The serene setting of a century-old classic designed arboretum park, a juried exhibit by local and regional emerging and established artists, and music performed by the country's oldest civilian concert band. It all adds up to the 39th annual Art in the Park on Saturday. The event, sponsored by the West Park Civic Association, runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Allentown's West Park, located between 15th and 16th streets and bordered by Linden and Turner streets.
The park's signature band shell will serve as a backdrop for entertainment, which this year will include some additional music acts of old-time string bands, being sponsored for the first time by a foursome of Salisbury High School graduates. The Brooklyn-based bands are The Four O'Clock Flowers, performing at 3:15 p.m., and The Down Hill Strugglers, at 4:15 p.m.
The following entertainment, sponsored by the West Park Civic Association and the City of Allentown Park and Recreation Department, also is scheduled: 10 a.m. - student musicians from the Allentown School District Orchestral Strings Program, under the direction of Larry Flynn; 11:30 a.m. - the Repertory Dance Theatre, and 1:30 p.m. - the Allentown Band.
Salisbury High School graduates Saleem Saab and Ryan Henriquez (Class of '92), Doug Roth (Class of '93), and Matt DeFazio (Class of '94), recall the fun they had growing up in Allentown. Saab and Henriquez, who have remained friends since first grade, even traveled together to Europe and the Caribbean in later years. Saab now resides in a carriage house he renovated on 15th Street, which overlooks West Park. A member of the neighborhood Civic Association development committee, he was instrumental in the planning of additional entertainment for Saturday's event. He also will be hosting the Brooklyn musicians at his home.
"There's always music coming from the park every summer," Saab said, "and I hear it all from my home. With me and Ryan being big music lovers, we thought it would be great to bring a different kind of music to the band shell. It would make a perfect backdrop."
The Four O'Clock Flowers and The Down Hill Strugglers, according to Henriquez, both are noted players in the "new roots music movement" happening at Brooklyn's Jalopy Theatre and School of Music on Columbia Street. The Four O'Clock Flowers pairs string master Ernie Vega with vocalist Samoa Wilson as they perform stark versions of country blues, gospel, old-time, jazz classics, and original compositions, stripped down to their barest elements. The band recently played at the Brooklyn Folk Festival.
The Down Hill Strugglers, with old-time songs, ballads and fiddle tunes, have been influenced and inspired by the direct fusion of Scots-Irish and African music that took place in Appalachia, the Western states and the Deep South from the earliest colonial times through WWII. Band members are Eli Smith, Walker Shepard and Jackson Lynch, who were featured on National Public Radio (NPR) in April. Lynch was among the musicians featured in a New York Times article (March 8, 2012) on the Jalopy Theatre.
Henriquez, who resides in Brooklyn, has a boutique law practice (entertainment-related) and is a freelance music journalist and documentary filmmaker. He said he was introduced to his wife, Jennifer, by Salisbury classmate Doug Roth, who was attending the same acting school in New York as was Jennifer. Roth, now in Allentown, is a spin instructor and also is employed by the Bolete Restaurant and Inn in Bethlehem. DeFazio, an elementary school librarian with the Parkland School District, is married to the former Kim Miklus, also a '94 graduate from Salisbury.
"I got to know some amazing musicians who play Brooklyn," Henriquez said. "I thought it would be a real perfect fit to bring some here. …I know we live in a digital age, but there's nothing that replaces the live music experience, especially when the setting is a park."
Among the 80-plus visual artists slated to exhibit at Saturday's Art in the Park will be Upper Macungie Township's Joy Barnes, whose oil paintings reflect the style of Impressionism. A member of the Lehigh Art Alliance and the Bethlehem Palette Club, Barnes' award-winning subjects include boating scenes from her travels to Maine and colorful hydrangeas from her garden. Many of her canvas works are as large as 24"x36," making them quite visible from a distance.
"Women love the paintings of flowers," Barnes said, "while men tend to gravitate toward the boat scenes."
Originally from Georgia, Barnes holds a master's degree in art education from Wilkes University. She taught high school art for 20 years and is now retired. Having resided in Alabama, Texas and Maine, her paintings reflect her surroundings ranging from Gulf Coast scenes to hiking trails and the Maine coast, and plein air painting in the Lehigh Valley. Much of her work is exhibited in juried shows in Maine and Alabama.
Barnes said she's been painting lately "with no subjects, starting with a thin wash of paint on canvas before composition, then with layers and layers of paint." Spending time in Maine inspires her to paint flowers, she explained, where the hydrangeas "appear ethereal in the way light shines through them." She also enjoys capturing the design of boats docked in the water. She said some of her landscapes have resulted in "imaginative paintings that come right out of my mind."
The weekend will culminate with the annual House Tour sponsored by the West Park Civic Association on Sunday. The rain date for Art in the Park is June 22.
An abundance of live theater is happening around town:
- "Footloose" opens Friday and runs through Aug. 18, at the Pines Dinner Theatre near the fairgrounds in Allentown.
- "The Cocoanuts," by George S. Kaufman and Irving Berlin, runs through June 23, at McCoole's Arts & Events Place in Quakertown, Bucks Co. The performance is presented by Barlieb Wallace Productions' Crowded Kitchen Players.
- Bethlehem's Pennsylvania Playhouse presents "The Clean House," written by Sarah Ruhl and directed by Tim Brown, through June 23.
- "The 39 Steps" opens Wednesday and runs through July 14, presented by the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival on the campus of DeSales University in Center Valley. "Oklahoma!" runs through June 30.
- The Gershwin musical, "Crazy For You," continues through June 30, at Muhlenberg College's Summer Music Theatre in Allentown.
Friday's annual Flag Day Program at West Park in Allentown features The Allentown Band, with Conductor Ronald Demkee (right), in a 7 p.m. concert. In case of rain, the concert will be held in the William Allen High School auditorium at 17th and Linden streets. The Allentown Band also will perform Sunday at 7:30 p.m., again at West Park.
For further info: allentownband.com
The 26th annual Summer Pottery Festival, presented by Stahl's Pottery Preservation Society, will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Stahl's Pottery, 6826 Corning Road, Zionsville. The event features more than 30 contemporary potters with redware, stoneware, porcelain, raku, and other earthenware pottery, plus demonstrations and tours of potting sheds and the kiln.
For further info: stahlspottery.org
The Arts Community of Easton (ACE) is holding free community-based workshops at the Easton Farmers Market during the new Weyerbacher Wednesdays on downtown Easton's Centre Square. Workshops held on various Wednesdays will run from 6 to 8 p.m., for adults only. Upcoming Wednesday will feature mosaic art with Mosaic Mary; bring some broken cups and saucers to create a small work.
For further info: eastonart.org
Allentown, PA 18102