Founded in 1984, ArtsQuest is a Bethlehem, PA-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing access to exceptional artistic, cultural and educational experiences for residents of the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania and beyond. The 501 (c)(3) supports this mission via the presentation of performing and visual arts, farmers' markets and healthy living initiatives, youth and community programming, and a variety of cultural events.
For nearly three decades, ArtsQuest has presented festivals, cultural experiences and educational and outreach programs that aid in economic development, urban revitalization and community enrichment. Through festivals such as its flagship event, Musikfest; the Banana Factory community arts and education center; and the new ArtsQuest Center and SteelStacks arts and cultural campus, the nonprofit's programming reaches more than 1.3 million people annually, with more than 80 percent of this programming offered to the community free of charge.
In 2011 ArtsQuest, along with the City of Bethlehem, Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority and several other public and private partners, launched SteelStacks, a dynamic arts and cultural campus that's bringing new life to the city's former Bethlehem Steel plant, which closed in 1995. Once one of the largest Brownfields in the U.S., the plant is now a popular destination for music, art, community events and more. For the residents of the local community, the campus also plays an important role by providing programs and services that benefit those members of the community who are underserved. In the south Bethlehem neighborhoods surrounding ArtsQuest and the SteelStacks campus, where 63 percent of residents are minorities:
Through the SteelStacks Partnership for Education and Outreach, made possible through Pennsylvania's Neighborhood Partnership Program, ArtsQuest and its programming partner, PBS39, have joined with area corporate partners to launch a unique educational initiative designed to have a major impact on the community. Over a 10-year period, the funding partners are investing in a series of programs aimed at providing quality arts and educational opportunities for local school students, parents and caregivers, as well as residents of Bethlehem and beyond. These programs include after-school enrichment programs, a teen mentoring program, classes for at-risk youth and more.
As part of its commitment to enhancing the quality of life in the community, ArtsQuest has also launched a farmers' market at SteelStacks to promote healthy eating and healthy living, bringing fresh foods to an area that's considered a food desert because there is little access to supermarkets and fresh produce. Each spring through fall, 30 vendors – all of whom grow and produce locally – present their products at the open-air market. In addition, ArtsQuest partners with healthcare agencies, hospitals and educational organizations on a variety of presentations and programs designed to help people lead healthier, happier lives.