ArtsQuest adds to rebirth of Bethlehem

April 14, 2011 3:28:26 PM PDT
Starting tomorrow, Lehigh Valley residents on an entertainment quest won't have to trek to Philadelphia to enjoy a calendar year worth of festivals and performances.

"ArtsQuest will be presenting 1,400 live shows this year including Musikfest which is 500 of those shows," ArtsQuest President Jeffrey Parks said.

Perched right beside the blast furnaces of the former Bethlehem Steel Plant stands ArtsQuest, a shiny new $26-million, four-story, contemporary performing arts center.

"One of the major parts of this project is to encourage our best and brightest both to stay here and come back here so that we can offer what Northern Liberties is now offering," Parks said.

It's the first building to open on the SteelStacks campus. Nine years in the making, hundreds of jobs have already been generated, and officials are expecting it will generate a solid $39-million a year.

"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," Pennsylvania's First Lady Susan Corbett said.

The ArtsQuest building officially opens to the public at 4:00 p.m. Friday. Just across the way, they're building the Levitt Pavilion, an open air amphitheatre which will feature 50 free concerts a year starting July 2nd.

"The Levitt Pavilion which is going to be dramatically situated underneath blast furnaces is a really neat design," Parks said.

The neighboring Sands Casino Resort donated 10 acres to the public private partnership.

The center's already booked some big names for the summer concert lineup. It is not known if Justin Bieber is one of them.