Arts and culture are integral to our region. Diverse and unique offerings — museums, theaters and programs — enrich the community and make it a more attractive place to live, work and do business. Here, Amanda Brown Sissem, executive director of Erie Arts & Culture, provides an overview of the organization and how its Art & Industry Project is bringing together employers and educators to create art and educate students and the community about the history and importance of manufacturing.
The mission of Erie Arts & Culture is to strengthen the vibrancy and vitality of the Erie region and enrich the lives of our people through the advancement of arts and culture. We were established as the Arts Council of Erie in 1960 and rebranded as Erie Arts & Culture in 2014.
What are the types of programs and resources that Erie Arts & Culture supports?
2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Arts & Culture Campaign, a collaborative fundraising effort that supports the Erie Playhouse, Erie Philharmonic, expERIEnce Children’s Museum, Erie Art Museum, Erie Maritime Museum/Flagship Niagara, Historical Society of Erie County, Lake Erie Ballet, and Dafmark Dance Theater. Additionally, Campaign dollars are coupled with revenue from the Erie Arts Endowment to support project grants in Erie County. We also help leverage special grants from the state for arts education and administer the state’s grant program.
One particular program that has received a lot of attention is the Art & Industry Project. Tell us about the program and its purpose.
The project is part of our Arts Education artist residency program and convenes area manufacturers, faculty and students from Erie County Technical School and Teaching Artists. It is one part pipeline development, sharing trends and career benefits within the sector and reinforcing the soft and hard skills students need to excel. It’s also a history project, showcasing the stories and products created locally. Finally, it’s a creative process, leading students through the design, fabrication and installation of public art.
Funding to begin this project came from a National Endowment for the Arts ArtWorks Grant, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the United Way of Erie County, Erie Arts & Culture, and Education Improvement Tax Credit (E.I.T.C.) dollars donated by local businesses.
Tell us more about each of the pieces that have been unveiled so far.
A mural two stories tall and titled ‘Setting the Stage for Erie’s Future,’ adorns the east wall of the Erie Playhouse’s Rehearsal Hall and Scenic Shop, 1158 East 12th Street, the building that once housed Coyne Laundry. This student-led design focuses on how industry fueled the development of the city and the connection to our arts sector.
The sculpture, ‘Fruits of Labor’ rests at 13th and Holland on the lot owned by Rick Griffith Properties and focuses on the role of labor in transforming our society from agriculture to industrialism. Artists Tom Ferraro, Ed Grout, Ron Bayuzick, Barbara Crone and Kathe Umlauf, as well as ECTS faculty and students and local Educatesmanufacturers, including Gene Davis Sales and Service, Erie Concrete & Steel Supply, Samuel, Son & Co., and Industrial Sales & Manufacturing collaborated to fabricate the piece.
What’s next for the Art & Industry Project?
A third artwork will be installed the rail bridge remnant located near Greengarden Boulevard and West 12th Street. The remnant is an important reminder of Erie’s push toward progress. It sits at the crossroads of our history and our future. Manufacturing continues to represent a significant portion of the region’s economy, but it is evolving. Art processes and products are providing the tools to understand and celebrate this evolution together.
How can companies get involved?
With the third piece just in the planning stages, we are looking for financial and in-kind product support from local manufacturers, as well as partners to share stories, products, expertise and connections. Interested companies should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 814/452-3427 Ext.105.