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For a Rust Belt city, my hometown of Bethlehem, Pa., has fared relatively well. By the time Bethlehem Steel ceased manufacturing in the 1990s, the local economy was already less reliant on it—aided by its proximity to New York and Philadelphia, the growth of local colleges, and a modest tourism industry. Then came a casino, right on top of what used to be a giant iron-ore pit. The city’s emphasis on entertainment is most obvious at the foot of Bethlehem Steel’s blast furnaces, where some of the land has been converted into a complex called Arts Quest. It’s a bit surreal—hulking, rusty towers on one side, theater and music facilities on the other—but it certainly makes a statement about finding value in tough places. A principal from Spillman Farmer, the architecture firm behind Arts Quest, will discuss it as part of the National Building Museum’s “Industry to Art: Revitalizing Cities through Culture” program. Also appearing will be representatives from Power House Productions, which lures artists to Detroit; the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which also knows a thing or two about steel towns; and HR&A Advisors, whose projects have included New York’s High Line and the Anacostia waterfront.
The program begins at 6:30 p.m. at the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. $12-$20. (202) 272-2448. nbm.org.