Southsider: Celebrating the Arts and Culture of the South Side of Bethlehem

Southsider is an online hyperlocal news source that covers artists and arts programming on the South Side of Bethlehem with the aim of exploring how the arts help us reflect on our unique civic identity and explore the challenges as well as the strengths of our community. By publishing accessible literary, film, and arts criticism for regional audiences, our website encourages communal reflection upon the vibrant arts district in Bethlehem, including discussion of artists and programs not usually covered by larger news outlets due to decreases in funding to regional papers. Our reportage on local individual artists and non-profit arts organizations further operates to advertise their work in meaningful ways, to provide press coverage that they can use in grant applications and marketing, and importantly to continue community conversations about the value of local arts long after the conclusion of an event, play, or gallery showing. While our site benefits artists and arts programmers explicitly, we also have a strong readership of around 7,000 viewers. We see our work as supporting democratic civic engagement through aesthetic interpretation and collaborative site building in which artists, programmers, students, staff, and faculty publish unique content. As Doris Sommer writes, “Aesthetics is a significant political player because it sidesteps the politics of vested interests. It accomplishes free thinking, through judgments that override predetermined conclusions about values and concepts, personal gain, party lines, or moral arguments’ (Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities, 88).  With the goal of bringing people together to think about regional art, to delight in multiple interpretations and reflections about works’ meanings, and to reflect on the power of art to help us see our city differently, we believe our website encourages the kind of free-thinking, interpretive play, and communal engagement that strong democracies need to survive. As we move into our fourth year of publication, we have partnered with the CADCB and the Office of Creative Inquiry to expand our reportage to address local history, civic governance, environment, and South Side non-profit organizations and leaders while maintaining strong arts coverage.