Artsquest Center at Steelstacks, located by the blast furnace on Bethlehem's South Side. On January 19, Artsquest Executive Director Jeff Parks updated Council on what just what they've received for the $320,000 they've invested in a $32 million project that has only been in business for the past eight months. From its economic to cultural impact, Parks told Council that the Artsquest Center has exceeded expectations.
At the time it was designed, it was hoped the project would create 100 jobs, both direct and spin off. In eight months, there are now 142 jobs, and the Center is on target for an annual, $39 million economic impact.
But Parks is proudest of the cultural impact that ArtsQuest has on the Lehigh Valley, especially during hard economic times. He pointed to 219 live free concerts at the TD Bank Community Stage, 44 free concerts at the Levitt Pavilion, 36 Peas & Qs free children series shows, four sculptures, 44 nonprofits that can use the SteelStacks at no cost and family programming that reaches over 25,000 children annually.
Council President John Cusick asked Parks how he can afford to put on so many free shows. "Eighty per cent of the people we serve pay no fee," Parks proudly stated. He added that ArtsQuest's main source of operating revenue is not the public trough, but ticket sales, food and beverage sales and private sponsorships.
As a result of two weekends of rain during Musikfest last year, Parks told Council that ArtsQuest will report a $700,000 operating loss for 2011, which is 5% of its $14 million budget. As a result, it has entered into payment arrangements with Bethlehem and other creditors. But he added that the silver lining to the storm clouds that came with Musikfest was a record audience of 63,436 people at Chriskindlmarkt, as well as a 30% increase in holiday tours over 2010.
"We're not broke," he stated.
Council member Bob Werner told Parks that his many volunteers are "the backbone of AertsQuest." Parks agreed, adding that only the Lehigh Valley would have so many people who take an interest.
Parks is hopeful that the ArtsQuest Center will attract what he calls the "creative class."
What I call artsy-fartsies.
Gee, I wonder if bottom-feeding bloggers are part of the creative class.
I'll go get a beret.