Allentown to deploy public art to build community, economic change

The City of Allentown and the Allentown Arts Commission are partnering on a new public art and activation program designed to attract creative people and businesses to the city. The on-going effort will employ public art as a tool for restoring neighborhoods, creating community and fortifying economic changes.

“Art speaks to the viewer,” said Mayor Ray O’Connell. “Allentown is a great place to live, work, play and invest. We hope our public art will clearly display that message.”

Work began July 4 on 75-foot Gateway Mural located on S. 8th Street between Union and Walnut streets. Austin-based artist Mila Sketch is painting the mural on a substation wall donated by PPL Electric Utilities and is expected to finish early next month. The mural is a tribute to Allentown’s history and culture.

“We are proud to partner with the arts commission in bringing more power to the arts,” said Gregory Dudkin, President, PPL Electric Utilities. “We welcome this new piece of Allentown as it will welcome visitors to the downtown for years to come.”

The art and activation program is managed by Materials Conservation, a Philadelphia-based public art and conservation firm. The firm, founded in 2006, will work with the city, the arts commission and the public art committee to expand the scope of public art and invigorate Allentown’s urban environment. It is hoped that new and existing art will reflect and become associated with the identity of the city and neighborhoods.

“I’m excited to see the arts commission come together collectively to utilize public art to strengthen our community,” said Leonard Lightner, director of the city’s Community and Economic Development Department.

Jane Heft, chairperson of the arts commission, said the time is right to increase public art within the city.