LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — The City of Lancaster’s Department of Neighborhood Engagement and Church World Service Lancaster are looking for an immigrant or refugee artist or artist team to help create a mural representing Lancaster’s history as a welcoming and inclusive city.

Lancaster has been designated a Certified Welcoming city for the past three years, and it was the first city in Pennsylvania to receive the designation, noted Gabrielle Buzgo, program manager with the city’s Department of Neighborhood Engagement. This means the city has “policies and programs in place that empower and support immigrants and refugees,” Buzgo explained.

Although the design won’t be finalized until the artist or artists are selected, the Welcoming Mural will reflect that part of Lancaster’s story.

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“We are looking for an artist who can speak to the experience of being a refugee or immigrant in Lancaster or South Central Pennsylvania,” Buzgo said. “We’re really looking for someone who has the story and the ability to turn that story into a visual piece.”

The City of Lancaster is currently accepting artists’ applications for the project. As language barriers may be a challenge for prospective artists, the application has been translated into Spanish, Arabic, Swahili, and Nepali in addition to English.

Artists who apply do not have to have experience working with murals, they just need to have a creative vision and artistic skills. The selected artist or artist team will work with experienced local muralist Shauna Yorty throughout the process of developing and producing the artwork.

Planning for the project began several years ago before the COVID-19 pandemic, Buzgo explained, but the pandemic stalled the effort temporarily. Along with creating the mural, the project also involves a significant community engagement component — something difficult to achieve when people couldn’t gather in person.

There will be at least two community engagement workshops, Buzgo said, during which residents will talk with the artists to share stories and thoughts about the artwork. There will be translators present at those workshops as needed, Buzgo noted, and the meetings will help community members and the artists connect.

After a design is developed, there will be community installation days. “So it won’t even just be the artist painting on the wall, we’re going to have the opportunity for community members to join this individual in making this mural a huge success,” Buzgo said.

The mural will go on the wall of Ganse Apothecary in the Southwest of the city. The recently refurbished building is “quite literally the perfect blank canvas,” Buzgo said. The location was also selected because the Southwest area of Lancaster City is home to many immigrant and refugee residents as well as community spaces that serve them.

Installation of the mural is expected to be completed or nearly completed by Welcoming Week, which is Sept. 9-18 this year and is a national initiative to celebrate refugees being welcomed into the United States, Buzgo explained.

The deadline for artists to apply for this project is April 25. There is an application workshop on April 14 at 7:30 p.m. The application can be found online here. Those interested in applying, scheduling a recorded interview with Shauna Yorty, or attending the application workshop can contact Yorty at slymadcow@msn.com.