"We the People"
A vibrant new work of public art entitled We The People will be dedicated today in the West Bayfront. The artwork is located in a green space adjacent to the Bayfront Mini-Mall at West Fourth and Cherry streets, which has been refreshed and renamed “People’s Park.” Due to COVID-19 precautions, participants are asked to watch the event via Facebook livestream at @ourwestbayfront.
The artwork, by local artists Alex Anthes and Fredy Huaman Mallqui, features portraits of 50 residents of the West Bayfront community etched into wood panels and installed along a brightly painted fence. The work also includes reflections from community members from earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This collaborative public artwork was inspired by a series of interviews, written responses, and interactions that took place in the West Bayfront neighborhood over the course of several months. Although only 50 individuals are displayed on this fencing, their presence is meant to represent a fraction of the diverse people (and archetypes) that make up the community,” Anthes said.
Anthes and Mallqui were paired with Our West Bayfront as part of Erie Arts and Culture’s Creating with Community program. Through this program, the artists worked with Our West Bayfront, along with members of the West Bayfront Neighborhood Watch and the Erie MLK Center, which owns the property, to develop the piece.
“It is a project full of emotions: uncertainty, loss of loved ones, always hope, joys, and maybe looking for answers in the eyes of the people portrayed, and the answer is always there. The work is dedicated to them, ‘We The People,’” Mallqui said.
The artwork is the featured component in an overhaul of an under-utilized green space adjacent to the Bayfront Mini-Mall at West Fourth and Cherry streets, which is owned by Bayfront NATO/Erie MLK Center. In addition to new fencing, improvements include new seating and a patio, newly planted trees, and security cameras.
James Sherrod, executive director of the Erie Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, said, “We are impressed with what partnering with Our West Bayfront, residents, and artists from our community can accomplish when we all work together. This is truly “The People’s Park.”
The project was made possible thanks to contributions from several programs and local organizations. The lot improvements and materials used in the public artwork were funded by the UPMC Health Plan through its support of the Erie Neighborhood Growth Partnership’s Vacant Lot Improvement Program. Erie Arts and Culture’s Creating with Community program is funded by Erie Insurance. Both programs are supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development's Neighborhood Assistance Program.
Additional partners include Strongman Services, Dahlkemper Landscape Architecture and Construction, Gannon University, and numerous volunteers from the community.
About Our West Bayfront:
Our West Bayfront is a citizen-led neighborhood improvement organization dedicated to the revitalization of Erie's west bayfront neighborhoods. OWB seeks to improve quality of life in the West Bayfront by promoting civic involvement, thoughtful development, historical preservation and neighborhood pride. OWB was created in 2014 by residents and community partners from Erie’s West Bayfront neighborhoods with support provided by Gannon University. The 843-acre area served by OWB is bounded by the Bayfront Connector to the west, West 12th Street to the south, Sassafras Street to the east and Presque Isle Bay to the north, and is home to more than 13,000 residents.