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A Toast Opens ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks

Founder and president Jeff Parks offers these words to open the Southside performance venue.

ArtsQuest founder and president Jeff Parks launched a new era in the Lehigh Valley today, as he offered a toast to the community that helped make a new state-of-the art performance venue possible:

"A toast. Artsquest will be an international model for providing access to exceptional artistic, cultural and educational experiences, promoting individual and community creativity, enlightenment and fulfillment. To all of the talented musicians, artists, actors, filmmakers and educators who will entertain, educate and inspire generations of Lehigh Valley residents and our guests here at SteelStacks; And to all of the foresighted, generous and committed donors who have helped us build this magnificent facility and who will make it possible for these generations to have access to high quality arts, cultural and educational experiences; And to a community where access to the arts is shared by all and creativity is nourished and sustained: Imagine that. Prost."

The ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks will open for the public on Friday afternoon. Today, 630 people turned out for a ceremonial opening of the facility, which gleams in glass, steel and international orange, the color of the Golden Gate Bridge, which was forged in the Bethlehem Steel blast furnace that now serves as the centerpiece of the still developing performing arts campus.

Many of those who came played a role in the development of the new $26 million center, which will have programmed entertainment – including live music, comedy and cinema – 365 days a year.

“This was, I think, a culmination of a vision that this community set out for itself -- not one person -- but the community set out for itself, a decade ago," said Mayor John Callahan.

“We have had patience on this site. We’ve had courage. We have had faith to invest in ourselves," the mayor continued. "I think no community is going to be successful if they don’t believe in themselves and have faith to invest in themselves.”

Among those who appeared at the celebration was Susan Corbett, the wife of Gov. Tom Corbett and the new chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

“I’m delighted to be here with you on this special occasion,” Mrs. Corbett said. “I’m glad to be with you as you throw open the doors to welcome people into a place that was and show them what this place is going to be.

“In this place, you will have music, visual art, drama and all the vibrancy that comes with the arts,” she continued. “Bethlehem Steel might be gone. But Bethlehem is not. And the ethic and imagination that made this town aren’t in its old mills. It’s in the people of the Lehigh Valley.”

The commonwealth’s first lady singled out and congratulated Parks for being the driving force behind the project. Her words elicited a standing ovation from those who packed into the new Musikfest Café on the third floor of the new building.

“Projects like SteelStacks simply do not happen without a leader who possesses singular vision, boundless energy, dogged perseverance and an incredible work ethic,” Mrs. Corbett said. “I’m confident that his efforts here will impact millions of people and enrich and possibly change their lives in ways he will never realize.”

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