The Artsquest Center at SteelStacks

by theelvee_w2oe3m

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.

Mackenzie Custon sings the National Anthem

Mayor John Callahan reflects on the political end of the Artsquest Center

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.

First Lady Corbett speaks about the Artsquest Center rising from the ashes of the Bethlehem Steel

Jeff Parks, greeted by a standing ovation, speaks about the new building

The Associated Mess improv group performs "The Twelve Days of SteelStacks"

Rounds of Yuengling are passed out to toast with

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.

Information booth seen upon entering the Artsquest Building

An aerial view of the Creative Commons area

Possibly the creepiest chair ever made

Inside the gift shop

Taps at the bar area

A wider shot of the bar area on the 1st floor

The Mike and Ike Bistro

The Alehouse Cinemas

Inside the Alehouse Cinemas

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.

The art gallery and open area on the 2nd floor

A band playing inside the Blast Furnace Room

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.

Ticketing area for the Musikfest Cafe

Coat check area

A look back from the stage at the seating in the Musikfest Cafe

The downstairs bar

Some interesting glassware

Some interesting glassware

Spiral staircase going up to the balcony

Looking back down

The upstairs seating area

Upstairs bar

The Sands deck

View from the Sands deck

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.

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Amanda April 15, 2011 - 8:07 am

Great photos & post!! I felt the same confusion as you did – probably a combination of the overload of articles on this place for the past 2+ years, and the amount of venues & things going on inside of it. Very cool, looking forward to going here! Doesn’t it seem like it’s going to get extremely crowded though during peak times?

The El Vee April 15, 2011 - 8:35 am

There is so much there that it seems like it would be. Flipping through it looks like sometimes there’s going to be a lot going on at once, especially on weekends and definitely during the festivals. Time will tell…I’d like to hop down tonight to see what the crowd is like.

Danielle Notaro April 15, 2011 - 1:31 pm

Very nice write up and photo’s. Thanks for sharing. P.S. peak is spelled peek in this case.

Penny April 20, 2011 - 10:51 am

Awesome photos, G..!! Thanks for sharing! 😉


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