The City of Allentown recognizes a unique opportunity to position itself among other American cities that are using public art as an instrument to restore neighborhoods, create community, and fortify economic changes that attract creative people and businesses to the City. The City is working collaboratively with the Allentown Arts Commission to develop a new public art and activation program that will continue to invigorate the urban environment in our City by investing in our vibrant arts community.
Identified through a public Request for Proposal (RFP), the City selected Materials Conservation; a public art and conservation firm to serve as manager of this public art and activation program. Materials Conservation is currently working with entities representing the City of Allentown; including the Community and Economic Development Department, The Allentown Arts Commission, and the Public Art Committee; to plan, advertise, implement and oversee the installation of new works of public art and highlighting existing works that will become associated with the identity of the city and individual neighborhoods.
“Art speaks to the viewer,” said Mayor Ray O’Connell. “Allentown is a great place to live, work, play and invest. We hope our public art will clearly display that message.”
“I’m excited to see the Arts Commission come together collectively to utilize public art to strengthen our community,” said Leonard Lightner, Director of the City’s Community and Economic Development Department.
One of its first projects released is a new Gateway Mural on South 8th Street between Union and Walnut streets. Serving as the mural’s canvas is a substation wall donated by PPL Electric Utilities.
"We are proud to partner with the Arts Commission in bringing more power to the arts," says Gregory Dudkin, President, PPL Electric Utilities. "We welcome this new piece of Allentown as it will welcome visitors to the downtown for years to come."
The work began July 4th and will continue for three weeks. After a national artist call, Austin-based artist Mila Sketch was selected for her bright, energetic take on our historic treasures. The mural will expand 8’ to the majority of the wall – 75 feet along the substation wall.
Look for more from the Arts Commission in the upcoming months. “Creative expression can make a powerful contribution to the healing process of our community and has been embraced in many different cultures throughout time,” Jane Heft, Arts Commission Chair said. “Now more than ever, I think people will see the spirit it brings.”
“Across the country we’ve seen the key role arts and culture play in economic development, said Daniel Diaz, Allentown Business Development Manager and Arts Commissioner. “The City is committed to supporting and empowering our vibrant and growing arts scene.”
About Materials Conservation
Materials Conservation Co. (MC) provides professional public art and conservation services for clients in the Philadelphia region and throughout North America. Founded in 2006, the firm has contracted with numerous government agencies, university campuses and private collections to address the unique needs of works of art in public space, historic architecture and heritage objects. And as trusted stewards of our material culture, our conservators have treated both monumental public sculptures and installations in private gardens. In 2019, the scope of Materials Conservation’s work expanded so that it now includes all aspects of the world of public art, including public art planning, the public art commissioning process, and fabrication services. MC now offers the complete range of public art services for artists, universities, institutions, developers and municipalities looking to expand their public art offerings. MC’s conservation clients include Yale University, the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, and Lehigh University.
The project is led by John Carr, the founder and Principal Conservator at Materials Conservation, and Julia Guerrero, who spent over a decade as the Director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Art Program.
About the Allentown Arts Commission
We support the Arts + Artists in Allentown. As the agency that champions the arts, we believe that a creative cultural environment is essential to the city’s well-being and we strive to integrate the arts into all aspects of city life. The Allentown Arts Commission supports the City by advocating for innovative arts policy, creating access for equitable participation in the arts, enlivening the urban environment, and fostering & enriching arts engagement for all residents.
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