The City of Lancaster and Church World Service (CWS) Lancaster’s Welcoming Mural Advisory Council have selected Claudia Rojas, a Cuban-born Lebanon-based artist, to lead the design and implementation of a mural that captures Lancaster’s spirit of welcoming.
Rojas migrated to the United States in 2015 and describes herself as a mixed media artist and illustrator. She has developed and taught an art program for unaccompanied migrant children and has worked on other community-based projects to establish spaces for inclusion and representation. Her work addresses migration, transculturation, community, and identity. She holds a BA in Social Communication from the University of Havana and completed a fellowship in Afro-Cuban art research at the University of Morelos in Mexico.
“Art, and especially the so visible and ever-present public art, is a call to identification, to articulating the richly colored tapestry of our community, where we are all intertwined, and we build something better than the sum of its parts,” states Rojas. “It is my intention to lift the voices of those who might have felt voiceless, as we show through art that everyone is indeed welcome, not despite of, but precisely because everyone is unique.”
Rojas will work with Project Manager Shauna Yorty, local veteran muralist and community advocate, to host community engagement opportunities to gather input from Lancaster refugees, immigrants, and long-time residents about what “Welcome” means to the community to inform the design. The first public engagement event will be held later this month and the second will take place during Open Streets on June 19.
The finished mural will be installed on the western wall of Ganse Apothecary, 355 W. King St., at the four-way intersection of Charlotte, Manor, Strawberry, and King Streets. With community volunteers, the painting of the mural will coincide with Welcoming Week, which runs from Sept. 10-19, when cities all over the country celebrate the crucial role they play in welcoming new neighbors.
The City’s Department of Neighborhood Engagement, in partnership with Church World Service (CWS) Lancaster, and Landis Homes were awarded funding to create a community-informed mural that captures Lancaster’s spirit of welcome and inclusiveness. For its entire history, Lancaster has provided safe haven to immigrants fleeing persecution and disasters across the world. From the Amish in the 18th century to Afghans this past summer, we’ve consistently heeded the call for welcome. During the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, the BBC named Lancaster “the Refugee Capital of the US” and the NY Times published a feature article about the ways immigrants have revitalized the social, cultural, and economic life of our area. Three years ago, Lancaster became the first city in Pennsylvania and just the 12th city in the country to become a Certified Welcoming City.
Funding for the mural was generously provided by the City of Lancaster, Lancaster County Community Foundation, Landis Homes and Penn Square Rotary Club. Two Dudes Painting in Cabbage Hill will provide materials.