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Artist & Staff Spotlight: Zach Kleemeyer

From freelancing as a graphic designer, dabbling in mixed media, and bringing paint to easel, Zach Kleemeyer is a tinkerer—a curious and multi-talented artist and ally to the arts—and that makes him an excellent fit for the Lehigh Valley Arts Council.

LVArts-RedWhiteBlue -0379Starting outside Philadelphia, Zach never stayed put in one neighborhood for more than five years throughout his early life, exposing him to a wide range of environments. One of the neighborhoods Zach made an extended stay in was Bloomsburg, attending Bloomsburg University, and graduating with a major in Communications and a minor in Studio Art. At first, Zach was reluctant to embrace the artist lifestyle, feeling like he needed to develop other skillsets. It wasn’t until he found his way to the Lehigh Valley that Zach finally felt comfortable building a career and life around all the forms art takes.

Specifically, Zach thanks the Civic Theatre of Allentown for giving him his start in the arts as an intern and then as staff—in the box office, in graphic design, in marketing, continuing to tinker and explore. He grew to convince himself that a career as an advocate for the arts was something that he could do. The realization that pursuing a career in the field was important came when Zach  helped orchestrate his first “showtime”—not a show at all, but the Tonys and Tapas annual theater fundraiser. Now he’s learned that the showtime-feeling, that “good energy,” is irreplaceable, and that the best thing he could do with his skills is to nurture it.

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Red, White & Blue – a found object hanging work by Zach, is a part of his collection that is featured in the months of July & August.

When he’s in the studio, Zach lets his curiosity be his muse. He finds the most inspiration from his artist grandparents, whom he lived with for a time. His grandfather, who is a painter and educator, and his grandmother, who is a quilter and entrepreneur, both provide examples of how to blend passion and practicality. Zach carries that spirit into the office, community, and studio.

 

As an evolving artist, Zach’s not ready to adopt labels. He’s discovered a love for woodworking, which his grandfather introduced him to after picking up scrap wood off the side of the road. Thinking green and working with recyclable materials has also piqued his interest as he considers new and less environmentally negative ways of self-expression. Zach is more than just a serial dabbler, though, and is beginning to build a resume of accomplishments. In May, he took residence at the Banana Factory and featured his work in the studio space during June’s First Friday. Nonetheless, Zach wouldn’t call himself just a “painter” as he prefers to keep a flexible attitude, which encompasses Zach’s duties at the Arts Council.

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A detail shot of one of Zach’s wood sculptures, showing how intricately he positions the found objects to create an architectural composition.

Zach’s time as Community Engagement Coordinator so far has taught him a lot about wearing different hats and cultivating an appreciation for the many “small things” that allow the arts to do all they do. Although he knows he has a lot to learn and many hats to try on, Zach looks to his future with the Lehigh Valley Arts Council with enthusiasm and anticipation.

Written by Tyler Raso
Lehigh Valley Arts Council PPA Intern

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A Mile in their Shoes

I recently had unexpected back surgery for two herniated discs and nerve damage. Although my nature is one of a cheerleader and full of energy (just like an energizer battery), prior to the procedure I had severe pain, weakness and numbness in my left leg. Recovering from surgery was painful at times with lots of leg and back weakness.   I found walking further than 30 feet resulted in an increase of these symptoms. As I contemplated returning to work earlier than advised, I knew I would not be able to walk through the museum as I did previously. Fortunately, I was given an electric scooter to enable me to move throughout the building to perform my job responsibilities.

As I went through weeks in this scooter, I developed a new perspective on the difficulties facing people who need to rely on electric scooters, walkers and wheelchairs. While the museum adheres to all regulations that make it handicapped accessible, I discovered some obstacles that affect those individuals who require the use of wheelchairs. [Read more…]

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Making the Exhibit Accessible

Written by Ann Lalik, Gallery Director at Penn State Lehigh Valley, as a reflection on her experience in opening their exhibit, Sacred Sisters, A Collaborative: Holly Trostle Brigham and Marilyn Nelson, to people with visual impairment. Ann participated in Audio Description training to develop the skills needed, and touchable relics were created specifically for tactile reference.PSU Sacred Sisters AD photo 1

The experience of making this exhibition accessible for the visually impaired was priceless for our campus community on so many levels.

First of all, the funding we received through Lehigh Valley Arts Council’s Greater Inclusion Grant allowed us to hire Mimi Smith to come the campus and offer a day of audio description  training, not only for Penn State faculty, staff, and students, but also to other organization in the community who were interested in learning more about describing. The group ended up being approximately 20 people from Penn State, Lehigh Valley Arts Council, Allentown Art Museum, Banana Factory and Lehigh University. It was educational and a wonderful bonding experience. [Read more…]

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New Experiences for the Young at Art

PATRON---header-for-Young-at-ArtGrowing up means new adventures! As a young child, everything is a fresh experience with new possibilities to experiment and ideas to ignite. It’s something parents often can’t relate to because we’ve lost our sense of wonder in some ways. But when we’re able to sit back and watch the sparks of understanding fly, basking in the brilliance of discovery – that’s something truly special. It’s how your kids become, well, themselves.

That’s the essence of art for children. It has nothing to do with skill, and oftentimes not even with expression. It’s the true nature of experimentation without boundaries – trying out something and not worrying about being right or wrong allows for kids’ minds to develop, grow and thrive. [Read more…]

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Arts & Access Reaches Halfway Point

Experience---Patron-ImageIn spite of a record-breaking snowfall of 31 inches three days before, nearly 60 guests found their way to the Banana Factory in South Bethlehem on January 26 to experience Arts & Access.  Titled Let’s Meet in the Middle, the event marked the midpoint in the yearlong celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and was the second of three public gatherings planned for the year.

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Storyteller Anne B. Thomas delights audience members with uplifting tales of overcoming obstacles in her life.

Let’s Meet in the Middle offered a multi-faceted program that showcased the artistic creativity by, for or about people with disabilities, including powerful performances by Washington D.C. storyteller Anne B. Thomas and the Lehigh Valley’s chamber music ensemble, SATORI.  Audience members were invited to simulate vision and hearing loss in order to experience first-hand the benefits of audio description and open captioning. Staff from Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network demonstrated the newest technology used in wheelchair design that enhances independence for people with mobility challenges. [Read more…]

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See the Music, Hear the Art!

In October, SATORI played a classical music concert for an audience who couldn’t hear it – and it was wonderful.

SATORI is participating in the Arts & Access initiative of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council, a yearlong celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, seen through the lens of the arts. As a performing arts organization with deep roots locally, we wanted to be a part of this special series of events – and thought we already had an ace in the hole. For almost two decades, SATORI has been presenting in-school music education programs that combine classical music with an array of vibrant images and drawings, projected overhead as the musicians play. Surely the addition of a visual component to a music performance might make it more appropriate for a deaf or hard-of-hearing audience?CLIUArtsAccess2015b

Our hope was to develop a program to reach the Lehigh Valley’s deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and to this end we enlisted the knowledgeable assistance of the personnel at CLIU #21, the facility that coordinates the educational needs of deaf students across several counties. Their response was swift and favorable – but there were some additional factors for us to consider. Just adding a visual component to the music wouldn’t be enough – somehow the introductions and the music itself needed to reach the students, since images illustrating inaudible music would be just pictures out of context. ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters materialized, ready for the task – not just of interpreting the narrative of the presentation, but the character of the music as well. Happy or sad, high or low, energetic or relaxing, the nature of the music needed to be conveyed as well as the story expressed in pictures. [Read more…]

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With a Song in Her Heart

Donna Yasenchok likes to sing so much she is a member of five different choral groups — and they’re happy to have her: She has a desirable alto-soprano vocal range that would be the envy of choral singers anywhere.

But from birth, Donna was challenged with cataracts in both eyes and, despite several operations, the resulting nerve damage left her unable to achieve sharp focus. This qualifies her as legally blind, and that can be a problem if you want to sing in a choir. Besides having a voice that blends well with others, choral singing requires reading and memorizing complex musical scores plus being able to follow a director’s instructions during rehearsals and performances.

Such a challenge might persuade many visually-impaired musicians to do most of their singing in the shower.

Donna-Yansenchock-8Not Ms. Yasenchok. She makes finding ways to adapt and conquer her visual limitations sound simple. “I just have to know my surroundings better and be more vigilant about where I am,” she says. She also works closely with her section leaders and is not shy about asking for help if she needs it. “You have to be assertive.”

[Read more…]

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Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Recognizes the Unique Needs of Injured Artists

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Margo Ging assisting a dancer in rehabilitation at Good Shepherd.

A dancer warms up with barre exercises and observes her form in the floor to ceiling mirrors. Nearby in the soundproof music room, a musician strums his guitar. These two performers have more in common than just a passion for the arts. They are both benefiting from the specialized care that is available at Good Shepherd’s Performing Arts Rehabilitation Center (PARC).

PARC first opened February 25, 2013 at Good Shepard Physical Therapy–Bethlehem, located on Eaton Avenue. Good Shepherd provides general orthopedic physical therapy for adults and children; however, they have a special niche for performing artists. The reason for this is performers are prone to serious injuries due to overusing muscles and repetitive movements.

“Much like high level athletes, dancers need to rehabilitate their injuries in a manner that is specific to the demands they will be placing on their bodies,” says Cathie Dara, PT, DPT, OCS, STC, a physical therapist and the site manager for Good Shepherd Physical Therapy–Bethlehem/Performing Arts Rehabilitation Center. In order for patients to receive the best possible care, PARC utilizes therapists who specialize in performing arts therapy.

“When a person comes in, whether a dancer or musician, they don’t want to be told they have to stop dancing or performing,” says Margo Ging, physical therapist assistant at PARC. As a dance instructor, choreographer, and former professional dancer, Ging understands that performing artists don’t want to stop doing what they love. The artists will do whatever it takes to continue performing, taking classes, and going to rehearsals. [Read more…]

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Disabilities Don’t Define Who People Are

One characteristic cannot sum up who anyone is and America has been making great strides in accepting people regardless of their race, sexual orientation and disability if they have one.

“It used to be that the disability made up the person, but now it’s just something that’s a part of them,” says Roseann Damico Schatkowski, who considers herself an advocate for people with disabilities. “Be kind to people who are different in any way. Try to make them feel welcome and that they belong in the society,” says Schatkowski as her positive energy and warm smile light up the room.

Roseann Damico Schatkowski, Director of Marketing at DeSales Theatre

Roseann Damico Schatkowski, Director of Marketing & PR and the Playbill Advertising Representative for Act 1

Schatkowski is the Director of Marketing & PR and the Playbill Advertising Representative for Act 1 Productions, DeSales University’s Performing Arts Company. About three years ago, DeSales began making accommodations for people with visual and hearing loss by having at least one open captioned (OC) and audio described (AD) performance for almost every production. Audio description utilizes headsets to provide a narrative during natural pauses in the performance, translating images for patrons who are visually impaired. With open captioning, audience members with hearing loss may view electronic text throughout the show, with lyrics, dialogue, and sound effects in real time. DeSales rents the OC screen and AD transmitters and receivers from the Lehigh Valley Arts Council for a small fee.

“[DeSales] wanted to give access to people who normally wouldn’t have the services,” explains Schatkowski. “The services have been around for a really long time and a lot of performing arts venues don’t take advantage of it.”

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Open captioning screen used for patrons with hearing loss.

Schatkowski has been around people with disabilities all of her life and growing up with a blind father has really shaped with the way she sees disabled people. Schatkowski recalls the lack of accommodation in the 70s and how people treated her dad. People would cut in front of him while he was waiting in line just because he couldn’t see. She also remembers going to the movies where he would ask, “What happened? What happened!” because it’s a very visual experience.

People with disabilities have the right to enjoy the same things people without them enjoy. Schatkowski believes that audio description is one step towards that goal. “They don’t have to miss what’s coming up next and their companion doesn’t have to worry about having to talk and explain to them what’s going on,” explains Schatkowski. “It opens up a whole new world for them.”

Schatkowski has a ten year old son, Matthew, who has Muscular Dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. He attends Lehigh Parkway Elementary where the staff and students have been wonderful and even provide him with physical therapy. “They don’t treat him like the kid in the wheelchair,” Schatkowski says happily.

Although there are still some prejudices and old-fashioned attitudes toward people with disabilities, perceptions are definitely changing. Restaurants, parks, and other public places are trying to be as welcoming and accommodating as possible. “We have finally started to see people for who they are and see through their disability,” says Schatkowski.

She is hopeful for more and more opportunities for people with disabilities. There are places Matthew can’t go like amusement parks or certain restaurants; however, he never complains about using a wheelchair. “He knows that if he wants to do something, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that we can go do it,” says Schatkowski.

Sensory tours for the blind

Visually impaired patrons explore props to gain a sensory experience before the show.

It is also important to remember that not every disability is visible. We can see wheelchairs and seeing eye dogs, but might not be able to spot people with autism or emotional disabilities.

In the future, Schatkowski would love for every arts organization in the Lehigh Valley to have accessible performances. Even though it is one more thing for organizations to do, they should take advantage of the services available because in the end, it is the right thing to do.

It brings joy to her that the majority of people who attend performances at DeSales are appreciative of the accessibility and also excited for the experience. “We’re shining a light on people’s daily lives,” says Schatkowski.

by Kellie Dietrich, Intern with the Lehigh Valley Arts Council

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Pledging on

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John Kristel, CEO of Good Shepherd, addresses the guests of the Launch Party.

What a phenomenal launch of the Arts & Access celebration this weekend!  More than 150 proud celebrants attended the launch party at Good Shepherd’s Health & Technology Center last Friday, while two local theatrical performances accommodating people with visual and hearing loss, both “Rapunzel” and “Hello Dolly,”  sold out!

After nearly eighteen months in development, more than 30 cultural organizations have teamed up with social service agencies to create a schedule of more than 40 performances,  exhibitions, film screenings, public meetings and lectures  through June 2016, to intentionally reach people with disabilities and their families and friends. [Read more…]

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