Monday, March 30, 2009

Takin' it to the Streets of Allentown

During tough economic times, the arts can thrive. Some of our best American art was created during the Depression in the 1930's, which triggered important art movements such as Regionalism, and Social Realism. Artists such as Thomas Hart Benton painted WPA sponsored murals on public buildings. Artists and photographers Ben Shahn, Jacob Lawrence, and Dorothea Lange depicted American life and the realities of living in poverty. These art movements influenced artists all over the world.

Art brings people together, raises our social consciousness, and can trigger and enhance economic development and urban renewal. While our town's only "newspaper" reports on the cut-backs and financial struggles of arts institutions like the Allentown Art Museum and The State Theater, the local community art scene is flourishing, especially in Allentown.

This past Saturday night, in an overflowing reserved space at the House of Chen Restaurant on Hamilton St. in downtown Allentown, a large group of enthusiastic local artists (The Allentown Chen Arts Group) announced and specified plans for a variety of community art events to take place this Spring and Summer, while dining on amazingly dee-lish Malaysian cuisine, thanks to Jenny Chen!
A driving force behind Allentown's street art movement is Allentown artist Duane (Yodi) Vaden, who is involved in street theatre, making large puppets, parades, African drumming, youth programs, political activism, and his own fine art.

There are many free outdoor events planned. To mention a few, starting in April on 7th St., the Artists in Action program will be happening every second Sat. of the month. Thanks Pete Lewnes and Yodi. Artists will be on the street in front of local businesses making and selling art, and there will be dancers, musicians, and a teen art program.
The Chen Arts Group is planning Second Saturday artist studio tours, music, and dancing on Hamilton St. And we will be having an indoor fine art show in the lower level community room of the Allentown Art Museum in June.
There will be a Peace Parade in May organized by The Arts Luminarium, a non-profit group. If you are interested in participating, or for more info, check out the Chen Arts Blog.

Image is Thomas Hart Benton Mural "City Activities" in NYC subway