May 4, 2009

Students Will Work with Easton Community Groups to Discover New Possibilities for the City’s Arts Scene and the West Ward

Grants from the William T. Morris Foundation and the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership will support ‘Community Fellows’

Jordan Kaplan ’10 (Livingston, N.J.), Nicolus Oliver ’10 (Cheltenham, Pa.), and Tsion Tsegaye ’10 (Arlington, Va.) will study the potential economic and community development impact of converting the Governor Wolf Building, 45 North Second St., into a sustainable art and cultural athenaeum and determine activities that would, directly or indirectly, make the athenaeum project a regionally competitive source of revenue. They also will analyze the economic impact of targeted investments in the arts, culture, and tourism, and will work under the direction of Gladstone Fluney Hutchinson, associate professor of economics.

LA Block ’12 (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Michael Handzo ’11 (North Attleboro, Mass.), and Courtney Morin ’10 (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) will work with the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership as part of the collaborative Urban Ecology Project.

With the focus of helping achieve local economic development goals, the students will analyze the results of a Residential Perception Survey of 750 residents of the West Ward. The survey looks at issues such as residential needs and opportunities, and ways to foster sustainable enterprises and community-serving businesses in the ward. Their adviser is Bonnie Winfield, director of Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center.

The students will be known as William T. Morris Foundation Community Fellows in recognition of a grant of $25,000 that has been awarded to Lafayette by the William T. Morris Foundation in support of the initiatives. Located in Westport, Conn., and headed by president and CEO Bruce August, the foundation is a private philanthropic organization that supports the arts, education, health care, and quality-of-life. Paul Barrett, a 1963 Lafayette graduate who is vice president, treasurer, and a director of the foundation, assisted the College in securing the grant.

Kaplan is majoring in economics and business. Oliver is an engineering studies major with a minor in architectural studies and a starting defensive back on the varsity football team. Tsegaye also is majoring in engineering studies. Block and Handzo are government and law majors, and Morin is majoring in English.

Also participating in the West Ward project will be Leroy Butler ’11 (Northport, Fla.), Pooja Shah ’11 (Voorhees, N.J.), and Alyssa Smith ’11 (North Falmouth, Mass.). These students also will serve as community fellows through a $10,000 grant from the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership (donated by Easton Hospital and Lafayette Ambassador Bank). Butler is a chemistry major, Shah is majoring in economics and business, and Smith has a self-created, interdisciplinary major entitled social justice and quantitative literacy.

The goal of the Urban Ecology Project, a collaboration of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley and Lafayette that is supported by a grant from the Wachovia Regional Foundation, is to forge a more creative, healthful, and connected community through programs for lower-income residents that support children and families, affordable housing and counseling, neighborhood building, and economic development.

The Governor Wolf Art and Culture Athenaeum Project is the latest initiative under the umbrella of the College’s Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project (EEGLP). Under the guidance of Hutchinson, EEGLP helps facilitate entrepreneurship and growth by collaborating with communities on developing sustainable business plans. Projects also are under way in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and in the village of Lagunitas in the rural Yoro region of Honduras.

The students working on the Governor Wolf project will be using and adapting performance metrics that analyze the economic impact of targeted investments in the arts, culture, and tourism. They will also investigate the positive economic renewal and cultural spillovers on the Easton community of a creative arts corridor extending from the Governor Wolf Building to Lafayette’s William Visual Arts Building on North Third St. and along the Bushkill Creek to the former Simon Silk Mill property on North 13th St., where an arts village is envisioned, including traditional arts and new media along with restaurants, retail space, and residential space.

They will consider ways to use local, regional, and imported art and culture to create revenue-generating products that will improve Easton’s business district, tax base, employment, and real estate values. They will also investigate ways to combine this art and culture with other local, regional, and national assets to create a platform for economic development and renewal in Easton, and democratic renewal and civic engagement in historic communities in general.

In addition to their work in the Easton community, the students will attend a weekly seminar organized by Hutchinson and Winfield. They will also visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass., one of the largest centers for contemporary visual and performing arts in America, and the Cultural Athenaeum project in Philadelphia to examine successful community arts and entrepreneurship projects which have led to economic development and renewal in their communities. The interns will also participate in other field trips to explore the theory, practice and challenges of urban ecology and economic development. The students will receive a stipend and free on-campus housing for the summer.

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