The Banana Factory 25th Anniversary Retrospective

September 1 – October 22, 2023 2023-09-01 09:00:00 2023-10-22 09:00:00 15 The Banana Factory 25th Anniversary Retrospective Banko Gallery true MM/DD/YYYY
Venue: Banko Gallery

In early 1996 the Bethlehem Musikfest Association (BMA) sought to continue its mission of rebuilding the community and support the City's revitalization by creating a cultural center for arts and education, especially for the youth of the community. Mayor Kenneth Smith recommended a location the city hoped to breathe new life into, a former banana distribution warehouse at the western gateway to SouthSide. The property had been vacant since 1988 when its operations were moved to Bethlehem's suburbs, leaving the city’s SouthSide entrance vacant. Several years later in November 1995, Bethlehem Steel shut down its home plant. Several thousand people lost their jobs, the city lost 20% of its land mass from the tax rolls, steelmaking in the city ceased and one of the largest brownfields in the country was left in its wake before official declaring bankruptcy in 2001.

The BMA, with the strong support of local philanthropist Marlene "Linny" Fowler, purchased the former Theodoredis Banana distribution warehouse in September 1996. Renovations commenced and in January 1998, the Banana Factory Arts Center opened. The immediate impact of the Banana Factory and the First Friday open house program it instituted was the hope it gave to both the residents of Bethlehem and the surrounding Lehigh Valley region, that South Bethlehem would become a thriving arts district. Housing studios for artists, a gallery, gift shop, ceramics studio, photography classroom, painting and drawing classroom and a community room, along with dance and drama education studios for partner Pennsylvania Youth Theatre, the Banana Factory immediately added an arts atmosphere to what is now known as the SouthSide Arts District, alongside Lehigh University’s newly opened Zoellner Arts Center and the long-established cultural anchors Godfrey Daniels Coffee House and Touchstone Theatre.

In 2000, BMA formally changed its name to ArtsQuest and purchased a former auto parts store adjacent to the Banana Factory, thus extending the facility and parking lot for a strategic city block. Two years later, the nonprofit completed the expansion of the Banana Factory to incorporate sizable new spaces: Crayola Gallery, the R.K. Laros Ceramics Classroom, the general arts classroom and the Banko Family Community Room.

This coming year, 2023, marks the 25th anniversary of The Banana Factory. As we look ahead to the construction of a new facility that will help us increase our artistic and educational impact in the community, let’s pause to reflect on the significance on the Banana Factory and its artists over the last quarter century. The Banana Factory Resident Artist Retrospective is a celebration of past Banana Factory Resident Artists. The exhibition will feature works in various mediums from the diverse group of artists who had studios in the Banana Factory at some point in its 25-year history. In addition to the exhibition, the Retrospective will include artist talks, studio and gallery tours, workshops, panel discussions and more. This event will be a culmination of the many contributions of the Banana Factory artists as well as a glimpse into the future of the exciting developments ahead of us.

Venue Information
Banko Gallery
Banana Factory
25 W Third Street
Bethlehem, PA 18015
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