Shasti O’Leary Soudant and Esther Ortiz

Friday Feb 28th, 2020

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As part of our Creating with Community Artist Residency Program, two new public sculptures will be installed in Erie’s urban core - one sculpture on the west side of Erie, and the second on the east side. As a community member you can help us “shape” the sculptures by providing feedback on the location and design process of the sculptures by joining us tomorrow, February 29 at our west side or east side listening sessions. Enjoy complementary snacks and refreshments, meet our two commissioned artists, and share your feedback.

West side: Sat, February 29, 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM  | Erie Rise Leadership Academy

East side: Sat, February 29, 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM  | Booker T Washington Center

For those planning on attending, please think about what "The Pursuit of Happiness" means as a central tenet of the American experience. Shasti O'Leary Soudant, the lead artist on the project, stated, "I believe strongly in ensuring my work offers opportunities for delight, but the precipitating conditions for delight vary greatly among different cultures. How do we hone in on something that is capable of generating feeling of delight and happiness for  most people? This isn’t about a search for a lowest common denominator, but about the commonality of the search for happiness itself."

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About the artists:

Shasti O’Leary Soudant | Lead Artist

Shasti O’Leary Soudant attended School of Visual Arts, New York, NY, received her BFA with honors in Sculpture and Photography from Purchase College, State University of New York and completed her MFA in Visual Studies at the University at Buffalo.

Shasti is a transdisciplinary artist, designer, and writer. In her art practice, she uses a wide range of media and material to create immersive experiences that concern perspective, hidden forces, randomness, iterative systems and transformation, in an attempt to initiate meaningful engagements with the public.

She has designed and/or illustrated book covers for some of the world’s best-selling authors, including James Patterson, Caleb Carr, Mary Higgins Clark, Patricia Cornwell, Dan Brown, Nelson DeMille, Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, E.L. Doctorow, Marisha Pessl, Anna Quindlen, Gore Vidal, Walter Mosley, and Sandra Brown, among others.

Her work is in the collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and she has been commissioned to create public art by the City of Toronto, the Savarino Companies, The Albright-Knox Public Art Initiative in partnership with the NFTA, the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the City of Jacksonville, Florida.


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Rigidized® Powder-coated stainless steel
NFTA’s Allen/Medical Campus Station
University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Esther Ortiz | Associate Artist

Esther was born in Fresnillo Zacatecas Mexico and spent most of her adolescence in California with her parents and eight sisters. Her passion for art developed at a young age and later became an outlet for her love of crafts. Esther was heavily influenced by her large family and often constructed gift boxes and other types of crafts to occupy her younger sisters and herself. Coming from a large family, she lived modestly but did not let that limit her art; instead she chose to thrive from the lack of materials readily available to her. 

Today, Esther is the founder and sole creator of her pinata shop. Esther combines many mediums into her current work, working away for hours on any one of her creations. Esther’s love of family that led her as a child to care for her sisters has grown into a passion for making others happy through her art. She gets her greatest satisfaction from the impact her art has on the people who experience it. 

 “I began creating piñatas after being inspired from a trip I took to Colorado. In Colorado there is a large population of Mexican Americans who brought with them a lot of their culture. I saw a wide variety of piñatas hanging on display and that’s when it struck me to make one myself.”

“Creating piñatas is not just about how they look and what you see; it has come to mean so much more to my life,” Esther said. “To me piñatas signify innovation and celebration. What I try to express through my work is creativity, but most importantly, that there are no limits when you have a will to create something. My piñatas have come to represent independence and courage to try new things.”

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