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Lebanon Valley Council on the Arts: Bringing People Together Through Art and Ideas

By Christian Burney

The Lebanon Valley Council on the Arts in Lebanon, PA is invested in improving people's lives through the unifying power of art. "Lebanon Council is improving the quality of life in the region by encouraging participation in the arts, bringing diverse people together for common experiences and providing opportunities for those in outlying areas to engage with those in the city," says Sharon Zook, president of the Council.

The organization is best known for its annual First Friday Walk, wherein exhibits from local high schools, a yearly Veterans Exhibition, and photography contests are held for the public's enjoyment. Artists pair up with local venues in the downtown area or in Mt. Gretna and are available to meet visitors and talk to them about their work. Last year, over 2,000 people attended.

Artist Peggy Kastner and her work

"First Friday Art Walks began in 2007 and brought thousands of visitors into the downtown business district," says Zook. "This summer, Mary DeWitt exhibited her 'greater than life' portraits of Pennsylvania women serving lifetime sentences without parole - many convicted as juveniles."

DeWitt's exhibit earned the attention of not only book groups and college students, but of youth advisors as well. Some of those advisors took the exhibition as an opportunity to educate the youth in their programs. They used DeWitt's art to discuss the application of law and psychology surrounding the complex issues enmeshed in society.

The annual First Friday Art Walk isn't the only project the group hosts. In the summer, the Lebanon Valley Council on the Arts hosts a kids' art camp, as well as an art festival called Spinstock. "Spinstock is a festival of Flow Arts including hula hoop dancing and fire dancing. It's drawn crowds of several hundred," says Zook. "In January, we hold a Burns Night Dinner complete with a bagpipe serenade to the haggis. Locals who want to experience an evening in Scotland without leaving town can find such an experience in downtown Lebanon."

In addition, the Council hosts gallery exhibitions and rents out studio space for artists. Beginning and developing artists from age 12 to adult can take advantage of art classes in embroidery, watercolors and pastels, taught by locals.

Lebanon Valley Council on the Arts at the annual Community of Lebanon Association Festival

"The more experiences that encourage an understanding each other's perspectives, and work together on shared concerns, the more cohesive our neighborhoods will become," Zook says. "Each year, increased participation in the arts demonstrates that personal interaction with art and culture awakens the core of who we are, and provides a vision of who we can become both individually and collectively."

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About The Author

Christian Burney will soon graduate with a BFA in writing from the Savannah College of...

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