The element of the unexpected was at the core of the art in this year’s SouthSide Music and Arts Festival. Walking along the streets of the South Side, pedestrians had the opportunity to be part of an animation film, watch a flame working demonstration and observe vendors create pieces during Art Wars.
Festival goers might also have seen a giant red ball.
The RedBall Project, a public art project that has traveled the world, turned heads in Bethlehem as it appeared in a different location each day of the festival.
“The idea was to have a public art piece that drew people’s attention in unexpected places,” Brennan said.
The festival has always included a visual arts component, but this aspect has grown over the years. Brennan, who has worked at ArtsQuest for two years, noted the importance of art at the festival.
“We want to open people’s eyes as to what is possible in terms of public art, as well as build hype before the festival,” said Stacie Brennan, senior director of visual arts.
The 15-foot inflated red ball appeared on Lehigh’s campus on April 19 in Farrington Square. Mollie Nickman, ’21, was one of many students suprised by the ball as she walked through Farrington Square.
“The big red ball is the coolest thing ever,” Nickman said. ”It’s a big art project that has been to 25 cities all over the world, and then it just appeared at Lehigh.”
Kurt Perschke, the artist behind the project, stood next to the ball and explained the project to students.
While students were fascinated by the RedBall Project, Nickman said she was unaware of the festival, believing it to be an independent piece.
The festival ran from April 17 to April 22. It began four years ago as the Urban Street Art Festival and has transformed into a celebration of Bethlehem through food, art and music.
Brennan estimated between 3,000 and 4,000 people attended the festival, but said that only a handful of Lehigh students visited.
“I’m a Lehigh alumnus, so I remember how reluctant students are to get off the Hill,” Brennan said. “But we want students to come down and see that there are safe, cool opportunities to explore locally.”
Not all students were unaware of the festival going on across the bridge. Sophia Closter, ’21, recalls hearing her peers talking about the festival during a Student Senate meeting.
“For Student Senate we’re painting murals — it’s a collaboration of Lehigh students and families from the South Side,” Closter said. “So I knew the festival was going on because they advertised the murals that were being made (during it).”
The festival provided an opportunity for the Bethlehem community to appreciate the art and culture of the South Side. The combination of free and low-cost events made it affordable for students and locals alike.
“We want people to experience the city in a different way and get Lehigh students excited about where they go to school,” Brennan said. “It’s an amazing opportunity for a really low cost. You get exposed to art of all different types and identity with the city of Bethlehem. It would be a shame to miss it.”