebi and ArtsLehigh have made it abundantly clear to me how the principles of creativity can be applied to careers, businesses, organizations, and educational institutions. The arts can be a bridge-builder between people and countries. The arts changed my life.

Michael Kirkpatrick writes about his friends and experiences in Africa on Independent Global Citizen.

Transformational Power of Art

Children's Artwork and Stories

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Ugandan artist Fred Mutebi uses art as an educational tool to reach underprivileged and vulnerable children and communities in Uganda.  His mission is to educate the diverse segments of society by using the principles of creativity to encourage mutual understanding and constructive change for a positive future.

He put together a collection of artwork and stories from a diverse group of children living in Uganda. The artwork is accompanied by the artist’s story that inspired each piece.

Many children were affected by the 20 year rebel insurgency in northern Uganda that targeted innocent civilians. Some lost parents and family members to the senseless killing. Some were sexually abused. Some were abducted by the rebels and turned into child soldiers. All have been traumatized by the war.

Many children have been affected by the scourge of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Some have been orphaned by the disease. Some are living with the disease. All have been touched in one way or another by HIV/AIDS.

Many children have been living in extreme poverty. Some have not been able to attend school. Some have lacked access to adequate medical care. Some have been raising younger brothers and sisters. All have struggled with poverty.

The thoughts and talents of the youth of Uganda are exemplified in this collection of artwork.  These incredibly resilient children have creatively documented their personal experiences.

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Ugandan Children's Artwork.

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NOTE: Fred Mutebi visited Lehigh University in October 2008. The Global Union sponsored the visit. ArtsLehigh connected him with the local community. He showed students at Holy Infancy Elementary School how to create a “talking mural” and gave a presentation to art students at the Lehigh Valley School for the Performing Arts.

Fambul Tok

Fambul Tok

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Sierra Leone suffered a brutal civil war that started in 1991 and lasted 11 years. The end of the war has ushered in a period of recovery and rebuilding in the country. Its citizens have struggled with issues of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Sierra Leoneans have revived the traditional practice of fambul tok, which translates to “family talk”. Communities have come together for programs of truth-telling and forgiveness ceremonies. The country is building sustainable peace at the grass-roots level and succeeding where the international community’s post-conflict efforts failed.

The Southside Film Institute is screening a documentary that chronicles the process of forgiveness and reconciliation in post-conflict Sierra Leone. Fambul Tok tells the story of healing through the intimate stories of perpetrators and victims.

The film has powerful lessons about how to end the cycle of violence. These lessons can be applied in our families, in our communities, and in our nations.

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Location: Victory Fire House

Address: 205 Webster Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015

Date: January 19, 2012

Time: Doors open at 6:45pm – Film starts at 7:15pm

Admission: Free