This past Friday, numerous shops and restaurants on Third and Fourth Streets began placing yellow signs in front of their businesses to display their participation in First Friday Bethlehem. According to the Downtown Bethlehem Association website, the event is “a monthly celebration of arts and culture in the Southside Shopping and Arts District of Bethlehem.”
Tallarico’s Chocolates was among the event’s participating vendors. The niche chocolate shop had seemed to be finalizing its preparations for the evening when customers already began to flow in. Everything in Tallarico’s is made from scratch, one of the shop’s clerks said.
First Friday gives shops like Tallarico’s the opportunity to have customers come into the store as they enjoy samples and listen to free live music.
Upon asking a stranger at Tallarico’s where to go next for First Friday, it soon became apparent that the Banana Factory was the place to be.
The Banana Factory seemed to be bustling with people young and old from all around Bethlehem. Within the factory, numerous vendor tables were set up to showcase businesses or causes. One of these was Diana’s Café, where onlookers sampled delicious bruschetta and meatballs. Another table was devoted to Pediatric Cancer Awareness, where people could donate and wear a gold ribbon to show their support for the cause.
As interesting as all the vendors’ tables were, the focal point of the Banana Factory was surely the art on display there. Hundreds of paintings and sculptures were strategically placed for onlookers to enjoy, and potentially buy, throughout the premises.
On the ground floor of the factory, a grand open room showcased numerous pieces of art along with free appetizers and live music. The ambiance was one of cool relaxation in which all seemed to embrace art while letting their cares drift away.
There were three different floors where people could walk around and explore new artwork. On the second and third floors, many of the artists themselves were in their studios, waiting to talk with anyone interested in their work and artistic processes.
“It’s great for the community to expose them to different art,” said Douglas Wiltrant, one of the locally exhibited artists.
Elizabeth Wiggins, one of the organizers at the Banana Factory, explained that the factory has three galleries and one exhibition space in which nearly 30 resident artists work. The gallery opens on First Friday to serve as “essentially an open house for (the factory).”
Lehigh’s Architecture and Design Club, which had the objective of introducing members to the local art community of south Bethlehem, was also at the event
“I think people know about (First Friday), but are hesitant (to attend),” said club member Hannah Han, ’15. Another club member, Liz Phillips, ’15, had similar thoughts. “I don’t think a lot of people know (about it), but the ones that do like it,” she said.
Wiggins said not too many Lehigh students usually choose to attend the event. “We’d like to see more…it’s free,” she said. “We want people to come in and see what’s going on here…Lehigh kids should come through, there’s a lot happening.”
Kyung Choi, ’16, said First Friday is “an excellent new way for students to interact with the community, meet new colorful people…and feel at home in Bethlehem.”