Doug Roysdon is active in the local arts community through his Loft Theater at the IceHouse Performing Arts Center in North Side Bethlehem. (Courtesy of Doug Roysdon)

Community Voices: IceHouse colors local Bethlehem arts


Doug Roysdon is active in the local arts community through his Loft Theater at the IceHouse Performing Arts Center in North Side Bethlehem. He has conducted over 60 artist-in-residency programs for the Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey Councils for the Arts. Doug was a founding member of the Lehigh Valley Sierra Club in the early 1980s and has been an active member ever since.

Welcome to the IceHouse!

For over 20 years, the Charles S. Brown IceHouse on Sand Island served the Bethlehem community as a venue for festivals, weddings and children’s performances. Then, in the summer of 2013, a small group of local artists gathered to address the almost entirely empty evening schedule at the IceHouse. The group cobbled together a simple set of evening programs under the title “IceHouse Tonight.”

For the first time ever, performances in theater, dance and music were offered in a formally published schedule at the IceHouse. Ten years later, programming is under the guidance of a new nonprofit: The IceHouse Performing Arts Collaborative. The IceHouse now features over 150 performances of the city’s resident artists and arts organizations per year, with around 800 local artists taking IceHouse’s stage in 2024.

The variety of program offerings has expanded ambitiously over this time. The IceHouse now features program series in jazz, Latinx art and music, comedy, rock ‘n’ roll, literary arts, magic, theater and storytelling. Our shows vary wildly from Irish folk to hip-hop, Latin poetry readings and indie film productions. All of the money generated by the performances goes directly to the artists.

Beyond nuts and bolts of IceHouse programming (call them the nuts and bolts) comes the really interesting part about the IceHouse on Sand Island — the philosophy and mission behind it.

The venue, on one hand, is a fully functioning stage with a reliable schedule that features the work of our local performers. On the other hand, it is an ever-evolving exploration of community development based on the work of a creative citizenry. It is an ongoing invention.

Central to this model, almost all of the shows and events at the IceHouse are artist-led and all shows are chosen to advance the work of the Lehigh Valley resident arts community. As such, we have replaced a creative-economy stance on the local culture with an anthropological perspective that prizes the power of the applied arts to create a healthy and participatory urban lifestyle.

If the leadership of artists and small arts organizations is the primary force behind the IceHouse’s mission, the importance of partnerships closely follows. This begins with the single most important one – our long-time relationship with the city itself. The building is the property of the Bethlehem Recreation Department, which we rent at package rates. Meanwhile, our work in education is founded on our partnerships with the United Way, the Bethlehem Area School District, and most recently, the Moravian University Theater Department. Our schedule is dominated by community partnerships including over 20 local arts organizations and venues. Among this long list of partners, you will also find a healthy set of collaborations with your own Lehigh University!

We are proud of our ongoing relationship with Lehigh. We are particularly proud of a substantial partnership between the South Side Initiative and The IceHouse, which focused on the Pedestrian/Biking Bridge across the Lehigh River. That project culminated in an $80,000 feasibility study with the City and the County of Northampton. Most recently, we have teamed up with Lehigh’s NeuroSalon Project, and they are involved in the development of our current jazz committee.

In all of our community-driven programs, a common IceHouse objective is for educational and social organizations to take their ideas and issues outside of their institutions to the community at large. With this in mind, perhaps you have a cultural issue or an arts group of your own to share with a greater public. We invite you and your advisors to bring your idea or project out of the classroom and into the community. Make your passion a part of our cultural community. We hope to see you at the IceHouse.

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