A Circle of Friends

By Merry Sue Baum

When Dave and Monica Willard moved from Long Island to Bethlehem the couple immediately felt at home. Dave’s company, Olympus America, was relocating to the Lehigh Valley, and although the Willards had no relatives here, they received a warm welcome from the friends they had made through ArtsQuest. The folks they had met, along with their love of the arts, prompted the couple to become ArtsQuest supporting members only a few years later.

“We love the organization,” says Dave. “Besides enriching the community through the arts, the people who run ArtsQuest are wonderful. The arts have always been a huge part of our lives, so we are very happy to help support their efforts.”

For Monica, the appeal of ArtsQuest is that it promotes diversity and provides entertainment and educational opportunities that appeal to the entire community.
“Basically, ArtsQuest’s values match ours,” she says.

The Willards were introduced to the organization in 2003, when Dave worked with the late Janice Lipzin, ArtsQuest vice president of visual arts and education, to set up the Olympus Digital Imaging Center at the Banana Factory. Olympus America sponsored the classroom and Dave, a marketing executive for the company, was in charge of the project. The two discovered they shared a love of photography – Janice was a renowned professional photographer, and it’s Dave’s hobby – so before long the Willards became good friends with Janice and her husband Paul Kodiak.

As their circle of friends grew, so did their involvement in ArtsQuest. Only two weeks after moving to Bethlehem, Monica, who represents United Religions Initiative at the UN, held an International Day of Peace ceremony at the Banana Factory. During the ceremony, the flags of the UN’s 193 member nations were presented, each with a message of peace to all the world.

“In the process I learned the history of immigration here and how it affected the city and Bethlehem Steel,” says Monica. “It was an amazing introduction to this beautiful town.”

Proud of Bethlehem and its many cultural offerings, the Willards have taken many relatives and friends to Musikfest and other ArtsQuest events over the years. One of Monica’s friends from Kenya, whom she met through the UN, was amazed when he found how safe it was to be at Musikfest at 10:30 p.m. He also loved the idea that people of all ages come together to celebrate the community through music. Several years later when post-election riots erupted in Nairobi, the gentleman worked with local leaders to present a “safe” concert there that was modeled after Musikfest.

“We were thrilled that the idea of using music to bring people together traveled halfway around the world,” Monica says.

Thanks to their affinity for ArtsQuest and its programming, the Willards have been supporting members for well over a decade. Then, three years ago, they stepped up their support by becoming ArtsQuest Circle Donors, a group of individuals dedicated to helping ArtsQuest advance its mission in the region by making leadership gifts to help the nonprofit.

Along with their financial support of ArtsQuest, Dave has served on the ArtsQuest Visual Arts Board since 2007. He was also on the Strategic Planning Committee during the planning of SteelStacks, and he has continued on that committee, helping developed two subsequent three-year strategic plans.

“We are so fortunate to have such a vibrant arts program,” says Dave. “We will continue to support it in any way we can.”

The support of ArtsQuest Circle Donors plays a huge role in helping ArtsQuest present its music, arts and education programming for the community. To learn more about how you can become a member of the circle and make a difference in the lives of many, please visit today.