Aug 26, 2016

Allentown's State Of The Arts


Today, in the Morning Call, a member of the Art Museum's Auxiliary asks the reporter to spread the word about the museum. The museum recently added an addition. Across the street, the Arts Park extends past the Baum Art School, to the rear of Symphony Hall. Then, across 6th Street, the Arts Walk has been extended through J.B. Reilly's Strata Village, to 7th Street. There is even a steel archway announcing the artiness of it all, by the former Shula's Steak House. With art this, and art that, why does the museum need a plug in the Morning Call? In Allentown, there's a large gap between the hype and the reality.

In reality, the city is allowing J.B. Reilly to smash Symphony Hall in the knees, by using its parking lot for a new apartment building. The lot is actually owned by the Allentown Parking Authority, which is supposed to act for the betterment of Allentown and its residents, not a private business interest. About 25 years ago, I went to see the late B.B. King perform at Symphony Hall. Today, with the competition from the Sands and Steel Stacks, and another half a dozen places, I doubt if Symphony Hall would attract such an act. Apparently, the power structure in Allentown also finds the old theatre expendable. There is a message in that for the Art Museum;  Business before art.

14 comments:

Scott Armstrong said...

Mike,

For the Arts to exist and thrive in a municipality their must be a strong intellectual core, vibrancy, and money. That's three strikes for Allentown.

Robert Burritsch said...

Reilly had briefly addressed the parking problems that he will create by offering little in the way of practical solutions, because quite frankly there aren't any. I have little doubt that the arts district as a whole will suffer as a result.

michael molovinsky said...

every level of allentown government has compromised its integrity for reilly's interests. take the art walk along shula's. ( i will always call it shula's); when they arrested the hapless street singer, they claimed it was private property, yet it is patrolled on a regular basis by allentown bicycle police. i can find no record of that alley being vacated, yet no one, except me, questions the ownership of this former alley.

LVCI said...

I noticed in the picture it didn't exactly represent a ethnic cross section of those living in the area. I wonder how many of these guests actually live downtown or if they ever will?

Jamie Kelton said...

I remember when I was a student at Allen, we did a field trip to Symphony Hall to talk to some violinists, chello players and other orchestra musicians. I looked it up on Wikipedia and learned about its history which was very interesting.

It's kind of like an anachronism today with the change of demographics of Allentown. You don't find many arts lovers or symphony orchestra fans in the makeup of the city any longer. Also I'm sure it's much more hazardous to park your car in that lot at night as well.

Isn't the parking deck at 6th and Linden available for people who want to go to concerts and plays there once the lot on the east side of 6th built into those apartments however ?

michael molovinsky said...

jamie@10:07, the hall's main tenant, the community music school on the upper floors, depended on that lot for parents to drop off and pick up the students. they threatened to move if the authority sold the lot, which it did anyway. in every case, if it was the executives of the symphony association, or the preservationists in regard to 6th and hamilton, they always say, "We're so glad for the development." they should be saying, STOP THE SHAM, and realize that allentown is more than just reilly's real estate portfolio

Monkey Momma said...

I just checked Miller Symphony Hall's schedule, just for kicks. In August, there are 3 days with events happening. In September, 4. Six events in October, 5 in November and 3 in December. Now, I know more events will be added to those later months, specifically the Nutcracker annual performance. But, it's clear that Symphony Hall lacks programming.

They continue to do Field Trips for children, Jamie. My kids have gone. What they both remember the most about the field trip (from different years) was the teachers telling them to observe the change in houses along the way. The kids learned about poverty versus wealth and literally watched their teachers point at the row homes and explain poverty. It was a heartbreaking account.

I do take my kids downtown to Hamilton once in awhile, for various things. We go occasional events at the arena. One day, we walked the Arts Walk from the Baum (after a class) to Hamilton, and we encountered a couple smoking weed under a kind of corner that was in the alley of the walk. And this couple could not have cared less that the kids and I were walking by...they weren't concerned in the slightest about putting away their joint. Marijuana smokers don't bother me, but it really made the kids ask questions about the smell - I told them the truth, that it was weed - and my kids were just blown away that no police noticed the VERY OBVIOUS smell. It was the middle of the day, and I didn't see a single police officer anywhere. Maybe weed is OK on the Arts Walk, but obnoxious singing is a criminal offense. Don't you feel safer now?

Jamie Kelton said...

I think that the walkway next to Shula's is Reilly's property, I think the lot goes right up to the old Trojan Powder building. He just built that between the restaurant as part of his design of the strata flats building. I think the APD patrolls it as a courtesy if nothing else. Now the sidewalk along 7th is public though, that's where the singer should have sung.

Jeffrey Anthony said...

Jamie @10:07

Actually, you'd be surprised by how much The Allentown Symphony *isn't* an anachronism. My wife have been subscribers for many years, and the audience is of a much younger average age today than it was well over a decade ago. That's encouraging.

And ASO certainly deserves its audience. Maestra Wittry never fails to put together wonderfully engaging programs. Her pairing of Holst's "The Planets" with a NASA produced film is just one of many examples of how she is entirely respectful of a classic while tastefully pairing it with the new to attract a more contemporary audience. She's a first class artist *and* an astute marketer -- that's a rare and powerful combination in the arts.

I'm certainly not a culture maven, but I *love* ASO and will be a subscriber for decades to come...

George Ruth said...

Today's Rite Aid story looks like they emptied Reilly's offices of secretaries and PR guys to stand there. No Pete Schweyer brown-faced constituents to be seen. If ever a PR event looked like they brought in Central Casting...

michael molovinsky said...

george@3:28, it's more ironic than you know. all the small brown and yellow merchants on 7th street had to have non-illuminated painted signs, approved by the street manager, peter lewnes. (good guy, molovinsky approved) apparently, the same sign regulation did not apply to rite-aid.

Julian Kern said...

According to assessment records the properties the Art Walk is on is owned by the city of Allentown. You can check it out on the city's map viewer. http://maps.allentownpa.gov/viewer/

Jeffrey Anthony said...

I didn't know about the map viewer, Julian. Thanks! That's very interesting.

michael molovinsky said...

we who know allentown know that there are two alleys between the number streets. these alleys contain many houses, and in the past actually also contained businesses. i asserted that the artswalk corresponded with the second alley between hamilton and linden, which exists both east and west of the area. HOWEVER, i checked an old merchant map from the late 20's, early 30's, and NO alley is shown back then. i will be presenting that map publicly in short order.