About the Grant


Generously funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through June 2021, the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium (LVEHC) fosters exploration of personal, historical, and community narratives that have emerged in the past half-century in the region using methods of the humanities and arts. Guided by a steering committee composed of representatives of a dozen Lehigh Valley academic and cultural institutions, the LVEHC proposes to bring the region’s diversity and sense of place to light, concentrate on the changing nature of the work its residents do, and consider the role of storymaking in documenting the changes that have taken place.

The LVEHC welcomes collaborative ideas and proposals from across the Lehigh Valley, including from community members, educators, and affiliates at local public libraries and cultural institutions. If you do not already have collaborators in mind, we are happy to introduce you to potential collaborators we may know of and to help connect you to a network of community and campus partners. Please feel free to reach out to us anytime to discuss your ideas.


Historical forces that have developed over the past half-century affect today’s residents. During this time, family incomes in the area started to stagnate and the slow process of the loss of manufacturing jobs from large employers began—with the eventual closing of Bethlehem Steel, textile mills, cement plants, and similar large industries. While dominated by the mostly middle- and working-class post-industrial cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, the region encompasses extensive rural and suburban populations that also have important stories to tell. The region’s significant cultural diversity adds richness and complexity: its main cities are two-thirds non-Hispanic white, and have about one-seventh Hispanic-American and one-tenth African-American residents, the two-county area (Northampton and Lehigh) is home to one of the highest concentrations of Muslim residents in Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Long-time populations of African-Americans and Puerto Ricans have been growing in recent years. The Lehigh Valley’s recent history intersects with national conversations about demographic change. There is a clear opportunity to harness the power of the public humanities to increase understanding of American lives and bear witness to them while creating conditions for Lehigh Valley residents to take the lead in documenting their own stories.


The LVEHC’s proposed activities include:

  • Faculty professional development aimed at durably incorporating engaged humanities and arts approaches into coursework and co-curricular programming.
  • Residencies of literary, performing, and visual artists who have the Lehigh Valley and its peoples as their subject.
  • Exhibitions, presentations, and events open to and involving community members.
  • A digital archive of source materials and web portal to integrate and communicate LVEHC’s activities.

Main Themes:

  • The diversity of communities in the Lehigh Valley in the past 50 years.
  • The changing nature of work in the Lehigh Valley in the past 50 years.
  • The evolving landscape, environment, and sense of place in the Lehigh Valley in the past 50 years.

Underpinning all of these main themes is the value and process of story-making.  We welcome proposals that center the themes above, highlighting community narratives and individual people’s stories, from the celebratory to the critical.

Guiding Principles:

  • By promoting reciprocal involvement, LVEHC’s students, staff, and faculty engage with issues of vital importance to area community members, with community members.
  • Through collaboration the LVEHC institutions have the broadest impact.
  • Alignment with strategic directions of partner organizations and institutions ensures institutional engagement.
  • Ensuring the continuing relevance of the work beyond the grant period is a priority.
  • The value of the humanities and the arts underpins the entire project.

Steering Committee:

Allentown Art Museum
Cedar Crest College
DeSales University
Easton Area Public Library
Karl Stirner Arts Trail
Lafayette College
Lehigh University
Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC)
Lehigh Valley Research Consortium (LVRC)
Moravian College
Muhlenberg College
Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society / Sigal Museum

Grant Co-Director: Andrea Smith (smithal@lafayette.edu)
Grant Co-Director: Charlotte Nunes (nunesc@lafayette.edu)
LVEHC Mellon Grant Coordinator: Kate Pitts (pittsk@lafayette.edu)