Bethlehem Steel Co. Turns Artsy

The new SteelStacks complex is bringing arts and entertainment to Bethlehem

The town of Bethlehem has turned the tables on the former Bethlehem Steel Company site with the opening of a new arts center, appropriately named SteelStacks.

"All together it's 10 acres dedicated to arts, culture and education here in the middle of an old steel plant, which is totally unusual," said Jeff Parks, head of ArtsQuest, the performing arts center.

SteelStacks is a $26-million complex built on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel headquarters.

“Bethlehem Steel might be gone, but Bethlehem is not. And the ethic and imagination that made this town aren’t in its old mills. It’s in the people of the Lehigh Valley,” said Susan Corbett, the new chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and wife of Gov. Tom Corbett.

The center is a state-of-the art performance venue that will showcase local community groups, musicians and cultural films.

“In this place, you will have music, visual art, drama and all the vibrancy that comes with the arts,” said Mrs. Corbett.

A major feature of the complex, Air Products Town Square, was inspired by the town squares that are prominent in major European cities.

The Square is a space where local community groups and non-profit organizations can showcase their groups and share with the community, according to the the Town Square website

Another exciting feature is the ArtsQuest Center, which opened its doors about a month ago.

The Center is a modern venue for the performing arts, featuring three separate outdoor venues -- the Musikfest Café, Alehouse Cinemas and the Fowler Blast Furnace Room.

The venues should bring musicians and cinematic performances to the Lehigh Valley every day of the year from the region and the nation, according to the ArtsQuest Center website.

Visitors can also get cultural at Alehouse Cinemas, which will show a combination of independent, foreign, scientific and documentary films in a reserved-seating theater.

The massive entertainment complex also features Musikfest Café, a year-round concert venue that opened its doors on May 1. The Café offers great views of the famous Bethlehem Steel furnace stacks and performances Wednesday through Sunday.

"Nobody in the room is more than 50 feet from the stage so it's a fantastic way to see and hear a concert," said Parks.

The entire complex has further transformed the Bethlehem Steel Company headquarters from a factory to a vibrant community center.

“I’m glad to be here with you as you open the doors to welcome people into a place that was, and show them what this place is going to be,” said Mrs. Corbett.

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