Every Orchestra performs at the Bethlehem SouthSide Arts & Music Festival on Friday, April 28, 2017, at the ArtsQuest Center in SteelStacks. The festival continued the next day. (Konka Shi/B&W Staff)

South Side festival supports Bethlehem’s art scene


The SouthSide Arts & Music Festival kicked off its annual celebration Friday.

Over 30 musicians performed across Friday and Saturday, bringing in big acts such as Rusted Root, Robert Randolph and indie bands such as Ceramic Animal and Motherfolk. 

The first Arts & Music Festival began three years ago with the Urban Street Art Festival when ArtsQuest wanted to showcase the South Side’s art and culture throughout Bethlehem. Since then, the festival has expanded from its initial 20 vendors to 40 vendors. In addition, Artsquest has 10 to 12 partners to promote and run the event.

“The SouthSide Arts and Music Festival is designed to bring the the community together and showcase the unique arts and culture of South Side Bethlehem,” said Mark Demko, Artsquest senior director of communications. “Everyone has a great experience.”

Events were held throughout the South Side by local vendors such as Color Me Mine, Deja Brew and HomeBase610 and bigger organizations like the Banana Factory and the ArtsQuest Center.

Five South Side venues offered live music with approximately 15 musical acts each night.

“I’ve seen a lot of great acts over the years, but I really enjoy Robert Randolph and Rusted Root,” Demko said.

The festival’s goal was to encourage guests to explore the South Side’s shops, venues, art and culture. The Banana Factory’s family-oriented programming ranged from steampunk-inspired jewelry making to a skating competition. The factory also offered art workshops lead by professionals or volunteers.

In the Banana Factory, a live art competition called Lehigh Valley Art Wars had local artists create artistic pieces with specific themes in a certain amount of time. The artists competed for a chance to win the grand prize of $1,000 and the ability to sell their winning painting on the spot, with audience votes determining which piece would go to the next round.

Steven Leibensperger of Lehigh Valley Art Wars said the SouthSide Arts & Music Festival gets them a lot of exposure. However, not a lot of people in the audience give them the $5 to cast their vote for the winning painting. He said they are taking the show on the road but will be back next year to run the competition again.

As a part of the festival, Denton Burrows, ’11, worked on a mural installation to reflect Bethlehem’s rich history and culture. The mural is located at 24 E. Third St. and will be displayed on the buildings for years to come.

A student-run business, Boys on the Superior Side — more widely known as The Superior — displayed its products during the festival. Miles Davis, ‘15, said the event was a success. They were able to spread the word out about their company, but he said there needed to be a more open space for the location.

Most of the festival attendees were families and Bethlehem residents. The festival is expected to continue for years to come.

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1 Comment

  1. Dale Kochard on

    Kudos to ArtsQuest for expanding their festival this year. This is the sort of organic growth of a festival that the SouthSide needs to have. More to come. And thanks for covering it, Austin.

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