COMMUNITY CAPACITY BUILDING

For 30 years, ArtsQuest has contributed to the economic vitality and quality of life of its home community, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, helping to attract the businesses and the work force that make it the most economically healthy city in Pennsylvania by increasing access to diverse arts and by developing facilities for arts engagement. ArtsQuest is now offering to apply its collective experience to assist other communities, arts organizations and developers to build community capacity for sustainable economic growth by fostering a creative environment.

The tectonic shift in the United States economy in the last 25 years has left some communities in tatters and others in better health than ever. Much economic activity that can be commoditized has gone offshore leaving entire industries like textiles, televisions and appliances to foreign workers. How did one small community, home to a major American steel company, with 20% of its land mass taken up by a defunct steel plant jump to the head of the pack with the lowest crime rate of any city in Pennsylvania, the highest median home value, the fewest citizens dependent on government programs, 24% of its residents in the coveted 20-34 year old demographic (when the state is only 18%)?

A community's capacity to thrive in the 21st century depends on many variables but the most important variable is to be able to attract and retain the people who will create and sustain the businesses that will make the community economically successful. Without successful enterprises, communities will descend into dependency and stagnation. What can a community do to expand its capacity to attract and retain the key individuals and businesses for success?

ArtsQuest has been a partner with the City of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for over 30 years in the city's quest to return to economic success after losing its primary employer and landmark industry, Bethlehem Steel in the 1990's. With the unusual dual mission of providing greater access to the arts for the community and enhancing economic development, ArtsQuest has pioneered urban revitalization techniques to attract creative individuals and businesses. ArtsQuest's leadership has:

  1. Been the key to sustaining a small, historic retail district, by establishing an annual signature festival, and branding the community as a magnet for music and musicians.
  2. Advanced the development of the larger Southside business and residential district through the establishment of two cultural campuses, the Banana Factory Arts Center and SteelStacks, a 10 acre cultural campus in the former Bethlehem Steel plant.
  3. Developed programming 365 days a year that offers everything from Independent Film, to hot glass blowing to one of the coolest and most intimate music venues in the world, along with great performing arts and visual arts festivals, programs for families and educational programs in schools.

With 30 years of success in a small city (pop. 75,000), and an experienced staff in urban arts presentation, ArtsQuest is now available to assist other communities to expand their capacity for economic growth. ArtsQuest's scope of services include:

  1. Arts District Development Strategies: Our staff will work with community leadership to:
    1. Conduct an asset assessment of cultural assets in and around a proposed district.
    2. Facilitate the cultural district conversation including:
      1. Goals
      2. Participants and what they can contribute to the district.
      3. Vehicles for supporting the district.
      4. Types of programs that are sustainable for the district.
      5. Vision for the district.
    3. Create a district vision statement, including identifying key properties, participants and programs.
  2. Arts District Programming: ArtsQuest has experience in festivals, special events, visual arts, performing arts and cultural events, and has close ties with partners in historic preservation and interpretation. We are available to:
    1. Conduct a community visioning process with the goal of developing a "signature festival" that will support the brand of your community.
    2. Work with public sector, institutional or private organizations in arts districts to develop programs from the concept stage to the production stage.
    3. Advise and work with community leaders or a development agency with regard to sponsorship and other funding techniques for arts district programs.
  3. Project Development: ArtsQuest's properties are unique developments that fit a particular need in our home community. We firmly believe that in the 21st century a "one size fits all" approach to any community based arts institution is not a formula for success. Flexibility for diverse artistic expression is a key to developing a community based facility, after the community has considered all of its existing assets and needs. ArtsQuest will:
    1. Evaluate the cultural needs of a community considering what is available in the community, what cultural programs or facilities the members of the community express a desire to have and what programs or facilities may be sustainable for the community.
    2. Conduct a community visioning process for a proposed cultural facility development with a report that expresses the vision and strategies for the project.
    3. Advise the community or designated development agency with regard to prospective funding sources.
    4. Assist in the drafting of pro forma cash flow projections for a cultural project.

To begin your quest for community capacity building, please contact Ron Unger, Vice President of Administration, runger@artsquest.org, 610-332-1328

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