News

March 16, 2010

Helping Shape Easton’s Cultural Future

Students and faculty will present plans for the Governor Wolf Art and Culture Athenaeum project April 1 at Easton City Hall

A team of Lafayette students and faculty has taken a direct interest in shaping Easton’s cultural future.

Through the College’s Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project (EEGLP), the group has been working closely with residents of Easton to study the economic feasibility of transforming the city’s Governor Wolf building into a community center for arts and cultural activities.

On April 1, the team’s final report will be presented during a reception and image exhibition at Easton’s City Hall. The event will take place from 5-7 p.m. on the fifth floor Council Chambers, and will be co-hosted by Easton Mayor Sal Panto and Edward Gamber, professor and head of economics.  The public is invited to attend.

Easton project leader Jordan Kaplan ’10 (Livingston, N.J.), an economics and business major, and Ting Chiu ’11 (Bedminster, N.J.), an English and psychology double major, will be the key presenters. The team also consists of Katrina Ladd ’11 (Acton, Mass.), a double major in international affairs and psychology; Nicolus Oliver ’10 (Cheltenham, Pa.), an engineering studies major; and Tsion Tsegaye ’10 (Arlington, Va.), a double major in engineering studies and economics and business.

“I am personally very pleased with the final product,” says EEGLP founder Gladstone Fluney Hutchinson, associate professor of economics. “I think it well represents the abilities of our students, and more importantly, it accurately captures Easton’s own re-imagining and re-framing of itself as an attractive economic, cultural, and residential location.”

The team’s report envisions the Athenaeum project as a regional “town square” for art and culture, offering year-round performances, exhibits, and other events both indoors and outdoors for patrons of all ages. It provides a projection on how likely the Athenaeum would be to draw local and regional audiences, provides a detailed evaluation of usable space in the existing building and recommendations for use, and assesses the potential economic effects of such a project. Using economic impact analysis, the study estimates that if the Athenaeum project could attract 100,000 visitors to Easton, it would produce approximately $5.3 million in new local output, and create 70 new jobs.

“I had a great time working on the Governor Wolf Athenaeum Project,” says Oliver. “It was an interesting and unique opportunity not only to express my creative side and display the skills I’ve acquired at Lafayette, but also to gain practical experience while working on a real-world interdisciplinary project.”  Oliver’s main role for the project was developing a conceptual design for recreational and green space and developing ideas and uses for vacant building rooms and other areas.

Once a public school, the Governor Wolf building features an auditorium, gymnasium, various sizes of classrooms, and other spaces that could serve a variety of new uses in the Athenaeum. For example, the EEGLP report suggests using the auditorium for large-scale exhibits and as a venue for special events. Classrooms and other small spaces would work well as artists’ studios, small-scale exhibits, and community art classes. The gymnasium could become a space for community theater productions or could be a space to provide educational programming.

Other suggested uses for the building include an indoor cafe/gift store/reading room. Outdoors, the site could include a playground and green space with views of the Delaware River. There is also room for a multipurpose plaza that could be used for games in warmer months and an ice rink in the winter.

Tsegaye served as student economist on the project. She was responsible for researching and analyzing data and was also involved in writing the report and preliminary presentations.

“I took a great deal away from this experience. I was able to use analytical, writing, and communication skills throughout the project, and I learned how to better work as part of a team,” Tsegaye says.

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