A pre-pandemic performance during the Southside Arts & Music Festival at the ArtsQuest Center in SteelStacks. Many entertainment venues in the area are returning to in-person programming after over a year of canceling events or pivoting to remote shows. (Konka Shi/B&W Staff)

Lehigh Valley arts venues resume in-person programming


Entertainment venues in the Lehigh Valley have started to reopen and restore their community ties after over a year of closure or remote programming.

Godfrey Daniels, a listening room on East Fourth Street, began its new season on Sept. 10 with a performance by Carsie Blanton and her band.

 “Since opening in 1976, Godfreys has developed into a community,” said Ramona LaBarre, managing director of Godfrey Daniels. “Before the pandemic, we had a concessionary out front with fresh baked goods, ice cream, snacks, coffee, teas, but we’re not doing that right now. Everybody’s just happy to be back with the live music.”

In order to attend a concert at Godfrey Daniels, an audience member must either show proof of full vaccination and photo ID or present a negative COVID-19 test taken 48 hours prior to the concert. The audience must also remain masked throughout the event. 

LaBarre said Godfrey Daniels has also limited its seating capacity from 90 people to 60.

 “It’s a very small space,” LaBarre said. “It’s like a concert in your living room, and when we would sell out before the pandemic, people were really sitting shoulder to shoulder with strangers.”

Another Lehigh Valley arts organization, ArtsQuest, operates programs at the SteelStacks, Banana Factory, Levitt Pavilion and other local venues.

Nicole Harrell, director of communications, said she joined the ArtsQuest team in April and was involved in planning Musikfest, one of the first large-scale in-person events ArtsQuest could offer to the community since the beginning of the pandemic.

 Although Musikfest normally takes over a year to plan, Harrell said they were able to plan the 2021 festival in just two and a half months. 

Harrell said the 11-day event had a great turn out, with 1.127 million attendees, 500 plus performers and 150 corporate sponsors.

“It was a really nice opportunity for the community to come back out and experience the arts together,” Harrell said.

 Harrell said she is looking forward to hosting more events at ArtsQuest, such as Oktoberfest and Christkindlmarkt. Oktoberfest takes place from Oct. 1 to Oct. 3 and Oct. 8 to Oct. 10. Christkindlmarkt will run for about five weeks starting at the end of November. 

The Banana Factory is holding classes for both kids and adults, as well as monthly themed events called First Friday and Second Sunday. The organization’s COVID-19 policies, which Harrell said are constantly updated, can be found on its website

 IceHouse Tonight is another performance location that has resumed in-person programming. Silagh White, an active organizer for IceHouse, said she has worked with the venue for around 10 years and is happy to be back supporting a thriving local resident artists’ scene.

Since IceHouse Tonight is a public building, its COVID-19 restrictions correspond with the city’s. As part of city policy, both the audience members and performers have to wear masks.

Recently, the venue’s 501c3 mission statement was altered to reflect its ongoing commitment to providing the local area with arts programming to advance the humanities and actively contribute to a culturally inclusive community. 

With a packed schedule from September through June, IceHouse Tonight hopes to recognize its mission.

“For every arts organization in the Lehigh Valley, every activity that they have done through COVID is to meet their mission,” White said.

White said everyone involved in the Lehigh Valley arts community speaks very highly of the networked and supportive community they have found in the Bethlehem area. Although it was a long year of waiting to see when they could return, everyone is extremely glad to be back, even if it is not yet exactly how it used to be.

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