Honoring Carla Hughes

Wednesday Oct 6th, 2021

carla v3
borcelle Healthcare

Artists completed a new large-scale mural, located within Erie’s urban core, that honors Carla Hughes.

The mural, which was started on Saturday, September 18 and completed on Monday, September 27, is located on the north-facing facade of the Erie Center for Arts and Technology (ECAT), formerly the Wayne School, at 650 East Avenue. The mural depicts Carla Hughes, who unfortunately passed away unexpectedly in May of 2021. The reference image for the mural was provided to Erie Arts & Culture by Corey Cook of Cook Media - who was also hired to document the project. 

Carla was beloved by many. She was a 17-year educator with Erie’s Public Schools, a teaching artist with Erie Arts & Culture, and an instructor with Life thru Dance. Carla was also a member of the Erie Playhouse’s Board of Directors, was the president of the Erie Dance Consortium, and a founding member of the Erie Dance Film Festival. Before starting this project, Erie Arts & Culture approached Carla’s family, in particular her brother Joe Hughes, to obtain permissions and blessings to memorialize Carla through this mural project.  

Mwanel Pierre-Louis, a Miami-based muralist and fine artist, was the lead artist for this project. Erie Arts & Culture was referred to Mwanel by Elio Mercado, the artist responsible for painting the Rudy mural located on Methodist Towers in Downtown Erie To assist Mwanel, Erie Arts & Culture hired four Erie-based artists to serve as assistants and learn the art of mural making through hands-on training. Assistants included Precious Thompson, Brian Bonner, Alex Staley, and Antonio Howard. All assistants are members of the CHROMA Guild, a network formed by Erie Arts & Culture to advance access to resources and opportunities for BIPOC artists. Through working alongside Mwanel, these artists gained knowledge and insights on how to develop a digital rendering, how to scale artwork to a large exterior surface, how to select the appropriate materials based on the application, how to operate a scissor lift, and how to paint on a challenging surface like coarse brick. 

This project was funded by Linda (Hoehn) and Brian Graff. Linda and Brian have supported past projects of Erie Arts & Culture and are also donors to ECAT. In addition to being donors of ECAT, Linda also serves on the organization’s Board of Directors. 

Antonio Howard, who has painted several other murals throughout the City of Erie, stated, "There are several reasons why it’s important for the CHROMA Guild to have opportunities to work alongside and learn from artists like Mwanel. One: Apprenticing builds capacity and confidence in artists as we grow in our artistic disciplines and relieves us of the often paralyzing anxiety of having to figure it out alone. Two: Working alongside other artists expands an artist’s social network and fosters cooperation instead of competition among artists. Three: The lack of prior experience is often a deterrent for artists when applying for art projects and funding. This means that without opportunities like this, artists are always one prior experience short of qualifying for the next opportunity. It’s also important to have an artist of color leading a project like this because it’s empowering to see another artist of color succeeding in the creative spaces we have historically been shut out of. It’s also helpful to learn how other artists of color navigate the obstacles that accompany being an artist of color. As a society, we have come to acknowledge the importance of having teachers that reflect the demographic makeup of their students. The positive impact of that extends beyond childhood and well into adulthood and specifically in artistic spaces."

Blessing and dedication:

Saturday, October 16

Erie Arts & Culture is now working with Joe Hughes to plan a blessing of the mural. This community-centered event will take place on Saturday, October 16 at the site of Carla’s memorial mural. All family, friends, colleagues, and former students of Carla’s are encouraged to attend and help celebrate Carla’s life and the impact she had on our community. 

About Mwanel: 

Mwanel Pierre-Louis is an artist based out of Miami, FL. His work combines realism and abstraction in a narrative that draws from personal interactions and pop references. Mwanel's paintings feature juxtapositions of fragmented experiences and a strong emphasis on the relationship between subject and color. Born in NY, from Haitian descent, he's spent time living and absorbing the culture from New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Pierre-Louis attended New World School of the Arts' high school program in Miami, Florida and Art Center College of Design's illustration program in Pasadena, California. His clients include Starbucks, Fader Magazine, Adidas and Atlantic Records. Mwanel's work has been exhibited in Scope Art Fair during Art Basel, Miami and Switzerland, as well New York City. He’s been apart of the 5th annual POW!WOW! Hawaii's "Exploring the New Contemporary Movement" in the Honolulu Museum of Art. 2019, Mwanel had his first solo show with Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles and continues to have more shows with galleries as Talon, Antler, Spoke Art and Nucleus Galleries. 

About the CHROMA Guild:

The CHROMA Guild advances opportunities and access to resources for creative and cultural professionals of color in Northwestern Pennsylvania. The regional network builds both individual and organizational capacity by expanding equity and inclusion within the area’s cultural and creative sector.

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