ArtsQuest's mission speaks to not only what we do but how we do it. The journey to our vision of a creative, socially and economically vibrant community is as important as the goal.
Our Mission: ArtsQuest will:
Founded in 1984 as the Bethlehem Musikfest Association, ArtsQuest is a community-based nonprofit organization that began fostering creativity long before creative placemaking became a popular movement. In a community with a rich heritage of arts and innovation ArtsQuest continues to be the prism through which the community is reinventing itself for the challenges of the 21st Century. Founded during the final years of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation's existence, ArtsQuest has partnered with government, businesses, other nonprofits and community leaders to overcome the economic and cultural challenges of the post-industrial evolution of this small city in the middle of the Boston-Washington corridor.
Our philosophy is that greater access to the arts fosters creativity in our residents and attracts new residents, all of whom contribute their creativity and innovation to our community, our institutions and our businesses. We did not invent this philosophy; it has been a part of the community since its founding in 1741 by the Protestant group known as the Moravians.
While ArtsQuest began as a music festival organization, our mission required that we develop facilities in which access to the arts could be enhanced. Thus, we have become a nontraditional economic development organization, through the establishment of two campuses for arts and culture – The Banana Factory and SteelStacks. Both of these are located on Bethlehem's SouthSide, home of Lehigh University and former home of Bethlehem Steel. Through this leadership we have inspired the development of the SouthSide Arts District, which is now burgeoning with development of residential, mixed use and commercial projects. The SouthSide is now home to dozens of technology companies with more than 2,000 technology workers. Residents of our region have access to more than 1,200 programs offered by ArtsQuest annually, with more than 65-percent of these free to the community.
Another philosophy that we acquired from our forefathers is today referred to as tolerance. Moravians are accepting of all people. The European founders of Bethlehem embraced Native Americans and Africans. God's Acre adjacent to Central Moravian Church in downtown Bethlehem is the first place in the United States where Europeans, Native Americans and Africans were buried side by side. Today the Moravian Church worldwide is primarily an African church. The Moravians were also the first in the new world to believe that educating women was important.
At ArtsQuest we embrace diversity and firmly believe that diversity is not just good for the community, but essential for the health and well-being of our citizens and for our economic success. As such we have always included cultural programs that encourage participation by diverse community members. This programming has been reflected in concerts at Musikfest and in the wide variety of programming at SteelStacks and the Banana Factory. We encourage you to visit our program information to explore for yourself.
In the report In Philadelphia's Shadow, Small Cities in the Third Federal Reserve District issued in May 2012 by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Bethlehem was ranked No. 1 in economic standing among the 13 cities included in the report, with the highest median household income, lowest citizen dependency on government support, highest residential property values and lowest vacancy rate. The report states Bethlehem is "rebounding strongly from deindustrialization and appears to be building a strong post-industrial future."
Today Bethlehem is at its highest population ever and is one of only two cities in Pennsylvania that has a higher population than it did in 1950. With support from ArtsQuest the residents of Bethlehem have been able confront an economic crisis with creativity and innovation that will carry the community forward into its third century as a vibrant American community.