Do “The Arts” fit with Lehigh University’s “Grand Challenges”?

If you’re a reader of this blog, you have your own definition of “the arts.” ArtsLehigh’s definition of “the arts” includes all aspects of the formal and informal visual, performing, literary and design arts. In the latest version of Lehigh University’s Strategic Plan, the Grand Challenges are defined: (1) Globalization (2) Energy, Environment, and Infrastructure and (3)Health.
As stated in the Strategic Plan, “These challenges are important to society, and they represent areas where Lehigh has core strengths and where concerted effort will allow Lehigh to have a significant impact.”

Lehigh’s greatest strengths are not only in the expertise of our faculty and excellence of our facilities, but in the founding principles of the institution:

Lehigh trustees followed several principles in setting up the university. One was that of combining scientific and classical education; they considered both to be practical. The principle carried forward an ideal of the great 17th-century Moravian educator John Amos Comenius. A motto taken from the works of Francis Bacon was used to summarize this principle, namely, “Homo Minister et Interpres Naturaeman,” which translates loosely to “Man, the servant and interpreter of nature.”

Through the study of art, we come to understand our world. Through the experience of art, we come to understand other truths, other perspectives, other solutions. I’ll cut to the chase. Yes, the arts are inextricably woven to Lehigh University’s Grand Challenges.


Celtic Classic Weekend – it’s not just another music festival.

Did you know that today more than 44 million Americans claim Irish heritage? The first Celtic immigrants, who were of Scottish and Irish decent, arrived in the Lehigh Valley circa 1728 from the northern providence of Ulster. Today the Scottish, Irish, Welsh and Cornish remain a dominant force, comprising nearly 30% of the Lehigh Valley population.

This weekend marks the 23rd annual Celtic Classic presented by the Celtic Cultural Alliance. Music, food, dance, athletes, piping bands, theatre, film, contests are all part of a variety of activities to explore over the weekend. I hear that this year, the athletes may be breaking some world records. If you’ve never seen a caber toss; it’s kind of like throwing a telephone pole for distance. But it only counts if the pole is flipped. And… the men compete in kilts.

News for local tech freaks: the first ever mobile app for an area festival was developed and launched last week. This can be uploaded for free for all iPhone and Android users by typing on your mobile browser. If you’re a geek like me, you’ll love to see how this helps you plan your Celtic Classic experience. If you don’t have one of the phones, check out the bands listed and give them a little listen. The music ranges from traditional to outrageous. Don’t miss the closing act – the  No, that’s not a typo.

The festival grounds are just over the river. You’ll see the tents from either Hill to Hill or Fahy bridge. If walking is too far for you, Lehigh students can also purchase a Loop Bus pass and ride all day for just $3. Here’s a map to show you where to hop on the bus. If you want to really get inside the festival, they are still looking for volunteers. Each 4 hour volunteer shift gets you a t-shirt and $5 of food and beverage tickets. They also have a special request for anyone able to lift 30lbs – if you want to be close to the action, give me a call.

Don Draper would see this opera

Do you watch Mad Men? Aside from the drama of the story line, have you observed a specific interpretation of an American style and culture from the early 1960s? This slice of American history is served up in a delightful one-act opera this weekend at Zoellner. The opera is based on an episode of a popular T.V. program, the Dick Van Dyke Show. If you watch it, pay attention to the mannerisms of each character so you can see how Lehigh University faculty member Paul Salerni (composer), Kate Light (Librettist) and the cast adapt and interpret this well-loved icon of early American television.

Another perspective of the performance is that it’s a premier. We are lucky enough to see it’s first performance and to celebrate this achievement. Salerni wrote this opera as a companion piece to his award winning one act opera, “Tony Caruso’s Final Broadcast.” The Monocacy Chamber Orchestra will accompany a fine cast, many of whom also sing with the New York City Opera.

And if that doesn’t whet your appetite enough, the program is preceded by an incredible performance from Lehigh University’s extraordinary conductor and pianist, Eugene Albulescu. He will present the Brahms Piano Quintet with the Iannis String Quartet.

You don’t need to wear gloves or a tuxedo to this event. But if you were Don Draper’s date, you would. Yes, Don Draper would see this opera. Are you as smooth and charming as he?

GUEST BLOGGER, Loly Reynolds; Director of C.A.B.

The Loopapalooza! One great event that celebrates two great downtowns! The Downtown Business Association struck gold, in my opinion, when Samantha Schwartz proposed that the city converges many of the areas businesses with the arts community in order to highlight the transportation of choice to get you around town and back again, The Loop. Community Artists of Bethlehem were delighted to be invited in on this venture by DBA representative and Eskandalo business owner, Alison Leigh.

As one of the many wonderful stops along the route, a do not miss is “Go Green Town”.

GGT is the earth friendly, sustainability educating, recycled art lover, and local music enthusiasts’ best friend. The event will be conveniently located near Campus Square at New and Morton Streets. Festivities will begin at 2pm and go on until 7pm, at which time participants can relocate to one of three finale events. While at the stop “Loopy” guests can enjoy demos on earth friendly practices such as composting, participate in a mosaic mural using recycled materials, sift through forgotten treasures in a ” Second Time Around” clothing sale, and shop the many local art vending booths as well as some of the areas best independent business booths all while sampling some of the areas most talented musicians that will have you dancing in the streets…literally. Among the line-up will be Muppet’s Bubbles of Bliss Band (of The Big Dirty), Trouble City All-Stars (reggae roots) and Slingshot Dakota.

Please visit us for the ultimate collaboration of creative thinkers, independent entrepreneurs and eco-conscious planners. Find out how you can become more involved in the ever-evolving process of becoming more active in your community that truly makes Bethlehem “Glitter”.

Loly Reynolds – Community Artists of Bethlehem (C.A.B.) Director

What’s all this I hear about a “LOOPapalooza?” *

According to the info-PACKED LOOPapalooza website, participants:

“[On Saturday, Sept 18th from 2-8 pm] Ride The LOOP [bus] through Bethlehem’s two downtowns during this unique, hop-on, hop-off festival! 10 stops with food, live music, refreshments, discounts at stores and restaurants, kids activities and more!”

So it’s a local community event….
And why would Lehigh University students be interested in this? Well, all one has to do is poke around the website to see NINE different themed areas of fun spread out over north side and south side Bethlehem. The website even has a map that shows where the fun is along the regular Loop Bus route.

AND…, there’s more!
Live Music = SEVEN bands lined up. And if you want to know what they sound like, the website offers links to each of the bands so you can preview for pleasure planning. BTW, this is a good time to get a sense for the local music scene. So unplug your ipod and feel the vibrations on your whole body.

Activities from 2 to 8pm. Finale concerts from 8 to 10pm.

But wait,…, there’s still more!
LOOPapalooza College Challenge pits school against school as students complete a scavenger hunt through Bethlehem’s two great downtowns. Answer questions at each of LOOPapalooza Towns to earn points. The college with the most points wins.

How it works: LOOPapalooza will host the first ever College Challenge: LEHIGH vs. MORAVIAN. Remember the Orientation scavenger hunt? This challenge shouldn’t be too hard – but did you cross the river yet? Here’s some more incentive for you…
*IF LEHIGH WINS: Each [participating] student will receive a FREE drink or appetizer from Molly’s Irish Pub & Grill on 4th Street.

And if you act now!
Tickets are only $10, if you buy online. Day of the event, tickets go up to $15. What does a ticket get you? Check here. I can tell you that unlimited access to all the bouncy rides is worth it for me.

*this post is respectfully written in homage to the legendary SNL commercial parodies, and my favorite all time character, Miss Emily Litella.

New Place Maker for the Lehigh Valley

I just saw the announcement of the artist selected for the Fire Sculpture at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, PA. Elena Colombo’s work will be a beacon for public art, as much as it will be a place maker for the site. As Jeff Parks said in his statements today, “Think of Prometheus in front of the Rockefeller Center in NYC, or the Fountains of Rome.” I thought that perspective was a great way to think forward of how we may be reflecting on the piece five years from now.

Here’s some concept pictures of the announcement today:

Colomba 1

Colomba 2

I was thinking about stories I heard of the Calatrava being built in Milwaukee, WI. People would see large parts of the structure being shipped along Interstate 94 through Chicago. It was part of the excitement and buzz around the “Art Lives Here” campaign of their city. This piece has now become an icon for art in Milwaukee.

Public art has a way to transform the identity of a space. But what we have coming to Bethlehem is not only a chance for citizens to embrace public art again (we have quite a lot of it, proud to say). Lehigh University has a chance to see the PROCESS of how this piece is built, installed and lit. From foundations to the champagne, we can all be students of the creative process that goes into a work like this. While its design is elegantly simple, there is no such simple task in making it happen.

Other news sources will talk about how the National Endowment for the Arts was a big part of today’s announcement, as will more talk about Steelstacks. All important topics of the day.

My mind however, is thinking about something else. I’m delighted that Ms. Colombo is willing to have local artists work with her team and build the piece HERE in town. I’ve even offered to document the process – so I hope to gather some students who are committed to it as well.

Now let me step on my pulpit. If we truly embrace the arts in our community, we need to understand the process of making it. Let it be known that ideas, innovation and determination are major ingredients to creativity. But in order for a big vision like this to happen, there are LOTS of stories to know, lots of perspectives to consider in not only design, but building, installing and understanding what goes into all of them. And I hope we find them, and tell them. It’s my job to think about what will engage people in the art. This is an excellent opportunity to engage not only in the art; but to witness how it got here.

Thank you for that indulgence. This piece will be lit. That’s right – it will be ON FIRE. Now I must tell you (just between you and me) – I’m hoping the artist makes adjustments for the inevitable balloon that will float into the flame unit. I’d hate to see burning rubber fall on unsuspecting kids. Yes, that’s how this mother-mind works.

Director’s note 9-08-10 Two ceremonies of hope

Take note of two big announcement/ceremonies in South Bethlehem this week.

The first happens at 4:30PM this afternoon on the corner of Morton and Brodhead. For Lehigh readers not familiar with street names, this is one street west of Campus Square, and across the street from Brodhead Dorms.

Broughal Middle School, Just Born, Lehigh University, and the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley will have a celebratory announcement and symbolic ribbon tying ceremony to mark the creation of the Broughal Community School Partnership.

Thursday, at 3PM on the Greenway site just east of New Street, The City of Bethlehem will do a groundbreaking ceremony on this section of the Linear Park. Head north on New Street from Campus Square, and look for the podium on the grass.

What is important to note about both ceremonies is the sense of hope, and possibility for the Renaissance of South Bethlehem. Lehigh University will be a part of both partnerships. If you’re a member of the Lehigh University community that has the impression of “not a lot going on off campus,” witness these moments.

I reference not a specific quote, but a pervasive attitude that lingers among some in our campus community. Active engagement in your local community may change your perspective.

September First Friday. It’s back – and with a VENGENCE!

For those new to campus, the First Friday in South Bethlehem is the monthly event where local businesses and venues have a big party. In the general area of central South Bethlehem, one can walk around and stop in to find sales, samples and smiles. There’s a great family feel to this regular community event.

If you plan to venture into the city, try to make your way to the Northampton Community Center Fowler Center at 511 East 3rd street to see the multiple art installations with the “More Serious Business” show. The artists (more than 60) will be on hand to talk about their work. Then make your way west to stop in the many stores along 3rd street. On the other end, you’ll find hot glass blowing demonstrations at the Banana Factory. Head inside and upstairs to find even more artists in their studios.

Back on the street, be sure to stop by the Maze Garden on 3rd and New to meet the Faculty and students who were part of the South Bethlehem Community Gardens. Mayor John Callahan will also be there.

Try to reserve some energy for the businesses on 4th street. If you don’t get to everything Friday, you’ll have another chance next month, and the month after that. But don’t wait too long. You’ll need to gather some good stories to tell your friends and family back home soon enough.

A tribute to Bob Thompson

When I first arrived to campus, there were many people who helped me learn about my newly adopted campus and local community. Colleagues I now consider friends helped me settle in. I immediately felt at home with the generosity of strangers.

One such stranger to me was Bob Thompson. He and his wife, Nadine Sine invited my family to their home in Fountain Hill for dinner. It is a lovely home, close to campus, with a spectacular backyard view of the Bethlehem star. I was nervous that my toddlers would break something precious, so we ate on the side porch. Throughout dinner, Bob told me stories of the people and the city of which he was very proud. We talked about art, community and civic duty.

When I would see Bob at a Music Department concert, he would always smile and want to chat a little longer; even when the house lights were dimming. He always made me want to slow down and appreciate his company.

It happens too often that we learn about the amazing life of a person after they have died. I learned more about Bob’s beautiful life by hearing other peoples’ stories. He was a champion of the youth in our community, an advocate for equal opportunity and preservation of local history. He embraced all people with generosity, respect and patience.

The community will come together to remember Bob Thompson next Tuesday in Packer Chapel. We will gather to honor a man who has done much for the city. And to learn how one man’s life touched so many.