Mill Creek Watershed Project
Environmental Artist Angelo Ciotti
The outdoor classroom at the Multicultural Community Resource Center (MCRC—originally the Hispanic American Council), 554 E. 10th Street, in Erie, Pa. is the second major project commissioned by the Erie Art Museum from environmental artist Angelo Ciotti. Like his previous project – the accessible wetlands observation platform known as The Feather at Presque Isle State Park – the outdoor classroom was created through a uniquely inclusive process. In this work, Ciotti again pulled the content from the people who comprise its audience. Through public meetings and work sessions, he employed his unique ability to engage locals in helping him design the artwork, and these same people assisted in the labor for its construction, and provided most of the materials from which it was built.
“My inspiration for the Mill Creek Watershed Project came from the spirit of the stream. It is inspiring to watch its flow through the forest and parks into the drastic transformation of a concrete tunnel moving under the city of Erie to the bay. The key to this project was collaboration: the Erie Art Museum; the City of Erie Public Works; the Hispanic American Council; refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Bosnia and South East Asia; Lake Erie Region Conservancy, Mercyhurst College; and the neighborhood community,” said Ciotti. “Our goal was to pay homage to the Mill Creek Watershed by creating pragmatic art as a parklet of granite. This project was also created to give environmental art meaning through public involvement.”
The result is an oasis on a street corner, a restful and eye pleasing little park constructed of natural and recycled materials. The MCRC is a logical site for this public artwork. An organization which serves refugees and immigrants, it is also an anchor for its neighborhood. It provides a facility for neighborhood meetings and advocates for neighborhood improvements. And the MCRC embraces art: Art as a communication tool that transcends language. Art as a celebration of the invigorating dichotomy of diversity, demonstrating simultaneously our similarities and our differences. Art which, like Ciotti’s, connects people with their environment, both natural and manmade, and makes all of us feel hopeful about our city, our society, our culture.
“This project has been a labor of love by our students and staff, and it has come to symbolize a new day filled with hope for our neighbors and friends on the lower east side of Erie,” said MCRC director Joel Tuzynski. “Hope, carved in granite in 11 different languages, is meant to remind us of the similarities of our needs and the universality of our dreams.”