Students engage in South Side community festival

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Students in Silagh White’s Entrepreneurship 123 class set out to learn about how art affects the community, and applied what they had discovered by hosting an art expo during the Spring on the SouthSide Festival on April 23. The class contributed to the festivities by selling student artwork and hosting student musicians in Farrington Square.

“(Entrepreneurship 123 is a) social entrepreneurship course to understand the cultural assets of a community, how they are economic drivers and realize our own responsibilities in sustaining these assets,” White said, who is also Lehigh’s director of arts engagement and community relations.

Beau Whitman, ‘16, who managed the art for the exposition and was one of three student leaders for the event, said Lehigh and the South Side community interact through art and collective creativity.

“A bunch of working parts came together to form one festival,” he said.

The class only sold three or four pieces of art, and only one person actually picked up their art. They faced a problem because the art was large, and people didn’t want to carry it around the festival. Some of the artists at the expo received custom orders.

The class faced challenges due to its lack of budget, which led to minimal advertising surrounding the event. They mostly relied on word-of-mouth communcation, which contributed to the social element, White said. Students also posted on various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and blogs.

They also stenciled peppers around campus leading to Farrington Square to promote the event.

“It was a chance to see how far we could get without buying an ad or making a banner,” White said. “There needs to be money spent to let this campus know it is happening — we just don’t have it right now.”

Following the event, the class discussed ways they could improve, such as by including smaller art pieces and a finding a better location, closer to the Banana Factory. White would like to see a budget for advertising and more campus partnership with the festival overall. She said it’s a huge opportunity for philanthropy for the Greek houses.

“I don’t think (the art expo) was success in the way you dreamed it to be,” White said. However, she said, it was it was a success because it happened.

“We were there,” she said. “We started the wheels in motion.”

The festival, formerly known as Spring on Fourth, What’s on Third? has been taking place in the Bethlehem community for more than 20 years, but this was Lehigh’s first year being involved in the event.

Spring on the SouthSide is famous for its chili cook-off between local businesses, which was held in conjunction with the 10th annual Cops ‘n’ Kids celebration of reading and the Banana Factory’s art festival.

“The beautiful part about it is no one at Lehigh has to organize it — we just show up,” said White. “Here’s a community aching for us to be a part of it.”

White said when students do venture off campus, they are often errand-bound or it’s bar time, when many of the local businesses are closed. These businesses are hurting and need foot traffic. 

She said the festival encourages people to hang out and walk around during the day.

“The culture of this campus is very centralized within the campus boundaries,” said Brent Lorraine, ‘16, a student in White’s class. “We hope there is an awareness that there is a community outside of Lehigh. You don’t always need to do the same exact thing every Friday night.”

White said her students have the same reaction to the festival year after year, saying  she “had no idea Bethlehem had so much to offer.”

“It’s great we have assets in our community,” White said. “But if we don’t support them, they are unsustainable.”

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