Festival UnBound History


An annual hyper-local, arts-infused community celebration and conversation for those who call the Lehigh Valley home.

Its mission is to engage our diverse community through art and civic dialogue in the radical act of envisioning our future together.


A BRIEF HISTORY…

In 1998, after an almost 150 year history building this nation, Bethlehem Steel finally shut down steel making here in Bethlehem. It was a traumatic event, and Touchstone, to help the community work its way through it, created and assembled several works of art and cultural projects into a festival called Steel Festival: The Art of an Industry.

In October 2019, twenty years after that extraordinary event, we began to explore questions of a different and perhaps more daunting nature. Who are we, now that the Steel is gone? What are the challenges ahead, and what are the values that will hold the community together as we face the task of shaping our future? Out of these questions came our first year of Festival UnBound, a collection of arts and community dialogue around concerns of diversity, sustainability, health, youth leadership, and interconnectedness. You can recap more of the 2019 festival here.

Over the next four years, the festival continued, furthering the discussion and bringing audiences together in a time when loneliness and isolation were the norm. We welcomed guest artists from across the U.S. and abroad, as well as new and longtime local partners, to dig deeper into the questions at hand. You can revisit 2022’s Festival UnBound via the final report here.

Now, in its sixth year, Festival UnBound continues to change what it means to bring a community together and innovate new ideas to move us all in the right direction. Join us, October 2 through 6, 2024. Five days. Ten events. One community.

[Image description: An art gallery featuring up close photographs of people’s faces from all around the world, captured by the wonderful Alexander Khimushin. The photographs are in a row, obscuring each other. There is only one photograph we can clearly make out, which takes up the majority of the picture. We see a male-presenting figure standing in front of this photograph, hiding half of it. Peaking out from behind him is half the face of Laftadio Kupayna, a Papuan girl – her face painted, and wearing traditional bright garments that dance across the photograph in brilliant reds and yellows. Her right eye is perfectly positioned above the shoulder of the onlooker, staring directly at us, the audience.]