Today the long-awaited, enormous undertaking that is the Artsquest Center at SteelStacks opens to the public for the first time. Yesterday was the dedication ceremony and The El Vee got a peek at what you can expect for tonight and into the future.
If you’re like us, you may have been confused because you weren’t following the project all that closely. There’s a lot packed into that Artsquest building. They’ve got two movie theatres, a common area, a bistro, a gift shop, and a concert venue. Let’s first talk about the dedication ceremony and then take a tour around the building.
The third floor Musikfest Café was absolutely jammed with locals, dignitaries, media, and Artsquest personnel. Over 600 people crammed the floor and mezzanine section to witness the first phase of the Artsquest project officially dedicated.
The dedication ceremony kicked off with Mackenzie Custon, a student at the Lehigh Valley Performing Arts school, belting out the National Anthem. Remarks followed with Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan commending local politicians for helping see the project through, detailing his own doubt in the beginning of the undertaking that the project would turn out the way it did.
Next up was Pennsylvania First Lady Susan Corbett, who spoke of Bethlehem overcoming and rising up above the brownlands that the Bethlehem Steel site had become and building something bigger and better. The talks concluded with Jeff Parks, mastermind behind the project, speaking of his past and how far both him and the project have come, and capped it off with a lengthy presentation of plaques to donors and friends of the program. The dedication ended with members of The Lesson Center in Bethlehem, PA playing Aretha Franklin’s Rock Steady. Afterwards guests mingled and explored the rest of the center for the first peak.
We’ll start back down on the first floor and go up from there. When you first walk into the Artsquest Center you’re greeted with an information/ticketing booth where you can pick up a guide and map of the area. On the first floor you’ll find the Creativity Commons, where bands will play and there’s places to sit and eat. Behind the ticketing booth and to the right you’ll find the Alehouse Cinemas, where you can catch a horror movie, indie film, or foreign flick. The Mike and Ike Bistro serves up food and drinks. Tap choices are limited to Miller Lite, Yuengling Lager, Yuengling Lager Light, Lord Chesterfield Ale, and Guinness. There’s a small bar just to the left of the bistro where you can also get beer, wine, and mixed drinks. In the back you’ll find the Family Connect Zone where you can sit at a table and relax, as well as a gift shop with wares from Martin Guitar, Yuengling, Artsquest, and various other donors to the program, as well as Bethlehem Steel merchandise.
To get upstairs you can take the stairs located to the right of the Alehouse Cinemas or take the elevators back towards the main entrance. Once upstairs you’ll find a small gallery of art and the Blast Furnace Room, a multipurpose area that can house bands, meetings, and other events. There’s also a few areas to sit down and a seating area along the balcony with a small lip to set your drink as you look over at the band playing below.
Moving along to the third floor, the Musikfest Café and Sands deck, you’re greeted with an interesting spiral staircase. On the ground floor of the café you have a ticketing booth and a coat room. Moving inside the main stage is set in the middle and what appears to be another bar on the opposite end of the space. Right inside the main door and to the left is a bar where you can get your voice of beer, liquor, or wine. You’ll find the same upstairs. Walking back outside of the café you’ll see the Sands deck, a cantilevered space that provides a beautiful view of the area.
The Artsquest Center at SteelStacks is a beautiful building, ingrained with an industrial steel design, concrete flooring, and bright colors. There is going to be so much programming packed in such a small building the place will always be buzzing with activity of some kind. I personally am excited to attend a show, have a drink, and watch some great music be played with the backdrop of the SteelStacks in the background. Naysayer or proponent of the project, you must admit it’s pretty damn cool.