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September 13, 2017
Giving Back: Anna Russell
Anna Russell, Director of Make Art Local: A Bethlehem Documentary initially came to Bethlehem three years ago to work with Touchstone Theatre in a performing and creative apprenticeship. That’s where she met Doug Roysdon, head of Mock Turtle Marionette Theater, who, for years, has been exploring ideas about what makes a mission-driven, sustainable arts community.
Since then, with support from Lehigh University’s Mellon Digital Humanities Initiative, dozens of hours of interviews have been conducted by Doug, Anna, and their team. And, fueled by individual contributions, their summer Kickstarter campaign successfully raised thousands of dollars to move on to the project’s next phase.
The documentary will celebrate and investigate the history and future of grassroots art in Bethlehem. What makes a sustainable arts community? How do you nurture and grow it? How do we build ourselves and our identity so that it lasts beyond just one project? “It’s been inspiring to listen to a lot of artists’ stories,” Anna says. “There was a real burgeoning of arts activities in Bethlehem during the decline of the steel industry.”
Eventually the team wants to tour the documentary nationally, because the point of focusing on this kind of art-making by a locally-grown, grassroots arts scene is that it can happen anywhere—and others can learn from what’s happened in Bethlehem. “I think there’s a lot of pride in an arts community that feels like it cared for this place,” Anna says, “that it took this place to where it is now.”