The SouthSide Arts District held its annual meeting on Jan. 24 to discuss its plans for the upcoming year. Its goal is to continue the revitalization of the South Side by incorporating local residents into the arts community on Lehigh's campus. (Annie Henry/B&W Staff)

SouthSide Arts District looks to continue growth in 2018

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The SouthSide Arts District reflected on its success over the past year and outlined its goals for 2018 projects and initiatives during its annual meeting on Jan. 24.

“We wanted to have everyone in the same room to discuss accomplishments and look ahead and update on the goals,” said Lisa Jordan, the managing director of Touchstone Theatre.

Andy Cassano, the administrative director of Zoellner Arts Center, said in 2017, the SouthSide Arts District was officially branded with its own logo, firmly established an online presence and became a larger presence throughout South Side neighborhoods. 

Additionally, Cassano said the design committee created its first banner, which hangs outside the office at ArtsQuest. Soon, new banners will appear throughout Third and Fourth streets, and the committee is working with Lehigh Athletics to install Lehigh banners on South and North streets. 

Cassano said one of the organization’s primary goals for 2018 is to better integrate South Side residents into the Lehigh community, and vice versa. Although some Lehigh students are active members of the South Side community, it is important for South Side residents and students to realize Lehigh is just as much a part of the community.

“The Arts District can be part of the initiative to help break down that barrier, so the local community knows they are part of the university and the (Zoellner) Arts Center,” Cassano said.

Zoellner serves as one of the keystone organizations within the Arts District, along with ArtsQuest. The organization sees Zoellner as a major gateway between the local community and the university.

Cassano said the committee hopes Lehigh’s public face and advertising makes South Side residents aware of all that is available to them through the arts.

Within the next year, the SouthSide Arts District is hoping to see extensions of the growth it achieved at the end of 2017. Jordan said there has already been a greater sense of vibrancy throughout the South Side community.

“The Arts District here is trying to incorporate the eclectic nature of the city, cultural diversity and small organizations incorporated with big ones,” Cassano said. 

He said committee has plans for various events throughout the next year to kick-start more growth. These include arts and food festivals, such as Spring on the SouthSide, as well as more community service-based events, such as the Fall Haul, when South Side residents and the Lehigh community take part in a mass clean-up on the South Side.

“When the decision was made to launch this program, it was easy to see that art was our strength,” said Missy Hartney, the SouthSide Arts District manager. “Arts have long been an economic catalyst for revitalizing downtowns and improving quality of life in urban areas. Having a vibrant arts scene attracts visitors and encourages economic growth.”

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