Look no further than ArtsQuest to see the importance of the marriage between the arts and the economy.
That is why the selection of Katherine E. “Kassie” Hilgert as the next leader of the nonprofit arts and cultural organization is an excellent choice.
Hilgert recognizes that crucial intersection of the arts and business, and she said she intends to continue ArtsQuest’s pursuit of economic development as one of its key strategies.
That is welcome news, as ArtsQuest with all of its programs already is a significant economic driver for the Lehigh Valley. It has 135 employees and annually injects $40 million into our economy. A lot of that is the result of the 1.3 million total annual attendance of ArtsQuest events such as Musikfest, its flagship event, Christkindlmarkt and other programs.
Hilgert has a solid business background, having spent 10 years on the board of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. and having worked for Air Products, a global manufacturer based in Trexlertown.
She said she would remain focused on economic development on Bethlehem’s South Side, which is where ArtsQuest is based.
“… We can stay on the forefront of that development and work with as many partners as we can to try to inject the positive energy and impact that providing arts and cultural programming can do …,” Hilgert said.
“If you can build a pipeline of artists, a pipeline of technicians that have to support those artists through audiovisual, those are all things that we think are very important for the economic development of the South Side.”
Hilgert, of course, will be following a successful formula developed by Jeff Parks, founder of Musikfest 30 years ago. Parks has elected to retire, effective in January, although he will remain involved with ArtsQuest in a fundraising capacity.
A visionary, Parks sees a bright future with Hilgert, who has been with ArtsQuest since 2008.
“Kassie knows the Lehigh Valley, its people and its institutions,” he said. “And she knows the relevance of ArtsQuest to the continued social, cultural and economic development of the region.”
See you this Friday, when Musikfest and the first of what might be as many as 1 million people visit Bethlehem for the 30th anniversary of the 10-day music and arts festival.