A local vacant storefront (416 State Street) was transformed into an exhibit about Erie’s newcomer communities. Preservation Erie is a local non-profit that strives to promote, preserve, and enhance the distinctive character of greater Erie through community-based planning, design, and historic preservation. They believe the built landscape of Erie and northwest Pennsylvania is a tangible expression of our richly layered social, cultural, and industrial history. Cultural preservation works in tandem with restoring and maintaining the natural and built environment. Collectively, they shape our collective regional identity and sense of place. They are partnering with the folk art program of the Erie Art Museum that has developed strong relationships with Erie’s resettled refugee community.
Erie’s is now home to over 10,000 resettled refugees. Erie has always been a city of immigrants, from the original Scots-Irish, English, and African American settlers through the waves of German, Irish, Italian, and Eastern Europeans. Today’s immigrants have fled war and persecution, lost family, homes, and professions. They are grateful to begin again in a new country and language, working hard, starting businesses, and encouraging their children to succeed. They bring cultural and economic vitality to our community.
The first two displays of this project showcase Iraqi and Bosnian objects, showing clothing, kitchen wares, and food, much of which can be purchased at Erie’s many refugee-owned markets. The display will run through March, and then a new exhibit that will showcase Erie’s African community will be installed, followed by a third exhibit about Erie’s Bhutanese and Syrian communities this spring.
Project Director Kelly Armor states, “Both Preservation Erie and the Erie Art Museum believe in celebrating Erie’s diverse cultures. This project allows former refugees to act as co-curators, and it promotes the refugee entrepreneurs that sell all manner of interesting housewares and cuisine. The former Army Surplus Store is a great location, and this display lights up a little bit of the downtown that otherwise would be dark.”
Iraqi designer Ghadeh Hussein, Bosnian artist Merjem Garic, project assistant and designer Cassandra Unger, and Kelly Armor finished the exhibit on Sunday, January 21, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.
For more information contact Kelly Armor, [email protected] or on her mobile phone, 814-602-0619.