A grant to Lafayette will unite six colleges and three cultural institutions in a four-year effort to explore life in the Lehigh Valley through the arts and humanities.

The $950,000 grant is being awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and will support a collaborative initiative titled “The Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium: Understanding Transformations of the Past Half-Century.”

“This grant will allow us to advance our goal of building more diverse, inclusive, and connected campuses, cultural institutions, and communities,” said President Alison Byerly.

In addition to Lafayette, the participating colleges are the other five members of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC): Cedar Crest, DeSales, Lehigh, Moravian, and Muhlenberg. Four cultural institutions—the Allentown Art Museum, the Sigal Museum, the Easton Area Public Library, and the Karl Stirner Arts Trail—and the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium also are part of the project.

The consortium will have three main activities:

  • On-campus residencies of literary, performing, and visual artists who have the Lehigh Valley and its peoples as their subject, along with exhibitions, presentations, and events open to and involving community members.
  • Support for faculty members as they incorporate community-based learning and research in the humanities and arts into coursework and activities outside the classroom.
  • A digital archive of source materials that aims to provide more inclusive cultural representation of the Lehigh Valley.

“The consortium’s activities will harness the power of the public humanities to increase the understanding of ordinary American lives and bear witness to them, exploring the Lehigh Valley’s growing diversity, its sense of place, the evolution of its patterns of work, and the stories these themes occasion,” said Provost Abu Rizvi, the grant’s principal investigator.

Cristle Collins Judd, senior program officer at the Mellon Foundation, commented: “The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is pleased to support this ambitious initiative to bring together the work of diverse institutions in the Lehigh Valley to engage their communities.”

The four-year project will be guided by a steering committee of consortium partners co-led by Lafayette’s Charlotte Nunes, an expert in oral history and co-director of Digital Scholarship Services, and Andrea Smith, a specialist in cultural memory and professor and department head of anthropology and sociology. In the provost’s office, Dean of Curriculum and Research Jamila Bookwala, a liaison to LVAIC, will help manage the project.

Diane Dimitroff, executive director of LVAIC, expressed confidence that the project is “an excellent way to deepen our involvement in our surrounding community” and “increase collaboration among LVAIC institutions.” David Mickenberg, president and CEO of the Allentown Art Museum, said he looked forward to the “reciprocal benefit our Lehigh Valley community members gain from their interactions with artists and with faculty, staff, and students.”

1 Comment

  1. George L. Fouke, Lafayette '55 says:

    Great news. Suggestion for implementing the program: Review 1776 National Humanities program celebrating the 200th birthday of the USA. Went to every crossroads in my college’s region — St. Andrews Presbyterian College, Laurinburg, NC.

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