Our mission is to enrich lives through arts education and we achieve our mission through our tuition classes for children, teens, and adults, and our many community outreach programs. In 2022-2023 we served over 3,200 students in art, design, and fashion. Our programs are open to anyone who wishes to study art—we celebrate diversity and welcome all community members, regardless of gender, social status, race, or beliefs.
For over 97 years, our mission has been guided by the vision of our founder, Walter Emerson Baum. He believed that art is essential to our lives, that anyone can make art, and that everyone should have the opportunity to make art. Today, we offer over 300 classes, workshops and community outreach programs. Through the generosity of our philanthropic community and the dedication of our partners, over 1,236 of the 3,200 students we served in 2021-2022 participated in the school’s programs through some form of discount, scholarship, financial assistance, or as part of a community outreach program.
The Baum School of Art is proud to be located in downtown Allentown, in the heart of a district that is experiencing a renaissance. As we grow and change with our neighborhood as it transforms, our work remains the same—nurturing the creativity within all of us. The School has been a member of the National Guild for Community Arts Education since 1987. We are accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Precollegiate Arts Schools.
During the summer of 1926, Walter Baum was invited by Blanche Lucas, an Allentown public school teacher, to serve as the leader of a class she had organized, consisting of 22 teachers and students. This was the beginning of The Baum School of Art.
In 1965, Dr. Rudy S. Ackerman, a professor and chairman of the Art Department at Moravian College, was appointed Executive Director of The Baum School of Art.
The first classes in were held in March of 1987 in our newly built permanent location, the Russell E. Baum Building.
As we look to the future, The Baum School of Art will continue to build on the firm foundation of the past, and expand to be an ever more effective and unique hub of art education and cultural enrichment for the entire Lehigh Valley.
This is a fitting accolade to the man whose inspiration and encouragement created the foundation for art in the Lehigh Valley, including the founding of The Baum School of Art and the Allentown Art Museum. Walter Baum is best known as a member of the “Pennsylvania Impressionists,” and is renowned for his winter landscape paintings of eastern Pennsylvania. He was also a husband, father, journalist, critic, and an inspiring teacher. Beyond all of these callings, he was a leader, a catalyst, and a visionary.
During the summer of 1926, Walter Baum was invited by Blanche Lucas, an Allentown public school teacher, to serve as the leader of a class she had organized, consisting of 22 teachers and students. It soon became known as Baum’s Art Class. By popular demand, the class continued into the autumn instead of disbanding at the end of the summer as planned. The third floor of the Franklin Fire Company at 14th and Turner Streets in Allentown became the first home of the Baum School. For the next 26 years, classes were held for school-age and adult students. Additional classroom space was made available in various schools in the Allentown School District.
In 1952, The Baum School was provided with space in the former Lehigh Valley Oil Company building at 12th and Walnut Streets in Allentown through a generous donation from the Hess Brothers Art Foundation. This new facility was opened to the public on October 5, 1952, with an expanded schedule and immediate increase in enrollment. Walter Baum continued to direct the school, with the help of his devoted wife, Flora, and staff. Just four years later, on July 12, 1956, at the age of 71, Walter Baum passed away. Dorothy Leonard was appointed Director following Walter Baum’s death. Between 1956 and 1965, school leadership included Dorothy Leonard, Mary Barnett, Dorothy Roth, and Melville Stark.
In 1965, Dr. Rudy S. Ackerman, a professor and chairman of the Art Department at Moravian College, was appointed the Executive Director. Building on the ideals and goals of those who had nurtured and preserved the School, the curriculum was expanded, the quality and variety of instruction was improved, and the number of tuition-paying students was increased while the scholarship programs were also expanded. Rudy, along with his wife, Rose, and later his daughter, Ann Lalik, began what would be a lifetime of dedication to expanding the school, its programs, and the cultivation of an even stronger legacy of art education in the Lehigh Valley.
Between 1976 and 1987, The Baum School of Art was located in the lower level of The Allentown Art Museum. The school quickly outgrew the space, which led to the campaign and construction of our current home at 5th and Linden Streets. Dr. Ackerman, his wife Rose Ackerman, and president of the board, Dr. Edgar Baum, were the driving forces behind the school’s growth and establishment of our current facility. In 1984, the School was able to acquire a third of an acre of land at 5th and Linden Streets, through a gift from Donald Miller and the Call-Chronicle newspapers. During this same time period, a major challenge gift was pledged by a Philadelphia businessman, Dr. Richard Caruso, in memory of his friend and mentor, Russell E. Baum. The Harry C. Trexler Trust and Rodale Press, Inc., provided major funding for the new facility, along with many other generous supporters. The first classes in the new building were held in March, 1987 in the newly built Russell E. Baum Building.
Through the generosity and dedication of the philanthropic community, particularly that of Ardath Rodale and Marlene, “Linny” Fowler, the school was able to add additional classrooms and event space in 2001, which became known as the Fowler East Wing. In 2010, Shannon Fugate was appointed as the fifth Executive Director of The Baum School of Art. Community outreach programs, tuition classes, college partnerships, visiting artist workshops, and special events continue to grow and provide support for visual artists, and awaken the creativity in aspiring artists of all ages. As we look to the future, The Baum School of Art will continue to build on the firm foundation of the past, and expand to be an ever more effective and unique hub of art education and cultural enrichment for the entire Lehigh Valley.