Purposeful Placemaking with United Way

Wednesday May 25th, 2022

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In October 2021, Erie Arts & Culture commissioned a mural on the exterior of the former Wayne School, which is now home to the Erie Center for Arts and Technology, the United Way of Erie County, and several other service-based organizations. This mural, along with a trip to Flint, Michigan, where they created 200 murals in a two-year time span, encouraged Erie Arts & Culture to be more strategic in our approach to future mural initiatives. With that in mind, we approached United Way of Erie County to discuss an initiative through which we would strategically locate murals along identified Safer Walking Routes to Community Schools.

This has led to Erie Arts & Culture and the United Way to adopt a shared goal of raising funds that will support the creation of 50 new murals over two years. Using discretionary funds, financial contributions from Erie Insurance, and an ARP grant from the City of Erie, Erie Arts & Culture has secured the necessary funds to execute Phase 1 of the project. Phase 1 will commence in the summer of 2022 and will include 10 murals along the Safer Walking Route, two per each of the five community schools. 

The artwork created will reflect the aspirations and identities of neighborhood residents. We are committed to an inclusive and transparent selection processes for artists and assistants – including prioritizing hiring artists from within the neighborhoods where the murals will be installed and extending opportunities to artists who have historically been under-resourced. Additionally, our approach will include a teen workforce development component that is inspired by organizations such as Juxtaposition Arts (Minneapolis, Minnesota), Groundswell (Brooklyn, New York), and Artists for Humanity (Boston, Massachusetts). 

The total development goal for the 50 murals is $1,000,000. Half of that amount will go towards paying the artists and youth involved in the initiative. Additionally, $200,000 is budgeted for materials and supplies, which will be purchased through Sherwin-Williams Commercial Paint Store located at the intersection of West 18th and Peach Streets. So in addition to helping positively shape the visual landscape within the urban core, we see this project as an economic generator for the City of Erie and Erie County. 


Our commitment to our community:

In approaching this initiative, the following is our commitment to the community:

  • We are committed to creating artwork that reflects the diversity present within the City of Erie and the specific neighborhoods where the murals will be installed.
  • We are committed to inclusive and transparent selection processes for artists and assistants – including prioritizing hiring artists from within the neighborhoods where the murals will be installed and extending opportunities to artists who have historically been oppressed or marginalized.
  • We are committed to advancing equity within Erie by democratizing accessibility to the arts, both the participation in and appreciation of.
  • We are committed to using murals as a tool for public engagement and communal storytelling.
  • We are committed to empowering the community to help shape the visual landscape of their neighborhoods.
  • We are committed to working collaboratively with the City of Erie to not only enhance specific neighborhoods, but to make them safer by identifying and replacing other barriers to community engagement including broken sidewalks and by promoting neighborhood beautification by encouraging the planting of new trees along walking routes. 


Confirmed Artists


Nicole Salgar (Miami, Florida)

June 26 - July 12, 2022 (seeking two artist assistants)

Instagram: @nmsalgar

Nicole Salgar is a painter and muralist of Latin descent. She has always had a passion for  traveling and learning about other cultures . She believes it has undeniably influenced her style. Through artist residencies she has traveled to Cuba, Europe, South America and the East coast working with the local communities painting with adults and the youth. When asked about her craft, Nicole says that “art and design are both something I see as a powerful, transformative force which can elevate the practitioners, the people and their communities.” Self expression has always been instinctual for Nicole,and she found her way to communicate that through art. Her creative work takes on various forms, which are intended to draw the viewer in, as a co-author and witness.  In an effort to create new and unpredictable cycles of thought and association, as well as challenging one’s perceptions and perspectives.


Ana Balcazar (Peru)

July 6-14, 2022 (seeking four artist assistants)

Instagram: @anabalcazarbartra

Ana Balcázar Bartra is a Peruvian visual artist. Her artworks reflect on her condition as a woman and the places she inhabit, such landscapes, botanical or abstract compositions, full of emotion and life experiences, depicted in illustrations, canvas or murals. Since 2009, she has participated national and internationally in six solo shows, and more than twenty-four group exhibitions, in Berlin, Washington D.C., California, México D.F., Erie and Lima, among other cities. Her works are part of the TD Bank Collection in Miami. Since 2017 she has been working actively in muralism, having participated in Casacor and Amazonarte, in Peru, and collaborated with the collectives Casa Morada and Salvajes Colombia, in Medellín. Between 2016 and 2019 she was professor in Toulouse Lautrec Institute in Peru.

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Emily Ding (Los Angeles, California)

July 2022
Instagram: @_emilyding

Emily Ding is a muralist who draws inspiration from flora, fauna, and human temperament. Her large-scale work is characterized by expressive animals and figures, which come to life through bold color gradients and a fluid, painterly style. Resonating deeply with the phenomena of the natural world, she aims to communicate emotions and experiences through storytelling with wild creatures and people.

Christina Wolfe (Edinboro, Pennsylvania)

July 24 - August 7, 2022
Instagram: wolf_e25
Walking Route: Edison Elementary School
tudent Participants: Career & Dreams, Inc.

Christina Wolfe is a mural and mixed media artist working in northwestern Pennsylvania. Her primary mediums include photography, drawing, printmaking, and sculpture. She has worked in Erie and the surrounding area on large scale projects including many public murals and sculpture projects. Christina enjoys working closely with the community to create meaningful works of public art with an emphasis on community involvement. She employs symbolism to create playful works of art. Conceptual themes are used to depict her subject matter in a new light, often playing with scale and ambiguity. Wolfe resides, with her two sons, in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

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Antonio Howard (Erie, Pennsylvania)

July 25 - August 8, 2022
Instagram: @antoniohoward_artist

Antonio Howard (Peggy’s son) is an autodidact artist. At the young age of 15, he was incarcerated and sentenced to life in prison, where he served 26.5 years. While in person, Antonio educated himself through instructional books on the concepts and processes of visual art. Released in 2018, Antonio is now 45-years-old and lives as a valued member of the Erie community, committed to serving others and creating connection points through art that sparks meaningful dialogue and relationships. Antonio created his first exterior mural in 2019, and since then has both led and assisted various mural projects in Erie County.


Alex Ann Allen (South Bend, Indiana)

September 4-17, 2022

Instagram: @alex_ann_allen

Alex Ann Allen is a self-taught traveling muralist living and working in South Bend, Indiana. Although she has been painting for 12 years, her career began in 2018 when she took the leap to make art full-time. Alex paints bold geometric patterns and bright empowering portraits to transform spaces and uplift viewers. Her passion and dedication lies in creating public art that brings communities together and helps beautify neighborhoods.

The driving force behind Alex’s work is universally shared human emotion and motion; she continually seeks movement within her pieces. By combining patterns of gradients and perspective grids, Alex utilizes visual language to create one unique image. Alex’s intentionally minimalistic approach to design is carefully placed alongside futuristic color planes, leaving the viewer's eyes wandering. In both portrait painting and outdoor public art, Alex’s end goal is to evoke joy and inspiration, and to have the story of color take viewers to another world. 

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Ms. Yellow (Los Angeles, California)

2023 - Month TBD (seeking two to four artist assistants)
Instagram: @msyellowart

Ms.Yellow (Nuria Ortiz) is a self-taught Mexican-American muralist and teaching artist. She has dedicated her time to the creative development and empowerment of communities, working closely with schools, cities, community centers and others to develop workshops, murals, and mentorship to the youth.

Ms. Yellow has taught various art classes and created murals throughout the United States, Mexico, Haiti, Poland, Australia, Egypt, Japan, Spain and France centering on themes such as culture, folklore, sisterhood, education, unity, love and social justice. She has also partnered with various commercial organizations to create original artworks for Apple, Doritos, the NFL, LA Galaxy, Long Beach Airport, SoundCloud, Angel City FC, METRO, Women's Shelter of LB, El Paso Museum of Art, and the Museum of Latin American Art.

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Sophi Odling (Australia)

2023 - Month TBD (seeking two to four artist assistants)
Instagram: @sophiodling

Sophi Odling is an Australian artist who paints large-scale murals around the globe. Her colorful and vivid dreamscape works reflect the environment and cultures she encounters. Traveling the world, seeing the people, streets and way of life; these are her spectacles. Her work aims to encourage borderless thinking within our current global climate, celebrate the acceptance of cultural diversity and focus on the beautiful innocence of youth.

Born in 1983 in Seoul, South Korea, Sophi grew up in Sydney, Australia, where she currently lives and works. In 2005, Sophi completed her BFA at UNSW College of Fine Arts. In 2016, Sophi started painting murals after a 14-year career in fashion. Her murals can be seen across America, South East Asia, Central America and Australia, and has exhibited in Tokyo and Australia over the years.

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