South Bethlehem's Chili Cook-off, or -
THE kickoff to the summer festival season.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spring on 4th DYK series #3 - The Banana Factory

Lehigh University offers many courses in the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurialism, Creativity and Innovation that give students an opportunity to learn from other entrepreneurs in business and in society. One course offered in the spring is ENT 198: Art Entrepreneurship Community. In this course, students explore the dynamic relationship between art(ist), producer (public, private, single & multiple) and audience. A significant part of their learning is through applying their own talents to the annual Spring on Fourth festival. Through this practicum, students have seen the impact of their work in terms of relationship building between the South Bethlehem business community and the campus. 

They have also been given a great opportunity to see how a festival impacts local businesses. These local businesses are the backbone of the local economy; and students are learning all of their owners by name - and not by name tag. They have become very familiar with the assets of the community around their campus - and are coming to understand the value and shared responsibility of supporting a local economy through events and festivals that raise the quality of life for all citizens who live and work in the same zip code.

The following series is written by the students of ENT 198 - Spring 2013.

For our entrepreneurship class midterm, my peers and I were asked to compile an inventory of Bethlehem businesses and art assets in our community.  One of the places I decided to visit was the Banana Factory.  The Banana Factory is a visual arts and education campus located in a re-imagined banana warehouse and distribution center.  Prior to this project, I’m ashamed to say I had never been inside of the Banana Factory.  

After only an hour of exploring with my roommate, I was extremely impressed with the resources available at the Banana Factory.  The arts center offers glass and ceramic studios, three-award winning art galleries, a performing arts theatre, and a wide variety of visual art classes.  The Banana Factory promotes arts education and integrating art in the Bethlehem community.  This is how I discovered the Banana Factory’s most important asset: how easy it is for visitors to meet and interact with resident studio artists!

As we were walking down one of the hallways on the second floor, my roommate and I paused outside of an artist’s studio because we were drawn to the giant dream catcher hanging at the end of the hall as well as the unique design and vivid colors of the artist’s work.  All of a sudden, we heard a woman’s voice and to our surprise, the artist named Stephanie Smith was inviting us inside of her workspace!  


Stephanie said that she has lived in Bethlehem for most of her life and described how it has transformed into a city that embraces art with more galleries, shops, and venues emerging in recent years.  She also showed us pieces in her collection, which consists of mainly mixed media mandala art.  The visit was an overall success because it was exciting to hear a local artist’s perspective on how art is central to Bethlehem culture and get a first-hand look at her studio and artwork!  

Megan Woolbert, class of 2015 - Lehigh University

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