Earlier this year I had the pleasure of assisting Erie (PA) Arts and Culture with their strategic planning process. I worked closely with their board and their executive director, Patrick Fisher and was impressed by their collective commitment to meaningful community engagement. My work there came in the middle of a long-term project of commissioning murals for the city. In October one was completed that impressed me so much I had to share it here.
EAC brought Elio Mercado, known professionally as Evoca1–an artist known for work that addresses issues of poverty and homelessness, to the city to put a mural on Methodist Towers, an apartment building for low-income seniors.
Evoca1 selected a Methodist Tower resident, Rudolph “Rudy” Daniels, as the subject of the mural. Mercado said, “He just looked very uplifting and inspiring. . . . Having Rudy up there, an image of that scale, and (depicting) a minority member of this community like that, I hope that people find that inspirational.” Of more than passing note, Mr. Daniels is blind.
In announcing the completion of the work, Patrick Fischer said:
This evening, Evoca1 completed what proved to be a very special project. It’s always rewarding to watch a community respond to a new piece of public art. But this project yielded some uniquely fulfilling moments, such as this evening when Rudy said goodbye to Evoca1 and was brought to tears. As a blind man, Rudy cannot see Evoca1’s work, but he was overcome with emotion due to how people have engaged with him as a result of his portrait being painted onto the side of one of the largest buildings in Downtown Erie. He gave a deep “thank you” to Evoca1 as he told him he loved him for how he impacted his life. As an onlooker, I was near tears myself.
Successful community engagement is rooted in seeing those outside the arts as partners, working together with them on work that is mutually beneficial. This begins with seeing them.
Bravo Erie Arts and Culture!