This past weekend, Cedar Beach Park was filled with guests as the fifth Annual Allentown ArtsFest took over. This three-days arts festival filled the park with hand-crafted art, family activities, three music stages, graffiti murals and lots of food, all provided by different local
artists, breweries and vendors. ArtsFest continued its tradition of featuring and presenting one of a kind art experience.
The entire event is sponsored by The Alternative Gallery, a non-profit art center which provides a full art gallery, artist studio spaces, performance space and educational classes which are open to anyone. Volunteer for The Alternative Gallery and ArtsFest Christina Heater has worked on ArtsFest for four years and loves how it has progressed and grown. “This year we sold out all our vendor spots; we didn’t have room for anybody else,” said Heater. “We have more volunteers coming on board, we have more sponsors. It grows exponentially every year.”
Heater also elaborated on how she feels the event benefits the Allentown community, saying, “[The Alternative Gallery] already does a lot for the community. We do community block parties, clean-up parties. We offer arts classes to get kids off the streets and give them something to do. Then you’ve got the added things; this gives people a place to be.
I’m awkward, I’m weird and I didn’t have a place to go, but this is a place to go. Between here and [The Alternative] Gallery, everyone is accepted and has somewhere to go.”
Janelle Hamscher, an artist, curator and one of the vendors at ArtsFest with her business Pure Sin, described her art and inspiration: “My jewelry is based on my love for cameo [necklaces], that being that they are creepy and classic. I inherited my grandmother’s when she passed … All my gemstone jewelry is based off of childhood memories of finding gems, and all the gems that I get are from a local shop in the valley called Bey’s Rock Shop, which is family owned and operated.”
Hamscher explained why she loves ArtsFest, saying it’s about “putting myself out there, my art, my paintings and my jewelry. This is my life. It’s about showing the community your fingerprint, how you feel. I’m a very expressive, abstract painter.” A figure model for Muhlenberg, Hamscher was also thankful for our faculty. “I was trained, and I’ve learned a lot from the professors at
Muhlenberg: Kevin Tuttle, Carol Heft, Emily Orzech, Ray Barnes, I’ve worked with all of them.
Street Poet Joe Holmes had the simplest set-up of all vendors, with just a typewriter and small table. Holmes’ street poetry was one of the more interactive vendors, explaining, “Someone who is interested, maybe we talk, maybe they just read the sign. They give me a topic, I write them a poem, they look at it and decide what it’s worth.” Holmes expressed the benefits of his work, saying, “You can be a therapist without a license, avoid expensive years of schooling, people can frame your workup in your house, you can touch people’s lives. You can be an anonymous shoulder to cry on, a clown to cheer someone up. You can speak for the dead.”
Not only were visual and literary artists present, but there were also representatives from Allentown’s performance community as well. Rachel Williams, a representative from AfterWords Actors Studio, explained the studio’s purpose within the community, “AfterWords was started about a year ago by a woman named Kathy Patterson, a professional actress. She does adult-only classes for actors, scene-study, script analysis, and cold-read classes. She’ll bring people from New York and Philadelphia to work with others. She also makes reels for actors and rents her space out as well.”
Elaborating on the opportunities available to students, Williams said, “Every first Monday of the month there are Monologue Mondays. You can come in and work with professional actors and teachers, and read them your monologue, and they’ll work with you free of charge. It’s perfect for students. It’s an extra layer of study, more experience.”
Overall, ArtsFest was a perfect opportunity to engage with Allentown and escape the “Muhlenbubble” without having to go too far from home. Mark your calendars for Sept. 27-29 next year to check out all the amazing local artists that are available. Until then, continue to reach out to The Alternative Gallery to find out new ways you can engage in the art community of Allentown.
Cutline: Graffiti artist See TF paints alongside other artists along the shore of Lake Muhlenberg Saturday afternoon at the fifth Annual ArtsFest.