A letter from David Mickenberg, Priscilla Payne Hurd President & CEO

During the last three months, we’ve been talking a lot about our bold (and necessary) plans to expand the presence of the Allentown Art Museum. We have fully embraced a role as a community convener, a place where we can use the immense potency of art and culture to stimulate conversation and foster understanding about our world.

We’ve also reaffirmed our position as a critical component of downtown Allentown’s remarkable resurgence. All great cities have great cultural institutions, and we’re proud to be the artistic vanguard for ours. We are also serious about inclusive programs that engage youth and families in the underserved “collar zone” areas of downtown so all members of our community can benefit from our offerings.

In fact, we will welcome artists from Amber Art and Design—an artist collaborative committed to employing the arts to creatively transform people, places, cities and organizations—in spring 2018. They will be deeply embedded in the Allentown community for 30 weeks, spending 20 hours per week working with after-school students, parents, community members, social service and health care organizations, illustrating the Museum’s expanded commitment to greater access to new audiences.

These are essential, noble and worthwhile initiatives. But it is important that everyone realizes these efforts would never be possible without great and meaningful artwork. Art has been–and always will be–the cornerstone of our institution.

When our board of directors adopted our new strategic direction recently, it reaffirmed our focus on art, noting that we will develop our collections and present exhibitions that reflect global perspectives and enhance the visitor experience.

  1. Internationally renowned British–Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare has been commissioned by the Museum to produce a sculpture, Girl Balancing Knowledge III, for early 2018. Shonibare’s work addresses contemporary issues of cultural and national identity in an interconnected world and has been displayed in many of the world’s most prominent museums.
  2. Year of Photography in 2018 will present four exhibitions that showcase the breadth of the artistic medium and vividly demonstrate its ability to stimulate thought and start conversations.
  3. The expansion of our textile collection speaks to our devotion to presenting works that both preserve an important – and often overlooked – part of our artistic heritage.

Yes, we’re immensely excited about our new role in the community. At the same time, we’re never going to forget what will fuel it. Great artwork challenges us, engages us and inspires us. These are essential cultural needs regardless of age, gender, education or station in life. Art is a powerful force that connects us and celebrates the traits that make us human.