Photos by Espinal Creative
Public artist Liz Lamanche has led a team of collaborating local artists o create new installation called “Unity Path,” on Salem’s Artists’ Row inspired by Salem’s diverse history and cultural identity which includes Latinx, African American, Indigenous, Middle Eastern, Albanian, Brazilian, Dominican, Afrohispanic, Afro-Caribbean, Puerto Rican, South Asian, and European cultures.
To celebrate the (safe) reopening of Salem’s Artists’ Row for the 2020 summer season, lead artist Liz LaManche and a team of community members filled the block with a series of decorative ground and wall art murals signifying inclusion and welcome. The design of Unity Path uses whimsical, vibrant colors with core elements from a diverse array of communities and cultures represented in today’s Salem, blended in with gorgeous mandalas and scattered decorative features to draw visitors in and encourage them to explore and enjoy this place together.
“The initial goal of the project was to include and represent the culture of at least the top five most spoken languages here in Salem in 2020 when this project was initiated. Through a robust community input design and implementation process the project grew to include so much more.”
The theme of the mandala as a central focus was chosen to unify symbols from different places: Mandalas are radially balanced symmetrical configurations of symbols, containing a circle with a center point. In various spiritual traditions, they may represent the cosmos, a unified whole or the home of a deity, and may be a focus for meditation. The concept is original to Hinduism and Buddhism of South Asia and Asia, which were in contact with Salem through a long trading history. In modern times the mandala concept has been incorporated into Western thought, especially as a focus for meditation and symbol of enlightenment.
“There are of course so many cultures making up who we are today, that we could never include them all. However, the team is hopeful that with the presence of so many different elements from a wide array of cultures, that ALL who enter the space will feel included and welcome. Unity Path’s ultimate goal is to create a fun & vibrant space that showcases Salem’s seafaring history and celebrates its creative, diverse, welcoming present.”
The team behind the installation included Black Artist/Educator/Activist Keshia DeLeon, Puerto Rican Designer Eileen Riestra of Depict Brands, Latinx Mural Artist Miguel Cruz, Black Photographer Stephanie “Espy” Espinal, and Brazilian/American Visual Artist Julia Csekö.