New Mural Celebrates Cultural Collaboration
Please join us for a socially-distanced ribbon cutting ceremony!
Ali Alnashmi, an Erie-based fine artist from Iraq, created a window treatment mural at the UK Supermarket. The market, located at 1105 Parade Street, has a primary customer base of New Americans from Nepal and Bhutan. This is the second in a series of three placemaking and capacity building projects where Erie Arts & Culture worked with New American artists to improve the exterior facades of ethnic markets located within the City of Erie. This project also supports the City of Erie’s efforts to become a certified Welcoming City through Welcoming America, a national organization that provides the roadmap and support for cities to become more inclusive toward immigrants and all residents.
Ali Alnashmi grew up in Iraq and earned a fine art degree from the University of Baghdad. Because of war and instability, he fled with his family to Lebanon. Living in exile was very difficult as the Lebanese government prevented refugees from most employment opportunities. Ali persevered and was able to feed his family by opening a gallery where he sold his original art.
Ali resettled his family to Erie in 2009. Since settling, he has painted facades for small businesses in Erie, one such example is the interior facade of Habibi Mediterranean Cuisine (127 W 14th Street). Ali has exhibited his paintings at Gannon’s Schuster Gallery, Celebrate Erie, and the Barber National Institute.
As part of a grant from the Doris Duke Foundation, Ali seized the opportunity to work with a local market to beautify its exterior facade. Ali approached Pradip Upreti, the owner of UK Supermarket (1105 Parade Street), to see if Pradip would be interested in receiving facade improvements in the form of public art. Pradip happily agreed, and together he and Ali developed a concept to fill the windows on the north side of the building.
Ali created a large, four-panel work that honors Erie’s Iraqi, African, and Nepali-Bhutanese women. Ali took Pradip’s suggestion to include a well known religious site in Kathmandu, the Swayambhunath. Pradip speaks highly of Ali’s painting, “This art is amazing. It is a wall of cultures. For Hindus and Buddhists, who are the majority of my customers, it is wonderful to show the Kathmandu temple. It says so much without needing words. The City of Erie has many diverse cultures and religions. I like that anyone can learn something from this mural about Erie’s cultures.
Ali Alnashmi explains, “To be honest, the first year, when I came to the United States and I saw Erie, I wanted to make art on all the buildings! This project feels good. I wanted to make something good for the store and the city. I mix two ideas in this piece. The first idea is to introduce women, because they give life. They give their life to kids, they protect the family, they give love. The second idea is to make a connection between African, Arab, and Indian cultures. This also makes a relationship between them and the Erie community. I also wanted it to be colorful. It is a simple design but I think it shows a big meaning.”
Erie Arts & Culture commends Ali for his beautifully rendered mural and thanks Pradip for his willingness to host a work of public art on Erie’s historic east side.