A Night with “Spotlight” Star Marty Baron ’76: Cultivating Community, Advocacy, and Entrepreneurship through the Arts

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(Image credit: NiemanLab)

Though it has been two months ago, I felt this arts event was important to document, as it exhibits everything we have been learning in our ENTP 123 Art Community Entrepreneurship class: finding entrepreneurship opportunities, cultivating community, and advocating through the lens of the arts, and fostering the spirit of Lehigh from the local to the international scale—all of which was accomplished through a Thursday night movie screening and Q&A with a Lehigh alumnus. On February 18, 2016, the Lehigh, wider South Side and Lehigh Valley communities had the immense pleasure and a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch a screening of the Oscar-nominated and then winning film Spotlight with Marty Baron ’76 and then speak with him.


While I do enjoy the opportunity to watch movies alone with an audience, as some do by themselves but with Netflix, I felt an opportunity such as this—specially geared towards the Lehigh community by a Lehigh graduate—required the opposite of solo time. It would be silly not to engage this event with friends made at Lehigh, and I didn’t have to convince my friends to go. Lehigh’s official communications department sent an announcement then two reminder emails to the campus, so my friends had already heard of it, all of us watching the trailer and reading about it in anticipation. By the time I had arrived—contrary to most events, tickets and early arrival were recommended, as my friends and I quickly learned as we struggled to find seats together—I saw other friends from my first year, those who I hadn’t seen in a long time. They made room for us in the second row, seats that we were fortunate to snag, as the balcony was overflowing and others were being turned away at the main entrance.

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(Image credit: Lehigh University)

As seniors, my friends and I barely had time to grab a bite to eat beforehand, yet we abided by the old saying: “you don’t know what you don’t know.” We didn’t find the need for the typical popcorn and butter, nor did we even know we were hungry because of the excitement of the event, whose promise all of us had genuinely and sincerely looked forward to in the months then weeks leading up to it. A film starring A-list actors in the running for six Academy Awards with relevance that extended to our elementary school years, then live audience participation and Q&A with the editor of the Spotlight team? These three hours into the night would not be among those we would groan at on a school night. We, however, would groan together at the politicking of antagonists as a middle-aged alumnae muttered, “Now that’s how all [the corruption] begins” to our “hmm’s” in agreement. And we would also do double and triple takes at Liev Schreiber’s striking resemblance to the night’s honorary guest, then upon realization, rise up in a standing ovation at his entrance.

The night was spent in rapt attention, from Vice Provost Patrick Farrell’s opening remarks, viewing on a screen that rivaled those from Carmike 16, AMC, and Regal, and discussion with Chair of the Journalism and Communications Department Professor Jack Lule and the man of honor himself. While attending blockbusters such as the University Productions-sponsored screenings of The Avengers and Monsters University on the UC front lawn at the beginning of the year and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with fellow Lehigh friends were obvious first-year orientation and community-building choices, engaging Spotlight at the seat of the respected university of the leader was more special and engaging. Very little can compare to watching a film recognizing a Lehigh alumnus amongst friends and colleagues, all with a connection to Lehigh, for the first time. Alumni had traveled hours to reconnect—and they did, introducing themselves and calling out to Baron as old Brown and White staff members—and current students literally rubbed shoulders with an audience of varying ages. Though movies have been criticized for being purveyors of passive consumption and interaction, I’d counter that events like this have done more to build solidarity across age groups and graduation years than forced networking events. In the closed Packer auditorium, it was an intimate environment, and the feeling of collegiality swept over everyone.


As a second-semester senior and soon-to-be alumna, I believe these events like these are the strongest in espousing the principles of Art Community Entrepreneurship. Though it is not always that an award-winning film is made about an alumnus, similar events engaging current students, alumni, and the wider community before and after clearly yield positive returns on multiple fronts: personal student inspiration in seeing a successful example of who they wish to become, advocacy for significant matters whose embodiment we wish to see in leaders, university and arts finances, and community building. From the perspective of a student and recent graduate whose schedule is becoming increasingly inflexible and selective, this is an event that I would not miss. As classmate Brent Lorraine mentioned, community members will secede from the community if they do not feel that they belong, if their participation matters. Ongoing interactions with alumni address this concern and can fuel greater solidarity, school spirit, and donations. In using a movie recognized by a major U.S. and international cultural organization for a movie- and media-heavy culture, the post-film momentum to host a participatory Q&A giving audience members the agency to offer insightful questions and the intimacy for answers, and fostering an atmosphere of excellence and intellectualism, this was an excellent case study in entrepreneurship. This is by far my favorite art event this year and of my top three in my Lehigh career. After this, I am excited and energized to see what else there is to come for alumna like me.

Marty Baron returns to Lehigh for “Spotlight” Screening from The Brown and White on Vimeo.

—Sunny Huang, Class of 2016

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First Friday of April at the Banana Factory

Last Friday, I was able to attend the Banana Factory’s First Friday, for my art experience in the Bethlehem community. It was the first time I had been to the Banana Factory in my almost three years at Lehigh, and I wish I had gone before that since it was a great and fun experience. I chose to go to First Friday because it was an extremely interesting event that I wanted to attend but was unable to previously because of my prior commitments to the tennis team at Lehigh. I wanted to take a trip to the Banana Factory as I was an active art student in high school and attended many local art galleries as well as larger museums in New York City. However, since I have been at Lehigh, I have not been involved with creating or going to see other artwork, so this was the perfect opportunity. I also was interested in the all-encompassing event of First Friday, including the presence of some of the featured artists, activities, community engagement, and hors d’oeuvres.

I attended First Friday with two of my teammates, Kirstin and Nina. Kirstin and I walked to the Banana Factory from Polk Street. Nina’s parents were visiting from Texas, so they drove to meet us there a few minutes little later. Kirstin and I arrived at the Banana Factory at approximately 6:15 pm, however since neither of us had ever been inside, we had to take a lap around the building before discovering the entrance. While walking around the back of the building, we witnessed people doing the Hot Glass Experience. When researching April’s First Friday, I noticed that the glass blowing artwork was to make a Hummingbird Feeder, which looked like an interesting and creative item to create. In the future, I definitely want to experience creating my own glass artwork at the Banana Factory.

We entered the building through the side door near the parking lot, and the walls of the Banana Factory were already a work of art, as well as the various sculptures outside surrounding the factory. Once I stepped inside, there were various pieces of art displayed on the walls of the hallway, all by the same artist: Arthur Nicholas Buroff. I recognized a lot of the pieces, since I looked up the work he has done in anticipation of seeing his Hallway to the Arts exhibition and Buroff himself at the venue. He was there talking to multiple people about his work and many other art patrons were asking questions, so I was able to listen to how he picked the artwork to be displayed in the Banana Factory, and how he chose to price his work.

In the Banana Factory, there was a room with about a dozen hand sculptures, some just the hand itself, and others were painted in extremely different fashions in different types of paint. In the next room over, there was a studio type room where some people were painting these hand sculptures. I was curious as to what exactly was going on since I read about a “surprising and fun community art project” online, so I inquired about this. A Banana Factory employee explained to me that it was a community art project, and all members of the community were invited to paint a hand sculpture, and it would be displayed in the gallery. They wanted the entire room filled with these painted hands, and come the end of the exhibit, each person was invited to take their hand home with them. I wish I had been able to paint one of these hands, and feel more connected and involved in the Southside Bethlehem community. However, we had dinner reservations at 7 pm at Edge Restaurant on the North side, so we were restricted on time. I also wish I was able to see the end result of the hand sculpture gallery, at the end of the evening when each hand was painted and displayed.

In the Crayola Gallery, the National Association of Woman Artists (NAWA): Creative Muse exhibit was on display. I spoke to Stacie Brennen, the Senior Director of Visual Arts at the Banana Factory and a representative from NAWA after walking around the room and looking at each piece of artwork. The woman from NAWA explained who their association is and what they do for female artists across the U.S. I enjoyed learning and hearing about how the organization chose each artist and each piece to be displayed in the gallery, and how this tied into the Create Muse exhibition.

Another part of the First Friday experience was the hors d’oeuvres provided by Wegman’s, as well as a mini bar to purchase beverages. When I first arrived at the Banana Factory, I grabbed a few hors d’oeuvres and continued to explore the venue and admire the artwork displayed there. During my time at the event, I noticed that the majority of people in attendance were of an older crowd; I did not see any Lehigh students, besides my two friends.

After visiting the Banana Factory, and not having the opportunity to explore every aspect of the building, I was curious to see what else it has to offer. I was surprised to find out that there are 30 different galleries in which artists can display their art. I only experienced the different exhibitions on the first floor, so I was unaware of how large and how much space the Banana Factory has.

My first First Friday experience was a great one, and in the future, I will definitely attend each event that I am able to and for a longer time. It was not only fun, but also an eye opening experience since I have never done anything like this in Bethlehem. It was a nice way to get off Lehigh’s campus on a Friday evening, and I will recommend to my friends and peers to go in May and next year when we return to campus.

-Cassidy Cruz

A Mid-March Visit to the Art Galleries by a Senior

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of finally stepping foot into Lehigh University Art Galleries. And after visiting, I have to say—as a second-semester senior, I only wish that I did it sooner.

I knew Zoellner Arts Center was the center of music, rehearsals, and official Lehigh-sponsored events, such as the 2012 Gala with Kristin Chenoweth, stunning Japanese dance and drums performance by TAO, and renowned poets like the Poet Laureate Billy Collins, yet every time I stepped foot into this architectural masterpiece, I forgot about the other dynamic artists hosted within. Paintings, photography, drawings, and sculptures tucked away yet ever present, still hallmarks of the Lehigh curatorial genius and culture on campus. While not “dynamic” in the common sense—not being outside or popularly conceptualized as so—these artworks are no less so than the dancing across the Mustard and Cheese stage. Those rooms hold a quiet vigor of their own, as two students and I discovered.

There has never been a time where I haven’t seen mentions of the Art Galleries in the University Announcements, a daily email upon whose arrival announced to students that they were up too late. In spite of its written prevalence and new series and events added each month, there seems to be an unfortunately low number of visitors. Finally, to complement my consumption of arts events produced by students, I convinced two others to explore what Lehigh’s staff had created in the Arts Galleries.

The walk was five minutes from my previous class, easily accessible, yet seemingly so far out of reach for most students, aside from rehearsals and the occasional Zoellner event. It turns out that the walk and self-guided tour itself were easy to do between classes, aka a perfect to-do for those awkward “forty-five minutes between class” moments. After signing in and paying nothing—it’s for free! Lehigh really does want you to experience the arts—we entered a comfortably lit room together. Rather than planning which pieces to view, we simply engaged in the spontaneous with the walls. Our steps were random, yet methodical. If a painting or photograph caught our eye, we simply walked towards it and studied it together, not particularly concerned with the artist’s name—there were too many after all—but more entranced by the details, strokes, and textures involved. At the more striking ones, we all tilted our heads, trying to make sense of them and observing, studying to see how we could replicate those motifs in our own non-art major work. While we did watch the movement of the works together, we each split off to explore on our own, occasionally catching up to each other wordlessly to admire what we saw in union and unison. Oil red flowers’ shading made real by slight shifts in pressure of the brush, the intricate cutting of colored outlines by a modernist, a traditional Japanese ink painting and a more modern one, made apparent by the roughness of the strokes. And many more, all breathtaking and ponderous, from a painting in the likeness of the Hudson River School and Picasso’s self-portrait to black and white photography interspersed amongst the colored glory.

None of us were art majors, yet we could all find some solace in the spacious rooms and frames along the wall. One friend had arrived late, his hair in tufts and circles etched visibly under his eyes. His posture read the Galleries as skeptical, yet by the end, he had entered his own world. We all had, and we were all less stressed, our shoulders lank and footsteps languid and unhurried, a stark contrast to our arrivals. We didn’t have much to say to each other after that as we had lingered in the Galleries for too long and a few minutes late to class, but it was clear that all of us had enjoyed the brief respite amongst the squares and rectangles along the wall, almost tripping over the sculptures on the ground in our daze to float to the next one. While we did not have the literature or vocabulary to conduct a full vocal investigation of the litany of tropes and themes present, we could mumble a “look at the positioning in this one,” “imagine the wrist of the artist creating this gesture drawing,” “these colors are so bold,” and “I didn’t know we had a Picasso! Was this painted in his transition between a child prodigy and burgeoning abstract artist?”

We admired the varied collection held by Lehigh, for we truly did not comprehend its diversity and scale, how a beautifully-curated gallery with inspirations across the globe was right here at school, with no need to visit Philadelphia or New York for its art museums there. Because we couldn’t chance the “…Of The Americas: Contemporary Latin American Art” and “Revisiting South Bethlehem: 150 Years of Photographygalleries, also mentioned in the announcements, due to class, we vowed to return again. In the meantime, we wondered about ways to increase the collections’ visibility to the student body—modern and Millennial-created flyers around Maginnes, Williams Hall, UC, and other hotspots in the university, mentioning the (im)possibility of a Picasso in our very midst—the differences between the experience with and without music, infusing our work with these inspirations, the current and potential value they have and could have for the South Side community, and when, exactly, we could return, not in between classes, to truly experience all that the Lehigh Art Galleries had to offer.

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Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the Galleries, but inspired by the diverse art forms and strokes in the Art Galleries, I took the time to explore the significance of line, angle, texture, and pressure of pencil together in my own time. Every stroke is significant. Every stroke contributes. Every stroke is a foundational matter (and matters). (Instagram)

—Sunny Huang, Class of 2016