Neston Heights Dedicates New Community Center Mural
Date: Sept. 29, 2011
Contact: Mark Demko, 610-332-1342 or gro.tseuqstranull@okmedm
NESTON HEIGHTS DEDICATES NEW COMMUNITY CENTER MURAL
BETHLEHEM, PA—When residents and guests of Neston Heights in Easton visit the development’s revitalized community center, they will be greeted by a large, colorful mural that’s much more than a pretty work of art.
From early July through late August, 10 teens and young adults worked closely with ArtsQuest artist Kim Hogan and artist’s assistant Kristen Bennett to create a 30-foot-wide by 10-foot-high mosaic mural on the front exterior wall of the community center. The result is stunning work of art that features a massive tree with sweeping branches, reflecting the revitalization and rebirth that have taken place at the community formerly known as Delaware Terrace. The mural, which took more than 3,000 man hours to complete, was officially christened during a special dedication ceremony at the community center today.
“When people visit Neston Heights and the Neston Heights community center, one of the first things that they will notice is this amazing work of art,” says Housing Authority of the City of Easton Executive Director Gene Pambianchi. “We are delighted to be able to incorporate this contribution from the arts community into our revitalization project.”
According to Hogan, the hard work, commitment and cooperation of everyone involved in the project were key elements that allowed for the mural to be completed in only two months.
“If one person worked on this project alone it would have taken a year and a half, possibly longer,” Hogan says. “I am so grateful to have shared this experience with my talented assistant, Kristen; our hard working summer crew; and some very enthusiastic volunteers who materialized when we needed them the most. I feel wonderful knowing that we’ve all put our energy toward something the entire community can appreciate.”
Funding for the Neston Heights revitalization project and community mural was provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOPE VI Grant program, which supports public housing projects in need of revitalization. The Neston Heights project, which will result in 144 new housing units at the mixed income development project, is unique among HOPE VI grant projects because it incorporates artistic expression as a means to spur urban development. The mural itself was made possible thanks to a partnership between the Housing Authority of the City of Easton, which administers the HOPE VI grant for Neston Heights; ArtsQuest; and PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley’s CareerFORCE Youth Initiative, which provides work experience opportunities for youth funded through the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc.
“In today’s highly competitive job and labor market, youth are at a disadvantage if they do not have the skills, education and real work experience to compete and be successful,” says Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc. Executive Director Nancy Dischinat. ”The CareerForce work experience programs, such as the ArtsQuest Neston Heights program, give area young people a unique edge to compete in this tough economy.”
Open six days a week, the Neston Heights Community Center will serve as a gathering place for Neston Heights residents throughout the year. In addition, it is also home to the Neighborhood Networks Center, the Boys & Girls Club of Easton and Pennrose Management Company, the property managers for Neston Heights.
“I recall attending the initial meetings on the Neston Heights mural a few years ago, well before the new residences were created,” says ArtsQuest Director of Visual Arts and Education Janice Lipzin. “It is extremely exciting to see these beautiful homes and the community center filled with people. Artist Kim Hogan is such a talented mosaic artist. During this project, she was able to teach and mentor the young artists, who now have a permanent tribute to their neighborhood. It’s a real source of pride to everyone involved. On behalf of ArtsQuest, I thank the Housing Authority of the City of Easton, Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc. and PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley for making this public work of art possible.”
Editor’s Note: Attached is an image of four of the HOPE VI mural artists next to their work of art at the Neston Heights Community Center. Artists are (from left) Odalys Otero of Easton, Amy Polanco of Catasauqua, Andrew Good of Easton and Atiya Ramseur of Allentown.