A Lehigh Valley Case Study in the Making

Studies have shown that learning in the arts contributes to strong academic performance, higher rates of literacy and improved problem solving skills.  The benefits stem, however, from a student’s consistent engagement with the arts. They are the results of a comprehensive strategy to measure outcomes in many grade levels and over a considerable length of time.

Has there ever been a long range arts education study in the Lehigh Valley?

Attempts have been made but never completed. There have been excellent arts residencies and programs created but they often occurred in isolation—until now.

The Zoellner Arts Center, Bethlehem Area School District and the City of Bethlehem have embarked on a new district- and community-wide initiative, Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child (AGC), creating a long-range arts education plan for the 14,000 students in grades K-8.

AGC is a program of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that chose Bethlehem, Pennsylvania as the 24th site, and the first in Pennsylvania. This undertaking offers the promise for a future Lehigh Valley case study on the impact of arts in education.

Is the Valley up for the task?

A lot of groundwork has been laid. For two decades, arts-in-education practices have been driven by cultural organizations. Severe budget constraints led schools to cut arts programming, and cultural nonprofits were encouraged to take up the slack by replacing what was lost. Many Lehigh Valley cultural nonprofits have established relationships with local foundations and corporations to fund a variety of individual arts programs. On a statewide level, the Commonwealth provides grant funding through the Earned Income Tax Credit Program and the PA Council on the Arts Arts-in-Education Partnership.

What has been missing locally, however, is any coordination of measurement within a district or regional level. Any Given Child, Bethlehem provides an opportunity to track what we learn collectively.

The program has brought together 50 community leaders from over 25 organizations in the region to help shape the vision and the plan. According to Lehigh University’s Andrew Cassano, AGC’s Coordinator & Managing Partner, “the Program is designing a strategic plan to provide equitable access to arts resources in the classroom and outside of the classroom.” There is talk of a possible future expansion into the school districts in Allentown and Easton.

How can you get involved?

On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 9:00am, Any Given Child, Bethlehem will announce the plan and vision for arts in the schools at Nitschmann Middle School. If you count yourself as an advocate for arts-in-education, you should call your friends, plan to show up and be a voice for the arts.

Randall Forte is the Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council and serves on AGC’s governance committee.

Arts Advocate

Volunteerism is Arts Advocacy

The value of the arts in a community is best reflected in the strength of volunteerism that exists. In the Lehigh Valley, that impact is tremendous. The 2017 Arts & Economic Prosperity Study 5 reported that 6,952 volunteers donated 323,354 hours to 98 arts nonprofits in 2015.

Across the rich, culturally diverse landscape of the Lehigh Valley, arts administrators all agree that their organization couldn’t exist without volunteers. I sat down with several of them to speak about their relationships with this valuable asset. 

How do volunteers and the work that they do benefit your organization? 

“The 90-member choir is entirely composed of volunteer singers who donate more than 10,000 hours of their time each year for rehearsals, concerts, and festivals. Others help with mailings, ushering at concerts, and cleaning up after performances.They are the eyes and ears we need to make sure the audience experience goes as smoothly as it can.” 

— Renee James, Director of Marketing, Bach Choir of Bethlehem

“We are a completely volunteer organization. Without them we can’t function.” 

Elena Shackleton, President, Lehigh Art Alliance

“The Dance Exchange is made up of three co-directors and an intern, all of whom work together to recruit professional dancers and put together master classes and festivals. Volunteers allow us to put on the programing that we offer. They help a lot with festivals, orchestration, t-shirt sales, transport services, and photography.”

Sarah Carlson, Treasurer and Media Director, Lehigh Valley Dance Exchange

“Touchstone Theater benefits from a variety of volunteer services, everything from serving on the Board of Directors to ushering at shows and assisting in the cafe. Many actors are also recruited to volunteer for larger community shows.”

Lisa Jordan, Managing Director, Touchstone Theatre

“The Storytelling Guild is made up of professional and amateur storytellers who love to listen to other stories or perform their own. Our volunteers help arrange partnering events with Godfrey Daniels and local libraries. They also help with daily tasks, such as maintaining the website and social media platforms, creating posters and videotaping events.”

Charles Kiernan, President, Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild

What attracts volunteers to your organization?

“The volunteers themselves are telling me that they are coming because of the music—and they come and they stay. Some who are new to the area often want to become more involved and meet new people. They forge new friendships with each other that last outside of volunteer work.”

Renee James

“One of the greatest opportunities given to volunteers for the Lehigh Art Alliance is the elevation and education received from other artists. Many artists volunteer their time to help people learn about work opportunities and encourage and educate other artists about the creative process.”

Elena Shackleton

“We think of ourselves as a family of tellers. There is a great amount of mutual support between our members and for the Guild. Storytellers enjoy and appreciate the camaraderie.”

Charles Kiernan

“Many of the volunteers who come to Touchstone have an affiliation for the theater and a general passion for the art of theatre.”

Lisa Jordan

“Volunteers get to attend 4-6 master classes a year—free of charge—and work with professional choreographers from around the Lehigh Valley.”

Sarah Carlson

How do you recruit volunteers?

“The Dance Exchange will advertise when volunteers are needed, but many volunteers approach them on their own time asking about how they can still be involved.”

Sarah Carlson

“I include my contact information in concert and festival pamphlets and e-newsletters. All volunteers are additionally recognized in their programs and at events and festivals.”

Renee James

“Touchstone allows many people to get in contact with volunteering by offering opportunities on their website and through their volunteer newsletter.”

Lisa Jordan

Giving of one’s time to a cultural nonprofit positively impacts both the individual and the organization. There are more than 125 cultural nonprofits in the Lehigh Valley, representing the performing, visual, media and literary arts. If you are looking to connect with the arts community and fuel your passion for the arts, the Lehigh Valley offers many choices.

Testimonials compiled by Lauren Balbierer, Intern at Lehigh Valley Arts Council, Student at Moravian College


Holiday Traditions Made in the Arts

Holiday Traditions FinalTake a break from gift-giving and the retail overload and truly enjoy the holiday season! Here are festive holiday arts happenings that will warm your heart and remind you to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us this time of year.
The perfect time to start a holiday tradition is NOW — and what better way to do it than with the ARTS!

DANCE:Image result for repertory dance theatre nutcracker


EXHIBITIONS:Photo of holiday art mart







Remember to use your ARTix Passport this holiday!ARTix Ad for Web


Joyful Noise

Choral singing has always been a moving experience for me and it’s an honor to sing in Lehigh University’s outstanding choral program. But when Choral Arts Director Steven Sametz invited the aptly named Joyful Noise chorus to sing with us in our spring 2017 concerts, it brought an emotional response even Bach and Brahms couldn’t deliver.

The New Jersey-based Joyful Noise is 50 adults with physical and neurological challenges. It was formed in 2000 by conductor Allison Fromm and her sister Beth, who also sings in the choir, and has made news around the country with its moving performances . The choir is less about musical discipline and more about uninhibited enthusiasm. And the effect on an audience is electric.

After months of rehearsals and hard work, Lehigh’s singers got the Joyful Noise lesson loud and clear: It’s not about the notes but the shared experience of producing magic by doing something you love.

Joyful Noise Image

Alice Parker, a conductor and composer who’s been called the dean of American choral music, accompanied Joyful Noise to a pre-concert rehearsal and explained the mystique of this choir: “Music does something different from every other method of communication. It’s literally a bridge to bring us together.

“Singing together is the most approachable of the arts,” she told us. “With so many new ways of communication, we don’t value singing enough. The function of song is to open us up to one another – it’s a big challenge in the world today.”

It was during this rehearsal that I got a preview of the emotional high ahead when we would all join together in an upbeat program of world music and spirituals. When the choirs combined for the second half of the program, Choral Arts singers donned t-shirts that matched those worn by Joyful Noise.

The mother of one of the singers said, “The choir helps us learn to relate to a disabled child as a real person.” The experience brought home to me how easy it is to erase the “otherness” we sometimes feel when we see someone who is differently abled than ourselves.

Conductor Fromm hailed the transformative affect singing can have not only on her choir members but on the audience. Quoted in Harvard Magazine, Fromm said: “We always hope that when people hear us sing, they take away an inspiration to bring music to people in their lives…people with disabilities, people in nursing homes, children who have disadvantages or challenges – to see how meaningful it is to come together and make music.”

by Kathy McAuley, Member and Volunteer of Lehigh Valley Arts Council


Holiday Memories Start Here!

Joy-to-the-Arts.pngThe most wonderful time of the year…to enjoy the Arts and Culture of the Lehigh Valley! These festive months are full of chances to celebrate, creating memories to last a lifetime. Catch a holiday themed dance or theatre performance, listen to the songs of the season, shop handmade for cherished gifts, or create a holiday craft perfect for giving.

Here’s your guide to get into the spirit of the season with the Arts! Continue reading “Holiday Memories Start Here!”


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. Continue reading “Artist & Staff Spotlight: Zach Kleemeyer”


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. Continue reading “A Mile in their Shoes”