Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Old Allentown House Tour Saturday

From the OAPA website:

There's no better time than Saturday, October 3, to explore behind the doors of the city's Victorian beauties. That's when OAPA presents its 33rd Annual House Tour. It's also your chance to see firsthand therecent revitalization efforts of three center-city neighborhoods. Old Allentown – the city's oldest historic district – is featured.

Homes on bustling Seventh Street (now a Main Street program) and on Sixth in Old Fairgrounds extend this tour of 'Old City.' You'll find a fascinating range of decorating styles, interior design ideas and old house tips. A bonus, the former Harry C. Trexler mansion is open to tour goers*, thanks to new owner, Elias Funeral Home. And Dubbs Memorial U.C.C. Church will play its carillon and welcome you.

Free parking! Metered parking is free in the Historic District on tour day. There is also free parking in the Linden Street lotthe corner of 10th and Linden just west of the Hotel Grand.
Free ride! To make it easy to visit all these homes, we've added a free trolley sponsored by Pennrose Properties.

Façades! OAPA completed its 100th façade restoration this year. To celebrate, orange balloons throughout the district will identify properties improved through this ongoing program.
Try your luck! Stop by the Old Allentown and take part in our raffle for gift certificates for local eateries and more. This is also the place to buy Old Allentown merchandise and pick up information on the neighborhood.

Animal lovers, stop by the pocket park at Eighth and Gordon. Members of Linda's Greyhound Rescue will have adoption information and greyhounds available for adoption at the park.
Painting on display: At the OAPA office you can also see the original oil painting by Joseph Skrapits that is reproduced on our poster and tour book cover. If you fall in love with it (as we have), place a bid in our Silent Auction. Part of the auction proceeds will benefit OAPA. Bidding ends at 4pm.
Tickets are $15 in advance (on sale at OAPA, Hardwaer Variety Plus, C. Leslie Smith, Allentown Brew Works, Phoebe Floral, Syb's West End Deli, Home & Planet, Moravian Book Shop, Spotted Dog Barkery) or $20 the day of.

Note: See artwork by local artists in one of the homes on the tour. Also, congrats to Joe Skrapits, whose beautiful painting graces this year's House Tour poster.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Symphony (and more) Ask You to Lend a Voice

From the Allentown Symphony:

The state of Pennsylvania has finally reached a budget deal, but with a cost to arts and culture. Included in the budget proposed by Governor Rendell is a provision to extend Pennsylvania’s 6% state sales tax to include concert and theatre tickets, dance and performing arts events, museums, historical sites, zoos and parks. The impetus for this action is that the revenue generated from these taxes could result in long term funding for the arts and cultural sector. However, sports and movies, which are known to be big revenue generators, are able to keep their tax exemptions in Pennsylvania.

Allentown Symphony Association (ASA) reaches 55,000 people each year including 14,130 children through its educational programming. This year, in a difficult economy the ASA decided to keep ticket prices the same and increase the number of events offered, giving the ASA the opportunity to see an increase in ticket sales and patron involvement. Under this proposed budget ticket prices will go up placing an additional burden on our patrons, but the extra money will go to the State with the promise of ‘some’ of the funds being used to fund arts program and the State keeps the rest. No more information than this has been shared with the organizations that will be affected!

Pennsylvania is also threatening to eliminate its Educational Improvement Tax Credit program (EITC), a program that encourages area businesses to fund educational programs, defined by law to be “innovative” educational programs. Allentown Symphony has six curriculum based programs that would be negatively affected by the loss of these EITC funding m including Musicians in Schools, Musical Treasure Chest, Master Classes, Instrument Petting Zoo, the Arts Walk, and City Arts Camp.

Finally, the lack of State funding for the arts is impacting and ultimately reducing the level of funding support from the County of Lehigh. The negative impact of these changes are still unknown, however, they will certainly affect operations and education. Most Pennsylvania arts organizations have already taken drastic staffing cuts.
Allentown Symphony Association offers reasonably priced tickets to all of its symphonic concerts, the new Met: LIVE HD series, and all educational programs are offered at little or no cost to schools in an effort to be accessible and invest in our Lehigh Valley community. These community educational opportunities should not be weighed down with increased admission costs due to a new sales tax inclusion.
I am writing to ask you to help the Allentown Symphony Association and arts and culture in the Lehigh Valley by writing to your state representative and addressing this important issue

Here is what you can do:Using the contact information at the bottom of this email, call in or e-mail the following message:

Hello, my name is _____________, and as a resident of Lehigh/Northampton/______ county, I’m contacting you in opposition to an expansion of the state sales tax to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in order to balance the FY10 state budget. In these tough economic times, increased ticket prices only tax working families out of arts and cultural venues such as concerts, museums, and parks. Interestingly, sports and movies – which are huge revenue generators in Pennsylvania – remain exempt from the tax. This doesn’t seem right. I think that those of us who work in or support these nonprofit institutions in our region should be a part of the conversation on long-term solutions for cultural funding. I ask that Senator/Representative __________bring this message to caucus leadership before the budget is signed into law.

Your help in keeping Arts and Culture in our community affordable and accessible is greatly appreciated.

Meeting Notes, 9/26/09

There was a small turnout Saturday, but the faithful group that did arrive had an evening of good conversation.

Here are the items that came up while I was in attendance (I unfortunately had to leave early):

Window Project Update - The "Hamilton For Rent" group currently has one display downtown. The show for the bicycle race has been taken down. Plans are in the works to continue securing windows. Marilyn asked if there has been any support for materials with this project, but it has been entirely unfunded and functions as a vehicle for showcasing artists' work.

Pumpkin Art Idea - Art N' Soul studios is planning a Halloween art event that would invite artists to submit carved/designed pumpkins for display. More details are coming.

Winter Show? This one remains open for discussion. The group briefly discussed doing something the week of the city's tree lighting, which takes place next to PPL Plaza. One member suggested a former warehouse near Turner Street for use. We just need more suggestions and a lot of volunteers if we want to make something happen.

The next meeting is Sat. Oct. 24 at House of Chen.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ro Geseck Paints Civil War Mural

Fellow Chenster and Baum School of Art instructor Ro Geseck has completed a 30ft. mural at The Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum, 4th and Walnut in Allentown, as part of their upcoming Major Civil War Exhibition. Ro says that she was thrilled to be able to paint Grant's horse! Ro has completed several murals in Allentown. This past summer she completed a mural with the kids at Central Elementary. You may have seen her work at Phoebe Floral on Hamilton, or in the kid's bathrooms at the Allentown Art Museum, or the former Federal Grill, just to name a few. Oh, and there's that sports mural on Union Blvd.

The opening of the Civil War Exhibit is this Saturday Sept. 26th, and the show runs through July. There will be re-enactments, artifacts, free soda, and much more. Here's a link for details:

photo of Grant's horse Cincinnatti

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Annie Giancarlo at PA Renewable Energy Fest

Fellow Chenster Annie Giancarlo will be showing her clothing designs made from recycled materials this weekend at the PA Renewable Energy Festival, Fri., Sat. & Sun. - Sept. 18, 19, 20 at the Kempton Community Center, Kempton, PA . Here's a link for details.

Annie is not only a talented visual artist, but she is also a clothing designer, costume designer, furniture designer, master gardener, master chef, and is currently working on a degree in Kitchen and Bath Design. Annie has designed and created several of the shirts that I wear on stage when I perform with The Villas. She ingeniously pieces together vintage fabric from the 1960's to create colorful and one of a kind psychedelic shirts. Congrats to Annie, sounds like a great event. Hope you can attend!
Photo: Annie at our Velocity Show, Allentown Art Museum
Angie Villa

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Peek at Public Art Elsewhere

Here in Allentown artists have had some success pulling together public art displays with Hamilton For Rent. The original idea was borrowed from a project on South Street in Philadelphia where artists filled empty shop windows. Local artist Yodi has taken the idea and run with it, coordinating with realtors and property managers. He has recruited fellow artists and arts enthusiasts to carry out these displays.

But the hurdle with these projects, like all art projects, has been funding. None of us have the resources to pay for advertising, posters, materials, etc. But we've made it work. The beauty of this project is that the storefront windows have been offered for free and artists merely need to show up and devise a way to present their work.

I want to share with you what is going on in other locations. If you know of any other places where projects like these are taking place, feel free to leave a comment.

Berkeley, California

This city is home to a Public Art Committee, which develops projects and recruits local artists to carry them out. The city holds a civic art exhibit and has funded sculptures in various locations. The city has three public art galleries and curators who manage them. Berkeley even has a Public Art Fund which pays for projects. The fund receives 1 percent of each eligible capital project, so it is continually replenished as projects are carried out.


The City of Philadelphia Public Art Program is one of the oldest in the country. The city developed the nation's first Percent For Art program in 1959, requiring art in public places as a means of "humanizing and enlivening the urban environment." The city boasts that more than 600 works of art have been commissioned in the program's 50 years. 600!!! The city dedicates up to 1 percent of the funds for its construction contracts to public art.

When it comes to artist partnerships with private property owners, there is the South Street window project. Also, Urban Outfitters regularly recruits artists to do a window installation. Take a look at the Samson Window Project.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Our neighbors to the north are funding art projects in the same way. The City of Calgary Public Art Program is funded by taking 1 percent of the funds from capital projects with budgets over $1 million. That's an automatic $10,000 from every major project. Artist Greg Coates sent me information about a project going on in Calgary (similar to Hamilton For Rent) titled "Open Spaces - Window to a View."

I'm sure if I spent more time looking I could find countless other cities with similar initiatives. They all vary in size and wealth but they share a dedication to the arts. We could learn from their methods and consider these options where we live.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Arts Budget News

From Citizens for the Arts in PA:

During a press conference (Friday) members representing both caucuses in the Senate and the House Democratic caucus announced that an agreement had been reached on the state budget for FY 09-10. It is reported the budget includes $10 million for arts grants (down from $15.2 million) through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and $1 million (down from $1.3 million) for administration of the Council.

This increase is a huge testament to your advocacy efforts considering the ZERO offered in SB 850. However it still represents a cut of almost 30% over last year's approved appropriation. There is a brief window of time to CALL your legislators. Express your appreciation for including the funding but urge them to fund arts grants at a level between $12.5 million - $14 million. Arts funding supports jobs, programming in schools and at senior citizens centers, and helps revitalize our downtowns. Remember to tell them why this is a priority to you and your community. Tell them the many ways that we all benefit from an investment in the arts. CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY.

You can locate phone numbers on our e-advocacy site at .

Please make that call today!
Jenny L. Hershour
Managing Director
Citizens for the Arts in PA

UPDATE: From today's Citizens for the Arts News:

We are in Day 77 of the state budget impasse. Three of the four legislative caucuses have agreed to a $27.9 billion spending plan but yesterday, Governor Rendell said that he would veto the budget unless the budget met his criteria for signature. As we are still without a budget, arts and cultural organizations from across Pennsylvania have started a movement of artless Wednesdays in PA to bring awareness to what our communities might be like if there is no state support of nonprofit arts groups. Every Wednesday, from now until a budget is passed, arts organizations and supporters are encouraged to make a symbolic gesture of what it means to be artless.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Event Kicks Off Friday, Sept. 11

This project is a result of artists and business operators working together in community partnership.

Artists and downtown business owners/managers came together to utilize vacant storefront properties for a positive purpose. This symbiotic relationship beautifies the downtown, provides exposure for talented artists and draws attention to the valuable commercial properties along the city’s main corridor.

The goal of the project is to gain attention for local artists and secure tenants for the spacious shop windows and storefronts along Hamilton Street.

Special thanks to Cathy Minnich, GM of Holiday Inn, and the owners of Holiday Inn Allentown, 813 Hamilton and 809 Hamilton for their support of the Arts in Allentown.

For more information, contact:
Yodi, project curator:

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hamilton For Rent - The Second Leg

A new art display will be installed in downtown Allentown starting Tuesday.

Hamilton For Rent - The Second Leg is the latest installment of artwork gracing the vacant windows of buildings around 9th and Hamilton. The show is playfully called "The Second Leg" because it will coincide with the Univest Grand Prix, an international cycling time trial which takes place Friday, Sept. 11 from 11 am to 2 pm.

Starting Tuesday at 4 pm artists will be installing their work at several windows around 9th and Hamilton. Yodi has graciously worked to secure the locations where work will be displayed.

Cyclists from around the world will be competing on a course that passes through downtown. Thousands of visitors as well as international media are expected to attend the event, generating a large audience for the local artists who plan to show off their pieces.

Please come out to watch the exciting event and to support our local artists.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Jazz Upstairs - 9/11/09

From Ethel Drayton-Craig:

Our next Jazz Cabaret will feature the ERIC MINTEL QUARTET, Friday, September 11, 2009, 7:30 PM in the Rodale Room of Symphony Hall. They have performed at the White House.

As long as the music attracts dedicated young musicians like Eric Mintel, jazz will continue to thrive and progress as a voice of freedom.
-Dave Brubeck

At the last cabaret, we used every movable seat we had in the building! That is how popular we have become. Be there, or Be Square. $20 for 2 sets and light refreshments. Cash bar.
Call 610, 432-6715 for reservations.The Artist Sponsor is S.Argentis/Mr. Rooter PlumbingThe Food Sponsor is Bucca di Beppo

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

With No Budget in Sight, Arts Action is Still Needed

Some innovative ways to attract attention to the proposed cut in arts funding from the Council on the Arts:

As you well know, we are in month 3 of the Pennsylvania Budget Battle with no budget in sight as of today. Pressure still needs to be put on the members of the PA General Assembly by arts advocates if we want the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) funded at the $14 million level for arts grants and at $1.2 million for the administration of the PCA.

We, at Citizens for the Arts in PA, have been thinking about what an "artless" Pennsylvania might look like if funding for the PCA is eliminated or severely reduced. Musikfest in Bethlehem and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art have given us some idea as to what might happen with their organizations if they received a severe reduction in PCA grant funds. Inspired by these two organizations, we are asking you to participate "ArtLess Wednesdays" starting 9/9/09 and continuing each Wednesday until a state budget is passed. Please make a symbolic gesture that will demonstrate the impact of the absence of state support on your organization.

Lots of ideas are being discussed, including a temporary landing page for arts organizations' websites to push the message as well as awestricken for your use. These are is currently under construction. Arts organizations in Altoona are banning together to drape black coverings across their windows that contains a sign statements such as "this is what your downtown will look like without state arts funding" and "would you pay 5 cents per week to keep the arts in Pennsylvania?" Covering outdoor art and window cards in galleries on First Fridays or other gallery walks are other suggestions. Maybe you can organize a quartet playing without instruments in the town square.

We want to spark innovative, creative and artistic action by you and your grantees, either collectively or individually. The purpose is to attract media and public attention to the importance of arts support and to use that to promote advocacy.

If you have other ways to draw public attention to how your communities might be impacted by a Draconian cut to the PCA budget, please share them with me at and I'll post them on our website and in this newsletter. We're counting on your participation for Artless Wednesdays. Keep in touch and let us know how you plan to participate. Thanks for all of your help and let's keep fighting!