Attention Seniors!! (…and everyone else)

Previous Brown and White issues have featured two of locations we’re encouraging you to visit in the next three days. Tomorrow at 4:30PM, visit the “secret art space” on the mountain top. There’s going to be a legendary ceremony to celebrate the Chinese Bridge. Participants will be able to walk across the newly built Chinese bridge, and learn some interesting pieces of Lehigh’s history and Chinese culture. Part of the ceremony will honor the first Chinese students Lehigh in the 1870’s (here’s more to that historical piece). The ceremony will also include a aspects of the Chinese Qingming festival (meaning “bright and clear”) which celebrates the coming of spring.

So why is the space so secret? Because it’s not on any campus map. But you will be able to get there by bus. Just take any Lehigh University bus bound for the Mountain Top campus, but get off just in front of the Alpha Phi house. If you walk from there a little further, you’ll see a small access drive. By 4:30 tomorrow, you’ll see a bunch of other people in a space that’s normally only visited by forest animals.

If you want to really be in the spirit of the event, wear red clothing. Better yet, print out a Chinese mask and bring that along as well. And since it’s been a little rainy lately – we recommend sturdy shoes (or Wellies)

The other location to visit is the ENTIRE south Bethlehem business district for the 16th annual Spring on Fourth activities. A great summary of the day was featured on Michele Ryder’s column a few weeks ago. One thing you might feel is a huge outpouring of pride and joy from the many local citizens who organize all the activities on the day. There’s a chili fest with over 35 stations to taste, art and music happening on the streets at corners, and an awesome celebration of youth and reading at the Looper’s lot organized by Cops N Kids of the Lehigh Valley. And the weather looks good, too. If you get all caught up in the local scene of the Spring on Fourth, there’s always the next First Friday to continue your rounds of South Bethlehem culture.

And one more thing…. want to really witness history? The first public music event at the new SteelStacks Musikfest Cafe will be Sunday night, featuring local music legend, Craig Thatcher Band with special guests. If you haven’t yet ventured into the Steelstacks building yet, be prepared to be blown away by the venue and the ambitious programming coming to the Lehigh Valley.

If you manage to get to any of these events, or something more – PLEASE let us know how it was. Comments on our blog are always open.


Email, Facebook updates, Twitter feeds, and Blogs.

The title sounds like a list of scary creatures in the Forrest of Winkie County. (look up that reference for extra brownie points). But this list is more about our daily reading, A.I. (after internet). ArtsLehigh reads hundreds of emails from local, regional and national arts newsletters as well as Facebook updates from artists and arts organizations. We also have accumulated a good list of artsy types to follow on Twitter. This activity is not so much to keep communications hip and trendy. It’s a thorough scan of what’s happening in the community arts scene so that we can share it with others.

We search for conversation about why the arts are important to our community. Sometimes we start topics, sometimes we join in. Our blog is the space where we highlight conversation about the intrinsic value of the arts as creators or observers. Our belief is that the arts are a valuable pathway to learning, human expression and community evolution.

The ArtsLehigh blog has recently won the “Best Arts Blog” in the Morning Call News. While we are thrilled with the recognition, the contest also highlighted other blogs of the Lehigh Valley. We share the link to the Morning Call local blogosphere site because it’s really hard to find from their main web page. We hope you take a look at the blogs listed here; or bookmark the page and look later. It’s a pretty good list of community voices that care so much about the spaces we share. We also want to support our blogger friends who’ve voted for us. We only hope to do justice to the time readers give.

The ArtsLehigh blog got another shout-out on the [Express Times] Lehigh Valley Live Community Blog Roll. This list of blogs is even greater. One can get lost in them; but we’ve found a pretty good list of blogs that inform us about what’s going on, and why we care about it. We enjoy reading multiple perspectives on the things that matter to our community. We hope that by linking here, our readers can also find others in the community that offer great insight not only about the arts and culture of the Lehigh Valley, but about matters connecting to conversations about our shared values, and how we connect to each other.

And while we’re on the topic of conversation, there is an added element of personal contact with all the social media. Monthly tweetups happen in various incarnations so that people do actually meet face to face. Tomorrow, 7PM at the Allentown Brew Works, the Lehigh Valley Tweetup will celebrate it’s second anniversary. This effort was started by Lehigh Alum, Michael Andreano. He’s also using social media to launch a monumental effort to raise funds and awareness for leukemia research. If you can’t get to Allentown tomorrow to meet Michael and the rest of a really nice bunch of local citizens who Tweet (and some blog, and have active Facebook profiles), there’s another chance at Campus Square this Friday at 4pm. The first ever Lehigh University tweet up was launched by journalism professor, Jeremy Littau (prof. Twitter to his students). It’s a chance to meet other students, faculty and staff who tweet. Why? Because you just might make new friends and find others who share your values, and become your greatest supporters.

You might find that after you’ve “found” someone on Twitter, when you finally meet them in person, you can skip all the “where are you from and what’s your major” preludes. You can get right down to, “what did you mean in your twitter haiku about @asapackersghost?

Cutting the arts in schools.

An arts advocacy friend at the Kennedy Center sent me this video. While the content of the video is inspiring, I had to dig a little into the situation that prompted the production.

One area news source, The Mercury Online, posted the same video to encourage community dialogue. The comments are interesting. If one has been keeping up on local school board conversations, it’s apparent that the conversations about school budgets are similar in districts all over the state.

The situation is dire. The new PA Governor has set some pretty drastic cuts to school districts around the country. The ripple effects of job loss will be seen immediately. But what about the ripple effects on the students? What will the impact be for a community value of the arts?

After the educational report, “A Nation at Risk” came out 28 years ago, huge reforms in schools were enacted; including the “No Child Left Behind Act.” But as our current leaders make decisions, it seems they’ve forgotten recommendations of this report; which actually INCLUDED the arts in the curriculum.

Twenty-eight years ago, curriculum discussions often separated subjects. But how often do we apply our knowledge of subjects separately? In learning, as in life, disciplines mix. To value the arts as a part of that mix, is to value THINKING and COMMUNICATION. Don’t we want students to know how to challenge themselves and to learn from failure? Engaged students become citizens who seek improvement in life, in the small and larger circles that impact themselves and their neighbors.

Twenty years from now, will we have a community of citizens who value the arts enough to support the investment we’re putting into the Steelstacks? Will they understand the impact of community gathering for human expression beyond entertainment? Will they understand that exploring doesn’t guarantee an outcome; but that it may be part of the new invention? Will they embrace discipline for purpose beyond the pay check? Will they value continued education for themselves, their children, their neighbors?

Are we losing sight of foundations needed for the greater good? The arts teach compassion and empathy as much as design, aesthetics, history and culture. Here’s another video that says it pretty well.

What can we learn about the Civil War through Art?

Did you know that the American Civil War began April 12, 1861? This is the date when confederate forces attacked a U.S. Military installation at Fort Sumner in South Carolina. (That event was one hundred and fifty years ago) To commemorate this piece of United States history, there will be multiple events in the arts and culture scheduled in the Lehigh Valley over the next four years. Why so long? That’s how long the Civil War lasted. The arts, culture and history groups in the Lehigh Valley won’t let this anniversary go unrecognized. Just last week, Touchstone Theatre premiered their work, “The Whitman Piece.” Tomorrow night, at Zoellner Arts Center, the Lehigh University Wind Ensemble will feature music of the Civil War; led by their director, David Diggs.

David Diggs has been researching the music of the Civil War for years. He is also the director of the Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band and member of the faculty wind quintet (oboe). A few years ago, an article was written about his research and the resulting CD of music. I was curious to learn more about why he was interested in the music, so I gave him a call.

Diggs told me that the music of the Civil War was created to serve primarily as entertainment for soldiers while they waited for days at camp, or kept them moving on the march – sometimes as much as 25 miles a day. The songs were mostly of homes and mothers; comfort to the horrors of battle. The instrumental music has an evolutional component to the instruments’ design. It wasn’t until a chromatic system was developed for the coronet (valves) that they became more melodic than harmonic. Some of these brass instruments were designed to have the bells facing behind the musician, so their placement in the front of the troops would have directed sound to keep them in step.

The wind ensemble will play works of the era, including original music written for Abraham Lincoln, Jerry Bilik’s “American Civil War Fantasy,” David Diggs’s composition, “Proud Songs of the Storm” and special arrangements from Civil War regimental band books. Free lobby show at 7 p.m. features the Federal City Brass Band performing Civil War Music on period instruments.

This weekend, you might want to cross over the Lehigh River to observe the Civil War Encampment as part of the Living History activities of the Bethlehem Historic Society.

•April 16-17: “Living History: A Civil War Encampment,” 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 16 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 17 at the Colonial Industrial Quarter in Bethlehem. This family event features re-enactors, who will play the roles of men in the 153rd Pa. Volunteer Infantry, as they are recruited, mustered in, trained, drilled and depart to fight to keep the nation united. In the encampment, you can visit Union and Confederate soldiers who will tell stories of their daily routines. The event includes a parade at 10 a.m., medical demonstrations, fashion shows, music and activities for children, including a scavenger hunt. If you miss this weekend, bookmark the Bethlehem Historic Society website for future reference. There will be many events to try to catch as our community continues to commemorate this important part of our country’s history.

So what might we learn from these experiences? We might re-connect with the human element of this history. We can have a visceral sense of what our ancestors lived through. And perhaps, we’ll carry that experience to the next time we learn of a civil war happening in our time, perhaps somewhere else. And we’ll keep our humanity.

Data reflects strong student engagement in the arts at Lehigh University

Lehigh University’s Office of Institutional Research recently posted new information on their website. We were delighted to see a particular graph on the page about current students.

This is obviously important data to consider. We’re ready to dig a little deeper into what other implications this reflects.

Looking for something?

Early this week, more than 500 arts advocates from around the country met in Washington DC to convince policy makers that the arts and arts education are of great importance in our country. There was a moment at the Kennedy Center, before the keynote speaker, Kevin Spacey gave his reasons for supporting the arts. The moment was a performance by a high school show choir. While the ensemble was selected from a combination of performance excellence, and the recent popularity of the TV show, “GLEE!” one could not mistake the indelible moment that performance had for the performers and audience.

The audience was reminded that performances like that don’t happen without the dedication of an arts teacher; and a network of parents, administrators and civic support behind that. The performers were blessed with a life-long memory of being on the same stage as countless artists before them, and sharing their talents with an audience of celebrities, politicians and advocates from around the country. It was a purely joyful moment.

Where do you find JOY in your life? What about PEACE? ACCEPTANCE? UNDERSTANDING? How do we come to understand each other in these challenging times of differences, conflict and pressure? How do we learn more about ourselves? When are those experiential moments that reveal questions about the universe?

If you know the answers, you are truly enlightened. If you are still looking for places, times, people and experiences to help you navigate the path of life toward JOY and ACCEPTANCE, you just might find some direction through the arts.

Experiencing the 24th Annual Nancy Hanks lecture.

I signed on to be part of a Twitter team for the Americans for the Arts National Arts Advocacy Day. I have two Twitter profiles one is personal, the other is about arts engagement. My Twitter habits have formed over the last 18 months. For me, I keep my social and work lives a little more separate, and my followers know better what to expect from each. It also helps me focus skimming through Twitter time lines, better than hastags and lists since not every user understand or applies the practice.

In years past, I had brought students to attend the Nancy Hanks lecture. One year, I brought a friend who let me stay in his DC apartment during my visit. This year, I decided that since I would be doing a heavy amount of social media, it would be rude to invite someone I knew to sit next to me at any of the events. I delve into my mobile devices with either thumbs independently circling a tiny iPhone landing pad, (good thing I’m a bassoonist) or my fingers flying at the iPad perched on my rudely crossed legs. Sometimes, I’ve got both devices running. Of course I have no time for even eye contact with humans. Social media has stunted my social skills. But I’m really OK with that. As long as I can teach my own children how to find a better balance.

Back to the event last night’s Nancy Hanks lecture. It was the 24th annual speech delivered by a notable person, recognized by the Americans for the Arts Board. The speaker series is named after the first Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and held the position for eight years. The series began in 1988 “to honor her memory and to provide an opportunity for public discourse at the highest levels on the importance of the arts and culture to our national’s well being.” (event program book) Here’s a list of past speakers.

I arrived at the Kennedy Center as quickly as I could (bus was stuck in traffic), and was grateful to have been in the building often enough to skip the tourist photos to head straight to the side boxes to get as close to the stage as possible. Even though I’m tending to my electronic date, I still like to see facial expressions of the speakers for real, and not on big screen. You also get a better vantage point for celebrity spotting. I found a chair next to the wall, so my glowing screens would not annoy anyone sitting behind me. There are manners to this behavior, you know…

No network service inside the hall. Glad that I did my FourSquare check-in at the lobby. When the entrance cue is that long, I gotta do SOMETHING with my hands. God forbid I strike up a conversation with strangers. Yes, I remember doing that B.E. (before electronics) There wasn’t a ton of leg room in my seat. But that was good. I could prop my foot against the seat in front of me to steady my leg for a make shift flat surface. That was fine until the person in front of me shifted. I was so distracted by searching for a signal that I instinctively pushed her seat back. I quickly apologized for the rude gesture, and hoped she would sit still for the rest of the night.

The hall was slow to fill, and the event started 18 minutes late due to same traffic I was stuck in. While I waited, I read through the program book, and completed a few levels of Angry Birds. I didn’t manage to bring any old tools, so I took out the Evernote app on the vintage iPad to take notes. (Shameless endorsements? Nope. All these apps are for engaging my uber geek audiences)

Each Nancy Hanks lecture is now recorded and available to either read or hear. I would highly recommend hearing Wynton Marsalis’ speech from last year. Blew. Me. Away. But that usually takes a couple of weeks after. And I love quoting them hit the mood is hot. You can even get transcripts of all the speeches through the American’s for the Arts. Older ones are printed, so you must order Monograph copies. I re-read Robert MacNeil’s and William Safire’s speech when I need inspiration from great writers.

Two years ago, I figured out how to get close enough to the front to spot celebrities at the Kennedy center. They usually are the ones who serve on the artists committee for the Americans for the Arts. And of course, the business board members I recognize from conventions… Oh look, Kerry Washington! Still hoping for an Alec Baldwin sighting. Now that tomorrow’s congressional hearing has been cancelled, I wonder if he will turn up. Two years ago, I spotted John Legend. And a swarm of fans around him. That was amusing.

The lobby bells were ringing for 30 minutes. When the house lights finaly dimmed, the first person to the stage was Bob Lynch, president and CEO of the Americans for the Arts.

He’s been leading this organization for 25 years. Hard to miss him at their events. He’s the one with the warm smile and approachable manner. And great hair!

Bob tells us that this is the largest audience ever for the 24th annual Nancy Hanks lecture. It’s also the 99th Cherry blossom festival. He reminded us of the people of Japan who then, in a gesture of cultural friendship gave them to us. Now, we paused to think of them in their time of need. Back to business, he said, “Arts advocacy work is tough this year. Budget crisis is not new, but facing dire situations.” He doesn’t take a long time, but I know this is when he points out the “notables” in attendance. To my surprise, he started by calling out the twitter team. I’m glad he explained my behavior. Honestly, I’m not texting my BFF. Too bad we can’t tweet live from inside!

Bob recognized Rocco Landesman, current chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. He was sitting Center balcony -very presidential (cheeky). NY Rep. Louise Slaughter (D)(one of my personal faves), as well as congressmen from Rhode Island and Oregon. Then listen chairs of other national arts and humanities board. Ooh, Kerry Washington. (you can follow her on Twitter, too) And Susan Corbett, 1st lady of Pennsylvania. (Hmm. Wonder if her platform for the arts will conflict with things back home?) I live in Pennsylvania. I’ll be starting a new effort to follow her work when I return.

One last quick obligatory direction to the website,… Only 8 minutes. Not bad, Bob. Then he introduced the warm up entertainment. It’s a performance by a local show choir. While I’m not a big fan of the form (childhood scars), I’m sure this performance will be stellar. It’s a national event. No slop allowed. The reason for this performance is not only to be “entertained.” It’s to remind us of the work of public school art teachers. This kids of opportunity for young people to perform on a national stage in front of important people doesn’t happen without the dedication of high school choir directors. And that was part of our mission tomorrow. We need to save programs like this so that future generations of children can have these life memories. And remember how important they were when they become voters.

The performing group, Touch of Class was voted Americas favorite show choir. If they were at regionals in Lima, Ohio, they’d blow the pants off Vocal Adrenaline (yes, I’ll be putting in ALL my gleek references as well)
Bob then introduced Charles Segars, who is the CEO of Ovation and the honorary co-chair of the National Arts Advocacy Day. Read more about Ovation TV here.  And if you feel so inclined, subscribe to their TV channel. It will definitely improve the quality of stuff coming out of the flat screen in your living room.

Some quotes from Charles’ speech:

“Sharing the stage with the history of who’s performed on it is an overwhelming feeling. But the climb to that stage begins on the local level. Some politicians and pundits are attacking arts programs as partisan tools for cheap political gain. There no room for that in the arts. Purposeful misinformation will be met head on.”

He then got to his role, introducing tonight’s speaker. Kevin Spacey’s credentials given not only as actor, but in his producer and advocate roles. We were told that Mr. Spacey spent the afternoon visiting the troops at Walter Reed hospital. The man has integrity. And he got in some sight seeing.

I have extracted my detailed notes about Mr. Spacey’s speech in another post. But to inspire you to hit the link to those, here’s some of the biggies from the night:

We must send the elevator back down. No matter what floor we’re on, there’s always someone just below waiting to be invited up. (in reference to a personal story of Jack Lemmon)

Can we afford not to support the arts?

Ask not what your country can do for the arts, ask what the arts can do for your country.

Standing ovation.

New chairman of the Americans for the Arts Board, C. Kendric Fergeson offered closing words.

Specific notes from Kevin Spacey’s Nancy Hanks lecture April 4, 2011

Here are some points from Kevin Spacey’s Nancy Hanks Speech delivered last night at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. It’s a mix of quotes, links, and other things I added after reviewing notes in hotel room. (Omni Shoreham, you do room service very well. I highly recommend the Crab Cake Sandwich)

Governments have long agreed in the value of the arts. It’s not just Kennedy and Johnson in the 1960. He read a quote from Margaret Thatcher, “…like health, education. The arts are universal goods to which all should be… ” I made a note to research more of the conversation of arts advocacy back in the 1970s. I found this transcript of a standing committee on education for the House of Commons, March 24, 1970.

Art. Does it matter? Spacey then spoke of how the arts mattered to him as a young boy. How the arts, and a renowned artist changed his life: Jack Lemmon. It’s a great story. I hope the transcript will also include the delightful historic photograph of Spacey as a 13 year old boy. Adorable!.

Twelve years later, he got the role of Jack Lemmon’s son in a Broadway production of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night. By O’Neill. (review) They also did film together, Glengarry Glen Ross.  Alec Baldwin is in that film, too. And he’s another staunch arts advocate.

Art and creativity is one of the most significant ways that humanity lifts itself out of hatred, intolerance and cruelty. He cited examples of previous Nancy Hanks speakers. As an actor, he had to research his role.

Referring to President Kennedy, “there is a connection, hard to explain logically, but easy to feel…” inspired by the poems of Robert Frost, [“When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.] Art is not a form of propaganda, it is a form of truth. [Get full quote from Kennedy’s speech ]
But also find these quotes all over the building we’re in….. The idea for this center began in 1933 by Eleanor Roosevelt, during great depression. The Bill was finally introduced in 1958, by then president Eisenhower.

The creative industries is this nations more powerful national resource. Economic downturn will be felt for years, arts cuts or not. We still need to act. Now.

Higher arts will only become available only to those who can afford it.

President Nixon said, “the attention and support we give the arts, enhance the quality of life for all Americans… And like our teachers, artists are an invaluable national resource.”~1970

Knute Rockne: The famous four horse defensive line formation idea came from watching a dance performance.

World War I military camouflage patterns were based on Picasso design

During the Second World War, Winston Churchill’s finance minister said Britain should cut arts funding to support the war effort. Churchill’s response: “Then what are we fighting for?”

Let’s be patriotic about our arts, building a better nation.

Spacey then talked about his work at Old Vic in London. And his coming Middle East Academy. And the Kevin Spacey Foundation

Why [do I do this]? To repay the debt I owe Jack Lemmon.
“Jack Lemmon had a phrase that he used all the time, that I’ve now adopted as my own. He believed that if you’ve been successful in your chosen path, then ‘sending the elevator back down’ is your obligation.”

Theatre creates a sense of family, learn to collaborate, whether or not they have a career interest in the arts. He shared a trailer of a documentary premier at TriBeCa film festival next. “Shakespeare High”

Here’s a link to the actual program.

Are artistic endeavors are luxury items? No, they are a necessity. Culture provides the magic of our experience. Countries may go to war, but culture unites us. Read Maya Angelo’s Nancy Hanks speech (1990). She quotes Langston Hughes in hers.

Writers are silenced by dictators because they know the artists who can move people and inflict pain on tyrants. these artists are being killed for the right of their voices to be heard.

On community development of buildings or civic centers, “Focusing on bricks and mortar instead of heart and soul of community development when all you think about are condos, coffee shops and retail. There must be an arts place where people gather.”

Spacey points out that it was Lincoln’s love of theatre, music and poetry which gave him this balance. His relationship w/ arts according to Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Lincoln’s ability to retain his emotional balance in such difficult situations was rooted in actute self-awareness and an enormous capacity to dispel anxiety in constructive ways.”

…Sending the elevator back down. No matter what floor we’re on, there’s always someone just below waiting to be invited up.

Can we afford not to support the arts?

And finally, to paraphrase a famous Kennedy quote, “Ask not what your country can do for the arts, and what the arts can do for your country.” (*)

Standing ovation.

*Most tweeted quote from the night. Please stay tuned to the Americans for the Arts websites for updates on Arts Advocacy issues. Get involved in the grassroots efforts.

Follow anyone from the AAD11 Twitter Team.

More student sculpture installations

Just to a quick walk over my lunch break to see the student work. Since I was walking my dog, I couldn’t go into the stores to see them without the reflective window barrier.

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The student artists will be walking the beat during First Friday. You might find the artists hanging out in their venue to talk about their work tonight.

This kind of project wouldn’t have happened without the encouragement of a faculty member, Lucy Gans, or without the generous cooperation of local merchants. If you can’t get to the art work tonight during First Friday – the exhibit runs through the month.