Erie is not the first city to host a street art festival. The event is modeled after similar events from throughout the world, including Bright Walls (Jackson, Indiana), Blink (Cincinnati, Ohio), DC Walls (Washington, DC), Artscape (Sweden), and Upfest (United Kingdom). To successfully plan and execute the festival, Erie Arts & Culture has partnered with a number of collaborating organizations and groups, including 1020 Collective, Grounded Print + Paper Studio, City Gallery, the Kings Rook Club, the Bencher’s Union, Erie Downtown Partnership, and others. Each participating partner will host events or exhibitions during the festival that directly relate to and demonstrate urban arts and culture. Confirmed events include several hip-hop showcases, a visual exhibition of sneakers featuring collections from local sneakerheads, and a vendor market of streetwear brands from throughout Erie, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Cleveland.
Views is also when Erie Arts & Culture will resume the work associated with Purposeful Placemaking, a large-scale mural initiative that called for 50 murals to be created in 2022 and 2023 - all along the United Way of Greater Erie’s identified safer walking routes to schools. 13 murals were created last year and 37 murals are slated to be created during the summer 2023 festival. Confirmed visiting muralists for 2023 include BKFoxx (New York, New York) Mz. Icar (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Sophi Odling (Australia), Jeremy Biggers (Dallas, Texas), AI Grime (Denver, Colorado), Said Dokins (Mexico), Dustin Harewood (Jacksonville, Florida), Wesley Van Eeden (South Africa), Betsy Z Casanas (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), and Stevie Shao (Seattle, Washington). Artists from the Erie region who are presently confirmed to design and create murals include Raina Harden, Precious Thompson, Joel Brennan, Angie Jennings, Jessica Borchart, Ileecia Moffatt, Sarah Howard, and Ashley Pastore. Erie Arts & Culture is in the process of confirming additional lead artists, as well as artist assistants.
By concentrating the creation of the remaining Purposeful Placemaking murals during the festival, community members and visitors will have the opportunity to see the visual landscape of Erie transformed in a two week time period and have the pleasure of watching artists at work. The murals created will reflect a range of processes and styles, including photorealistic, illustrative, abstract, and word-based art. The objective is to create museum and gallery quality work that is accessible in the public realm and at the street level.
With Patrick Fisher departing as Executive Director of Erie Arts & Culture at the end of April, the agency has executed contracts with several community members to help ensure the success of Views and Purposeful Placemaking. First, Retina Mitchell has been named Project Manager of Purposeful Placemaking. Retina is relatively new to Northwestern Pennsylvania and moved here from Philadelphia, where she worked for the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program for five years. Additionally, a contract has been executed with Tom Ferraro, one of Erie’s most seasoned muralists. Tom will serve as a mentor to emerging muralists participating in the 2023 initiative. In that role, he will be a soundboard as artists generate their mural concepts and designs. Lastly, Joey Evans has been extended a contract to serve as the Producer of Views. Previously, Joey served as the Program Director of the YMCA Teen Center. Joey is also a hip hop artist who has recorded and toured under the moniker Shai Boogie.
Views will also see the return of the Bencher’s Union, a once annual showcase of street art and hip hop. In years past, the initiative centered around the railroad overpasses that stretch across State Street, Peach Street, and Sassafras Street. Having been on hiatus since 2013, the Bencher’s Union resurgence in 2023 will focus on creating commercial murals throughout Downtown Erie’s alleyways. A similar initiative can be found in Milwaukee, Wisconsin through Black Cat Alley, an outdoor gallery that focuses efforts on creating works on privately owned walls located in alleyways.
The timing of Views is also appropriate, as 2023 is the 50th anniversary of hip hop. This inaugural festival will serve Erie in being part of a larger national and international conversation regarding hip hop’s place in popular culture.
With planning for Views and Purposeful Placemaking underway, Erie Arts & Culture would like to recognize our key funders and sponsors. At the Platinum level we would like to acknowledge the City of Erie, Erie Insurance, and the Erie Community Foundation. At the Silver level we would like to acknowledge Scott Enterprises, who has signed on as our hospitality sponsor and is providing lodging accommodations to our visiting muralists. At the Bronze level we would like to acknowledge Tim and Lisa NeCastro, Robin Scheppner, the Zaphiris Family Limited Partnership, Tom Hagen, Gene Davis Sales & Service, and Doug and Deb Murphy.
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