• Coordinating, Communicating and Advocating for the Arts in Allentown

    Art Around Every Corner

  • Business & The Arts: Session 3

    Over 50 business leaders in Allentown joined CCA for the third session of Business & The Arts focusing on the The Creative Economy & Allentown on October 8 in the Lyric Room of Miller Symphony Hall, presented in partnership with the Cultural Coalition of Allentown and the City of Allentown. The event focused on the creative economy in Allentown’s future and introduced new opportunities to leverage the cultural diversity of our communities to drive business, retain talent and expand economic prosperity.
     

  • Allentown Students Ready to Release Debut Films to the Community

    It’s a Monday afternoon in the middle of the summer. School is out and the “summer slide” is in
    full swing. But at Community Bike Works, a youth-centered non-profit in Allentown’s Promise
    Neighborhood, students from the Allentown School District are sitting around a table learning,
    collaborating, and speaking their stories into existence.
    On October 26th, seven short films from emerging student filmmakers were released to the
    public for the first time. The kick-off of the films’ community-wide tour began at
    Muhlenberg’s Multicultural Center (2252 W Chew Street, Allentown, PA), with a Saturday
    afternoon of artist-led workshops for youth, followed by a screening at
    6:30 pm and a moderated panel with student directors immediately following the screening.
    Students’ imaginative, genre-defying short films are produced by a new program, Collaborative
    Media Expressions (CME), that aims to engage, support, and cultivate youth voices through
    digital storytelling.
    Grant funding to support the immersive ten-week filmmaking workshop was awarded by Upside
    Allentown and managed by The Cultural Coalition of Allentown with a generous donation by local activist Daniel Poresky, to support a filmmaking program that is focused on shifting narratives in Allentown by centering and empowering young
    storytellers in the community.

    The Classroom on North Madison Street

    Photo by Nasheera Brown


    As Allentown students from across the city sit together at the table, their stories emerge and take shape. Non-fiction and fiction blend together as Nasheera (16) imagines what her poem about systemic racism looks like as a film.

    Her brother, Sharif (13), storyboards an experimental narrative about a friendship that is shared through a passion for bike riding. Avery (14) - who Sharif asks to act in his film - tries to take the language of a poem he wrote and turn it into
    something communicated solely through visuals. Christian (15) expresses concern about the recent spike in gun violence and drafts questions to ask local activists. Vannity (16) brings her notebook in from home with ideas sprawling across the page. Baraka (13) dreams about being the best soccer player in the world and maps out how that looks and feels on the screen. Erick (16) brings in ideas that seem endless and all possible, but his story really begins to take shape as a local climate protest approaches. In this classroom on North Madison Street, students share their stories in imaginative, vulnerable, and collaborative ways, as their ideas are only possible if they trust each other and
    work together.

    Shifting the Narrative(s)

    Photo by Charles Stonewall

     

    “I didn’t think this was for us”. This remark emerges when the equipment arrives. The students, who have grown up fully immersed in the age of technology, adapt quickly to the complex new systems. But they still comment openly on the quality of the equipment and the ability of the technology to fully realize the stories they are imagining. The cameras, filters, cords, lights, and sound equipment pass from hand to hand as students explore their new tools.

    This filmmaking equipment has historically been inaccessible in their city - a reality the students in the room feel as more stories about trust and access and experiences fill the space.

    CME was proposed to the Coalition’s Authentically Allentown Artist in Residence Program in response to this issue of access and trust with Black and Latinx students in the city of Allentown. It is an issue that is deeply rooted in the history of filmmaking and one that actively shapes the narrative(s) of the city students call home. This also makes it an issue that must be actively and intentionally decolonized.

    This collaboration - between Allentown, Community Bike Works, and the Parris J Lane Memorial Foundation - is a small part of the many converging solutions rising up from the community to do this work and to reshape the narrative(s) of Allentown.

    “Do Nothing Without Intention”

    Photo by Sharon Smith

    Lead educator, documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and local basketball coach, Drew Swedberg, designed the program after three years of teaching film and media in after-school settings and witnessing how film could be a powerful vehicle for self-expression, community engagement, and youth empowerment. Swedberg’s experience as a filmmaker and educator converged with the mission of Shalon Buskirk, who has consistently and actively advocated for youth in her city and works every day towards a space that would allow young people to express themselves, communicate with each other, have access to critical resources, and build community. She anchors this work in the memory of her son, Parris Jerome Lane. Swedberg knew the program would be partnered with Shalon’s emerging non-profit and the two are working together daily to make that space a reality.

    With CME’s debut program, Drew hoped to take the after-school program a step further. He proposed a class that would invest in equipment that could match the aesthetic ambitions of his students, give his students enough time to create, compensate local artists for bringing their experiences into the classroom, and celebrate his students’ accomplishments through a series of community screenings.

    The ten-week course he arrived at introduces students to an array of filmmaking techniques, innovative films, and local artists. The work is informed and forever indebted to the work of mediamakers, creatives, activists, and educators that came before him from Allied Media, Young Chicago Authors, PhillyCAM, and Scribe Video Center; to bell hooks; to the educators, peers, creative collaborators, and students in his life from Muhlenberg College, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, LVAIC Documentary Storymaking, and ASP’s Mass Media classroom; and most critically to the countless hours of instruction with students from Allentown at Jefferson Elementary, McKinley Elementary, Trexler Middle, Casa Guadalupe, and students across the Valley that have participated in ArtsQuest’s programming.

    A Classroom to Dream In

    Photo by Sharon Smith

    Lead educator, documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and local basketball coach, Drew Swedberg, designed the program after three years of teaching film and media in after-school settings and witnessing how film could be a powerful vehicle for self-expression, community engagement, and youth empowerment. Swedberg’s experience as a filmmaker and educator converged with the mission of Shalon Buskirk, who has consistently and actively advocated for youth in her city and works every day towards a space that would allow young people to express themselves, communicate with each other, have access to critical resources, and build community. She anchors this work in the memory of her son, Parris Jerome Lane. Swedberg knew the program would be partnered with Shalon’s emerging non-profit and the two are working together daily to make that space a reality.

     

    With CME’s debut program, Drew hoped to take the after-school program a step further. He proposed a class that would invest in equipment that could match the aesthetic ambitions of his students, give his students enough time to create, compensate local artists for bringing their experiences into the classroom, and celebrate his students’ accomplishments through a series of community screenings.

     

    The ten-week course he arrived at introduces students to an array of filmmaking techniques, innovative films, and local artists. The work is informed and forever indebted to the work of mediamakers, creatives, activists, and educators that came before him from Allied Media, Young Chicago Authors, PhillyCAM, and Scribe Video Center; to bell hooks; to the educators, peers, creative collaborators, and students in his life from Muhlenberg College, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, LVAIC Documentary Storymaking, and ASP’s Mass Media classroom; and most critically to the countless hours of instruction with students from Allentown at Jefferson Elementary, McKinley Elementary, Trexler Middle, Casa Guadalupe, and students across the Valley that have participated in ArtsQuest’s programming.

    Collaborative Media Expressions

    The workshop met twice a week for the first seven weeks. Students started by consuming and engaging with work from photography giants such as Roy DeCarava, Carrie Mae Weems, and Deana Lawson, as well as contemporary photographer Diego Huerta and emerging photographer Sade Ogunjimi. The focus stayed (throughout the entire program) on providing students with “toolbox skills” that cultivated their creative agency by allowing them to react and relate to a variety of styles, ideas, and creative expressions.

     

    In the first week, Lehigh graduate student, photographer, music producer, and filmmaker, Donterrius Walker, kicked off the series of guest artists by bringing his photography into the classroom and allowing students to engage with both the work and the artist behind the work.

     

    In the second week, Annie Diaz - who is currently the editor for Kristal Sotomayor’s Philadelphia-based documentary, “Expanding Sanctuary”, a film that follows the victory of Latinx activists at Juntos ending police communication with ICE via PARS - brought her intimate documentary film, “Para Ti”, into the classroom to talk about identity and cinematography.

     

    As students transitioned from photography to film - engaging with films from RaMell Ross, Solange, Barry Jenkins, Adepero Oduye, Tania Hernández Verlasco, Terence Nance, Vernon Jordan III, and Ashley Omoma - they started to pitch ideas and develop their own stories.

     

    In the third week, accomplished local photographer, Charles Stonewall, helped students develop their understanding of light in an intensive and generous hands-on workshop that moved indoors and out, producing a series of remarkable portraits that students actively crafted.

     

    As students finished up the planning of their stories and moved towards shooting scripts, the force that is the spoken-word poet, activist, and founder of Lehigh Valley Soul Sessions, Justice Davis, came in to help students embrace the power of their voices in an engaging workshop.

     

    When it was time for production, students took on different, rotating roles on each film. A single film had a director, a cinematographer, two assistant directors, a sound recordist, a gaffer, and an extended team of production assistants who all worked together to accomplish the director’s vision. Their teamwork was tested at times - as no collaborative creative work can occur without difference - but each time they collectively found a way to accomplish their goals for the day. In the words of Mariame Kaba, “ nothing that we do that is worthwhile is done alone." And students found this to be absolutely true over the summer, as each director exhaled an exhaustive sigh of relief and accomplishment at the end of their respective production day.

     

    As the school year kicks back in, students finish the process by editing at in small teams at Community Bike Works, Muhlenberg College’s Multicultural Center, and the Baum School of Art. As these ambitious, imaginative, and powerful films reach their final cut, each student director will soon be able to see their work on the big screen and begin dreaming about what the next story might be.

    Collaborative Media Expressions

    To find out more information on screenings across the city and for all updates, you can visit @collaborativemediaexpressions or @communitybikeworks on Facebook. Or visit this website for details

  • ROSEMARY GESECK DEBUTS NATIVE AMERICAN MURAL AT CEN

    Allentown artist and educator Rosemary Geseck recently debuted the latest CCA Authentically Allentown Artist-in-Residency mural featuring the Native American culture at Central Elementary School in Downtown Allentown.

    Rosemary's vision was to execute a mural in downtown Allentown depicting an extended family of Original People of Allentown, the Lenape native Americans. The mural was set in the 'woodlands' of Allentown several hundred years ago, during the Contact period, circa 1750 and includes forest animal, birds, insects and plant life.

    A key component to each CCA Artist-in-Residency project is an educational or community engagement for the residents and students to learn more about the subject matter and have a first-person experience with art and creativity.

    Rosemary, along with representatives from the Lenape Museum played a role in several workshops for students at Central Elementary to learn more about the Lenape culture and it's impact on the Allentown of today.

  • CCA celebrateS Hispanic Heritage Month

    through Tango

    Allentown residents of all ages engaged in the rhythmic excitement of tango throughout September and October as the Cultural Coalition of Allentown brought the talents of Urszula Abolik and her troupe of dancers and DJs to the monthlong celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month throughout the city of Allentown.

    Urszula created five performances throughout the month and worked alongside the CCA and Hispanic Heritage Month committee to engage the community in special events including the kick-off day at Allentown City Hall on September 15. Additionally, performances were held to coincide with September Third Thursday on the Arts Walk all ending with the ultimate event on Sunday October 20 at the Allentown Art Museum.

    Urszula commented, "The Allentown community connected in a very upbeat way where people interrelated within this elegant experience of the Tango. The program connected all ages, with young people spending quality time with their parents and grandparents."
     

    • September 15th - Kick off at the City Hall - Tango class from 4-4:30, and the performance after, dancing till 5pm with Malgorzata Rokicki and Pierre.

     

    • September 19th - Opening art show - Art and tango at the Baum School. DJ Urszula and tango community social dancing between 6-8pm.

     

    • September 29th - Sunday - Allentown Art Fest at the Cedar Beach - 2-2:30 - Tango class with Elly Liz and Graham. Tango dancing till 3:30pm. DJ - Urszula and Elly Liz. Tango Nuevo, Modern Vibes.

     

    • October 13th - Sunday - Short performance at the Allentown Art Museum between 2-2:30pm. with Jacklyn Shapiro and Roberto Pena. Short talk and performance.

     

    • October 17th - Third Thursday at Symphony Hall. 6-8pm. Opening guitar tango with Jim Steager. Class by Svetlana Howell from 6:15-6:45pm. Beat boxing tango tunes with Yancarlos Sanchez. Tango social dancing from 7-9pm.

  • 31st Annual Allentown Arts Ovation Award Recipients Announced

    Arts Commission to Award Nine Recipients for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts
    Celebration and Ceremony at Miller Symphony Hall

    Jodi Duckett

    Lifetime Achievement in the Arts

    Ron De Long

    Outstanding Achievement in Visual Arts

    Mike Krisukas

    Outstanding Achievement in Performing Arts

    Diane Wittry

    Outstanding Achievement in Literary Arts

    Allentown Symphony’s El Sistema Lehigh Valley Outstanding Achievement in Arts Education

    WDIY 88.1 Outstanding Service to the Arts

    City Center Allentown

    Outstanding Philanthropy

    Aaron Stone

    Outstanding Emerging Artist

    Michael McDonald

    Crescendo Award

  • Artist Call for Summer 2019
    Authentically Allentown
    Artist-in-Residence Programs

    Projects focus on Upside Allentown Region

    Project Awards to Be Announced by June 30

    The Cultural Coalition of Allentown is proud to announce a public artist call for individual artists and organizations to apply for the 2019 Authentically Allentown Artist-in-Residence Program for projects and programs in the neighborhoods and communities throughout the Upside Allentown area including Old Allentown, Old Fairgrounds, Jordan Heights, Promise Neighborhood, Seventh Street and the Downtown Allentown Business District.

    Two Authentically Allentown Artist-in-Residence Grants of $5,000-$7,500 will be awarded for projects and programs to be delivered during the June-September time period.

    Eligibility Requirements and Project Objectives:
    • Artist must live or currently work in the City of Allentown
    • Artist project must take place in one of the six designated neighborhoods. (Jordan Heights, Old Fair Grounds, 7th Street Corridor, Old Allentown, the Promise
    Neighborhood, or Downtown Allentown Business District)
    • Artist should focus on projects that enhance the neighborhood, and engage youth,
    families, and residents.
    • Artist must submit a detailed proposal via email (Only accepting electronic submissions)
    • Commitment document from a Community Partner is required. Partners include, but are not limited to: Allentown School District, Faith-based organizations, Neighborhood organizations and Community Centers.
    • Artist must provide a time line of the project completion no later than September 30, 2019
    • Artist must submit proposal using the Authentically Allentown Artist-in-Residence Form for acceptance.
    • Submissions must be sent to Deborah Rabinsky, Artistic Operations Director at Deborah@culturalcoalitionofallentown.org

    Artists of all genres including visual, music, theatre, dance, literary and digital are encouraged to submit a proposal to the Deb Rabinsky between April 15, 2019 and May 15, 2019 for projects to be completed by September 30, 2019. Eligible artists must live, work or study in Allentown and must submit their digital proposal including budget and time line by 11:59PM May 15, 2019.

    For more information on the 2019 Authentically Allentown Artist-in-Residence Program please email Deborah Rabinsky or call 484.809.2853.

  • Matt Halm Queen City Mural

    CCA joined with Ron Coleman to fund the Queen City installation by Allentown muralist Matt Halm at the property on Ninth Street in Downtown Allentown. The mural will be completed in early spring 2019.

  • Peter Pan Workshop

    CCA and Allentown Public Theatre came together to provide an interactive experience for children in the Jordan Heights neighborhood during the Summer of 2017 as part of the "Authentically Allentown" Artist-in-Residence program.

    Free workshops took place at several churches throughout the Jordan Heights neighborhood and capped off with a performance in August at Allentown Art Museum

    Allentown Public Theatre presented “Peter Pan: Wendy – An Adventure in Neverland” as an interactive experience for children throughout the Jordan Heights community of Allentown. The workshops consisted of different elements including acting, set design and costume making while preparing for a performance before an audience of parents, friends and community and church members.

     

    Participation was open to any child 5-12 years old from the Jordan Heights community and presented in a bilingual format.

     

    The “Authentically Allentown” Artist-in-Residence program is the initial signature initiative from CCA’s 20:21 Arts Plan. Working in collaboration with the Jordan Heights’ Neighborhood Revitalization program, two-hour workshops were held each day for three days with 10-20 neighborhood children, culminating in a free weekend performance of the play. Workshops were held in Grace Episcopal Church in June, Sacred Heart Church in July and Union Baptist Church in August. The entire series capped off with a performance of Wendy in Downtown Allentown in August as part of the Third Thursday on August 17 at the Allentown Art Museum.

     

    The Cultural Coalition of Allentown is supported by the Community Action Development Corporation (CADCA) and the Upside Allentown Neighborhood Partnership Program and the Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Foundation. The Upside Allentown neighborhoods consist of the Hamilton District, Old Allentown, Old Fairgrounds, Jordan Heights, Promise Neighborhood and Seventh Street.

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