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Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission honors four

The Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission (BFAC) has honored four individuals for their contributions to the arts community at the 2021 Tribute to the Arts.

“The word for this year is ‘transform,’” said Tribute to the Arts Committee Chair Mary Mulder as she introduced the honorees.

“Every person in this group takes raw material and turns it into something powerful, beautiful, compelling, and memorable,” Mulder said.

The Sept. 14 reception was at the Bethlehem House Gallery, 459 Main St., Bethlehem.

Theater artist and educator Jennie Gilrain was commended for her work as a teacher at Freemansburg Elementary and as a graduate student in Lehigh University’s Education Leadership Doctoral program where she is designing a teaching artist residency in which students in Bethlehem will exchange poetry with students in Peru. This was inspired by Bethlehem’s official bird, the Chimney Swift, which migrates between North and South America.

Gilrain collaborated with local artists and community organizations on recent projects like “S.O.S. Save Our Swifts: Telling the Story of the Chimney Swifts and their Connection to Our City;” “Black Poets Project: The Beautiful Needful Thing;” “Finding H.D., a community exploration of the life and work of Hilda Doolittle,” among other poetry and theatrical endeavors.

Gilrain, an adjunct professor in the Lehigh University Theatre Department, is a longtime Touchstone Theatre ensemble member.

Missy Hartney was lauded for her accomplishments as SouthSide Arts District downtown manager. These include working with the City of Bethlehem, South Bethlehem businesses, and non-profits to implement a strategic plan to improve the streetscape, economic development, marketing and branding for the SouthSide Arts District.

Hartney and her team mapped out a 2.75-mile SouthSide Urban Arts Trail during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shutdown. The path in the business district leads to public artwork, connecting travelers to murals, sculpture, artist-designed bike racks, mosaics, artistic structures and a public piano. A new street mural will soon be part of the trail’s landscape.

Hartney has a background in event marketing, community services, fundraising and advertising.

Composer, conductor and educator Dr. Steven Sametz was honored for his numerous musical contributions. Sametz, director of choral activities at Lehigh University since 1979, founded the Lehigh University Choral Union and is founder-director of the Lehigh University-ACDA Summer Choral Composers Forum where he mentors young composers while directing premieres of their works.

Sametz was artistic director of The Princeton Singers for 28 years. Sametz’s Carnegie Hall debut was in 2014 when he conducted his choral symphony “Carmina amoris.”

Acclaimed as “one of the most respected choral composers in America,” Sametz received a national composition award in 2013 to create “A Child’s Requiem,” dedicated to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims.

Although she recently moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, Beverly Hoover was presented with the Mayor’s Award for her work as an arts advocate and community leader while living in Bethlehem for 24 years.

Hoover, who retired from the Allentown Art Museum in 2018, has a master’s degree in art history.

With her experience as the art museum’s chief operating officer and director of collections and exhibitions, Hoover volunteered in 2008 to inventory and organize the City of Bethlehem art collection. After joining the BFAC in 2009, Hoover continued in her role as an advisor for the city’s art collection.

Bethlehem’s approximately 145 art works, worth more than $1.5 million, have been displayed in the Mayor’s Art Gallery, City Hall offices and the Rotunda Gallery. In 2019, 24 additional pieces were donated to the collection by local artists.

State Representative Steve Samuelson (D-135) honored each BFAC awardee with a proclamation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. They were given proclamations from the State Senate on behalf of State Senator Lisa Boscola’s (D-18).

Presenters included Matt Wolf, Barb Fraust, Dick Begbie, Jim DePietro and Vince Gentilcore.

BFAC Chair Deni Thurman-Eyer provided closing remarks.

Event sponsors included Edge, Apollo Grill and Twisted Olive restaurants.

The bi-annual Tribute to the Arts, presented by the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission since 1991, honors individuals, businesses and organizations who engage in artistic endeavors that enrich the community in meaningful ways.

Information: Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission, www.bfac-lv.org

PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIER From left, Beverly Hoover, Jennie Gilrain, Steven Sametz and Missy Hartney were honored at the 2021 Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission Tribute to the Arts.