The Crayola Gallery

The Crayola Gallery

Photos Provided By Artsquest

Crayola Gallery in Bethlehem: what is it, you ask? Well, it’s not where crayons are made—the Crayola factory makes 12 million crayons daily in Easton. But the Crayola Gallery is a bucket list attraction because it’s part of the umbrella of ArtsQuest goodies housed at the Banana Factory Arts Center.

And the flagship gallery is a cool, multipurpose creative space that features showings of varieties of media by school students, local and national artists, and is home to numerous educational programs. A feature of the Banana Factory since its 1998 opening, the 2,800-square-foot space with its angled skylight and outside terrace became the facility’s lead gallery on W. Third Street during a 2001 expansion.

“We look for shows that really kind of command the room and activate that space effectively,” says Lisa Harms, senior director of visual arts and education at ArtsQuest, the nonprofit organization that operates the Banana Factory. The rotating exhibitions, which change every six to nine weeks, include an annual exhibit by one of the Banana Factory’s resident artists, regional and national touring exhibitions, and two juried exhibitions open to regional artists:  Compendium, which is held every spring, and InVision, a juried photographic exhibition that will mark its 11th appearance in November.

“We get a mix of long-time participants and first-timers,” Harms says, adding that between 100 and 200 regional artists usually submit work for the juried exhibitions, which feature between 50 and 100 artists. “We’ve also done shows in partnership with Lehigh University,” she says, adding that art professor Anna Chupa, a photographer, recently had a solo show on the effects of Hurricane Maria. Other display partners include the Lehigh Art Alliance and the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society. Later this year, the gallery will feature a showing by the National Association of Women Artists.

“We do a lot of school programming in that space,” Harms says, adding that the gallery hosts field trips for 3,000 area schoolchildren each year. “We have story time in that space, after-school arts programs and summer camps,” Harms says. ArtsQuest instructors use the showings “as a catalyst for learning about a particular type of art,” she continues. This way, she says, the art on display “serves as a launching pad for conversations and discussions around art and to engage audiences of all ages,” including adults. Last year, yoga and art classes were held in the Crayola Gallery, allowing participants to “engage in mindfulness with the backdrop of the art on the walls,” she adds.

Noting that the Banana Factory is one of the only spaces in the Lehigh Valley that offers public access to galleries daily, Harms says ArtsQuest has recently begun to offer docent-led gallery tours and intends to pilot a Sensory Tour to enable adults with physical and learning disabilities to experience the art in the Crayola Gallery in a different way. Led by a board-certified music therapist, the tours will engage visitors through music and art, giving them a “more experiential tour that will engage their senses,” she explains.

The Crayola Gallery, a regular participant in the South Side’s First Friday program, offers visitors special activities, such as artist talks and dance programs, as well as a chance to visit the exhibitions, from 6 to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month, and hosts private events too.

Although children’s artwork has often decorated its walls, ArtsQuest’s gallery is named not for exhibitions of crayon drawings, but in recognition of the organization’s longtime partnership with Crayola, LLC.

“Crayola has been involved with ArtsQuest and our programming in the community for more than a quarter century,” says Mark Demko, senior director of communications at ArtsQuest. In addition to providing art products and supplies for ArtsQuest’s educational programs, Crayola supports the Crayola Creativity Tent at Musikfest; the children’s craft area at Christkindlmarkt and the Linny Awards, which honor Lehigh Valley artists, innovators and arts leaders; and employs one of the longest-running corporate volunteer groups at Musikfest.

Crayola was also one of the earliest investors in ArtsQuest’s plan to establish a community center on Bethlehem’s South Side, Demko says, “We couldn’t do it without their support”.

March at the Crayola Gallery

Visitors to the Crayola Gallery through March 15 will be treated to an exhibition of more than 50 pieces featuring a mix of techniques and media installed by the Lehigh Art Alliance, which has supported local artists with exhibition opportunities since 1935.

From March 21 through May 3, the gallery will feature its annual juried Compendium exhibition, which is open to artists living within 50 miles of the Lehigh Valley. For this year’s exhibition, Compendium: Chroma-Color Through the Decade, artists are asked to submit works featuring a Pantone “Color of the Year” from 2010 to 2020.

The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. weekdays and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

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