Coalition Announcement By Allentown Arts, Business and Community Leaders
Launch of the “Authentically Allentown” Artist-in-Residency Program
APRIL 20, 2017
The revitalization of the city of Allentown has been underway over the past several years bringing new businesses, guests and residents to the city as part of a renaissance of Pennsylvania’s third largest city. The arts and culture community has had, and continues to have, a significant role in this economic development by enhancing economic vitality, improving the quality of life for all, and serving as a centerpiece for the growth and excellence of the region’s creative economy.
In conjunction with the Upside Allentown initiative, a program of the Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown (CADCA), an 18-month strategic planning process was undertaken by members of the community, including residents, artists, creative sector entrepreneurs, cultural organizations, public officials, educational institutions, philanthropic partners, and others. The result of this process was the Allentown Arts & Culture 20:21 Plan, affording the community a plan of engagement and implementation to be taken over the next four years in Downtown Allentown and beyond.
As the first step in the process of implementing the Arts & Culture 20:21 Plan, leaders from the arts, businesses and communities throughout Allentown proudly announce the formation of the Cultural Coalition of Allentown (CCA), an independent non-profit organization whose vision is to create a vibrant, energetic and engaging Allentown with an abundance of diverse arts and cultural offerings including several signature initiatives.
The initial signature initiative from CCA’s 20:21 Plan being launched by the CCA is the “Authentically Allentown” Artist-in-Residence program. Beginning with each of the six neighborhoods of the Upside Allentown community, the CCA will host each artist-in-residence for a two-year commitment and will provide a stipend and funds for supplies and materials. Artists will serve as ambassadors, teachers and demonstrators of creative expression as they strengthen community connections within and across neighborhoods.
The first “Authentically Allentown” Artist-in-Residency program will run in the Jordan Heights neighborhood from May through September as Allentown Public Theatre joins with CCA to present a series of workshops and performances of a bilingual version of Peter Pan. Working in collaboration with the Jordan Heights’ Neighborhood Revitalization program, a two-hour workshop will be held each day for four days with 10-20 neighborhood children, culminating in a free weekend performance of the play. Hosting the Workshops will be Grace Episcopal Church in May, Union Baptist Church in June and Sacred Heart Church in July. The entire series will be capped off with a performance of Peter Pan in Downtown Allentown in August as part of the Third Thursday on August 17.
In addition to the “Authentically Allentown” Artist-in-Residency program, the CCA will be showcasing the arts and culture of the city through collaborative projects such as Third Thursdays and cohort projects with the Allentown Art Museum, the Baum School, Penn State University-Lehigh Valley and the Hamilton District Main Street Program among other partners to be announced.
Artists interested in submitting projects for the Authentically Allentown” Artist-in-Residence program are encouraged to contact Deborah Rabinsky, Artistic Operations Director for the Cultural Coalition of Allentown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610.820.3829.
The Cultural Coalition of Allentown is supported by the Upside Allentown Neighborhood Partnership Program, a program of the Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown (CADCA) 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.
Arts & Business Conversation
On October 11th the Allentown Chamber of Commerce and the City of Allentown joined with the Cultural Coalition of Allentown and the Allentown Art Museum to continue a conversation on the arts as business that started on September 8th at the "Whose Business is the Arts?" conference presented by the Lehigh Valley Arts Council.
While there was much discussed at this event, one of the primary concerns was to continue to define how we can engage with the arts community as an industry rather than as a charity.
The arts contribute $186 million of annual economic activity in the Lehigh Valley. This impact is substantial, and influences much of the social, educational, and economic fabric of our community. It is, however, both fragile and a struggle on many fronts.
The story of most every successful community revitalization leverages the arts as a part of their economic plan. From New York to LA examples of cultural revitalization of urban centers abounds. Creativity is now a fundamental component needed for the development of an educated work force. Exposure to the arts, any arts, has been proven over and over again to provide a foundation for educational excellence. Unique opportunities to engage the arts expands the quality of life for all. The recruitment and retention of top quality talent is often dependent upon the sustainability of top quality arts institutions and diverse cultural experiences.
The conversation on October 11th focused more on "business" than the "arts". Specifically, exploring the economic benefits and needs of a vibrant cultural economy and engaging in a conversation with both our business and cultural leaders seeking ideas and aspirations for a fully developed and impactful arts and cultural sector and the creation of synergies guiding both our business and cultural development.
Watch for more to come from this ongoing dialogue revolving around the arts role in the economic development of Allentown and the region.
The VISION for the Cultural Coalition of Allentown is to create a vibrant, energetic and engaging downtown Allentown with an abundance of diverse community arts and cultural offerings
For eighteen months, the Arts & Culture Committee Co-Chairs and the 12-member Stakeholder Leadership Group Executive Committee worked with their consultants, Corona Insights of Denver, Colo., to gain feedback and solicit insights from multiple constituencies including residents, business, government, education and the artistic community across the six neighborhoods of Upside Allentown and throughout the city.
Over 1,300 individuals were engaged in the project through a series of focus groups, one-on-one meetings, vision walls, public surveys and community input sessions. In the fall of 2015, a formal Needs Assessment was presented identifying the main areas of focus for the strategic planning process that were to occur throughout the coming year. Throughout 2016, additional research, outreach and evaluation took place to craft a four-year plan for Arts & Culture in Downtown Allentown.
The Arts & Culture Plan 20:21 was officially presented in October, 2016 to the city and its residents, with implementation and outreach of signature initiatives and work on multiple goals beginning in 2017.
support the plan
Volunteer Committees Overseeing the Implementation of Allentown Arts 20:21
Stakeholder Leadership Group
Members of the Community
A select group of individuals represents the diversity of stakeholders in our community, including residents, artists, creative sector entrepreneurs, faith-based groups, cultural organizations, public officials, educational institutions, philanthropic partners, and more.
Cultural Coalition of Allentown Executive Committee
Leaders Charting a New Course
A group of twelve leaders from the artistic, business, government and education communities to provide guidance and direction to the larger 75-member Stakeholders Leadership Group. Meeting monthly, the Executive Committee is working on the future of the arts in Allentown by building bridges with the community across all backgrounds to lay the foundation to experience art everyday. We would like to thank these individuals for their dedication to the arts and cultural community in Allentown:
David Mickenburg - Chair
Ellen Baker Ghelardi
Sean King (Advancement)
Deborah Rabinsky (Artistic Operations)
Sharon Smith (Administration)
Thank You Corona Insights!
Denver Firm Led the Research and Facilitation of the Plan
The Upside Allentown Arts & Culture Committee would like to thank Karla Raines and Kate Darwent from Corona Insights for their hard work, talent and dedication to the strategic planning process. Pictured from the left are: Sean King, Kate Darwent, Karla Raines and Ellen Baker Ghelardi.
arts & Culture Planning documents
The Allentown Cultural Planning Project consists of five components of community information gathering. Read the results of these elements and download the final Arts & Culture 20:21 Plan.
Five Sessions in 2015
75 members of the community took part in a series of five Focus Groups in 2015. Click Here to read a report on these sessions.
Outreach to Community
Download the results of the Public Survey completed in the Spring of 2016 by residents of the Center City community and other areas of Allentown
regarding their experiences and engagement with the arts
Community Input Sessions
Several sessions were held throughout the community this summer as the final opportunity to hear from the diverse members of the city. Nine sessions hosted nearly 100 individuals to hear their feedback on arts and culture.
Arts & Culture 20:21
Download the complete and comprehensive Allentown Arts & Culture 20:21 Plan as presented to the Stakeholders Leadership Group and ratified by the Upside Allentown Steering Committee in December, 2016.