LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — The Seed Project, a five-year initiative to foster relationships among artists and creatives in Southeast Lancaster City, launches this month. It centers on BIPOC artists from the area.
“I think at the root of it is this genuine question of, ‘What is the role of art in the broader ecosystem that is a community?'” says Josh Graupera, one of the initiators of the Seed Project.
The project is funded by grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and Wells Fargo, and it is initiated and facilitated by Lancaster City natives Graupera and Salina Almanzar. Graupera explains that they began developing the initiative in February 2020, but then COVID-19 temporarily stalled their work.
Now they are ready to begin the first year of the program. “Year one is really emergent conversation and learning-circle-based workshops, thinking about just taking the pulse of the community, figuring out what need looks like, especially in the thick of COVID,” says Almanzar.
“There’s no roadmap for a project like this,” says Graupera, “but I know as long as we’re centering relationships and trying to work with each other…it’ll be great.”
One main goal of the project is to build connections and support networks among artists in Southeast Lancaster City. Graupera explains that he and Almanzar spent a lot of time developing a relationship beyond their shared backgrounds — artists of color from Southeast Lancaster City — and they hope this project will help others do the same.
Another major goal of the initiative is to support BIPOC artists and creatives.
“There’s still a lot of progress to be made in terms of diversity and inclusion broadly speaking in the art world…but then at the same time, especially in Lancaster,” says Almanzar. “We see it on Gallery Row. We see that we only remember African Americans when it’s Black History Month. We only remember Latinx folks when it’s — if people know about — Hispanic Heritage Month.”
Almanzar notes that often people from outside the Southeast Lancaster City community will come to the area to complete a project and then leave. “It’s not necessarily bad, but it also is another layer of sort of muffling the voices of folks that are already in the Southeast,” she says.
The Seed Project hopes to help change that. “We can’t move forward or actually make spaces for us unless we literally make spaces for us like this,” says Almanzar.
Although COVID-19 temporarily impeded the project, Almanzar says that it also revealed accessibility challenges the initiative can overcome with technology that many have learned to use since in-person gatherings have been restricted.
They will be holding several virtual workshops throughout the year, the first of which will be a panel on “Artists of Color Working in Communities” on Feb. 11. Those interested in joining the Zoom conversation can email firstname.lastname@example.org. The workshops will be translated into Spanish and ASL, and there will be publications released along with them.
Almanzar and Graupera will also be installing a temporary mural in Plaza Centro as well as a mural in Beaver Street Park, which is still under construction. “Thinking about the accessibility thing, not everyone’s going to be able to attend the workshops, not everybody’s going to read a publication, but somebody might see the mural,” says Almanzar.
Almanzar says she hopes that the Seed Project is able to maintain elements of both virtual gatherings as well as in-person events, rather than trying to get back to the “old normal” when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.