Summer officially began at the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley on Sunday, June 25, when a crowd of nearly nine hundred turned out for “Make Your Mark, Allentown!”, a free family-friendly art festival. The event included printmaking and other art activities, music, and delicious bites from local area food trucks. Crowds gathered inside the Museum and outside on Fifth Street, which was closed to traffic for the event. Festivities ran noon till 4 p.m., and community members worked alongside one another to create prints similar to the artwork donated by one of the Museum’s longtime benefactors, Paul Kania. That day also marked the opening of the Museum’s summer exhibition A Collecting Spirit: Gifts of Paul Kania that showcases the art of printmaking and more than one hundred fifty objects donated to the Museum by Kania.

Artists from Lafayette College’s Experimental Printmaking Institute (EPI) demonstrated hands-on screen printing techniques to visitors while DJ Alfa Lopez from La Mega Radio (noon-2 p.m.) and DJ CherishTheLuv (2-4 p.m.) filled the air outside the Museum with music. Inside, families gathered upstairs in the Museum’s Art Ways Interactive Gallery, where staff showed youngsters how to create textures in their own prints.

Another big draw on opening day was the presence of Liberty High School (Bethlehem) and Villanova University basketball standout Darrun Hilliard, who has played the last two years with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons. As the public face of “Make Your Mark, Allentown!” Darrun interacted with fans young and old, bringing a bit of star-athlete power into the galleries. But Darrun’s and the Museum’s commitment to the community went deeper. The day before the festival, on Saturday, June 24, the Museum arranged for Darrun and a group of volunteers to work at the Sixth Street Shelter in the Jordan Heights section of downtown Allentown, preparing an apartment for a family moving in by cleaning and outfitting it with new kitchen supplies, bedding, towels, and other household items. Shelter coordinator Jonathan Copeland explains why the Refresh, Restock & Repair process is so important: “Our residents have already come from such terrible circumstances. We try to err on the side of keeping humanity and dignity intact while our residents are on their journey to self-sufficiency.”

All aspects of Make Your Mark, Allentown! were organized by the Museum’s Public Engagement staff. This dynamic team creates and delivers the Museum’s programming with the overall goal of using the shared experience of art as a way to teach, inspire, transform, and engage.

The Museum members preview took place on the evening of Saturday, June 24, from 6 till 9, with a VIP reception from 5 till 6 p.m. Food by Karen Hunter Catering, music by fajjr + ali, and drink set the stage for members to take a first look at the A Collecting Spirit.

The excitement of summer continued to infuse the Museum when on Wednesday, June 28, an after-work Unboxing Event was held to bring together potential future leaders of the Museum. Thirty young professionals attended the evening event—some as couples, some with friends—which began with a reception that included a reveal of the Museum’s new logo and strategic vision (to be launched this fall). Attendees then enjoyed a tour of the vaults and a behind-the-scenes glimpse of unboxing a work of art that had just arrived at the Museum. The evening also included a personal request to join this new group by founding members Megan Beste, Casey Roncoroni, and Kate Kareha. The title of the group, voted on by those in attendance, is Circle 31, which will be formally launched in the fall.

All in all, and with many visitors expected over the July 4th weekend, the busy first week of the season promises a strong summer showing at the Museum. Moreover, the energy and excitement will pave the way for announcements that the Museum will reveal this fall.