Let Amara Inspire You!

June 21st, 2011

Email This Blog Post Email This Blog Post Filed under: New Village Commons— Laura Leone @ 11:57 am

Amara GeffenAmara Geffen is an exceptional woman who deserves recognition for her inspiring community work. A celebrated artist in her own right, Amara serves as a professor of art at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where she has been teaching “Art & the Environment” and much more since 1982. Amara recognized the important link between art and the environment, and twelve years ago became involved in the creation of an interdisciplinary studies program to provide service-learning opportunities for students in the local community that promote sustainability. This program became the Center for Environmental and Economic Development (CEED) and Amara not only serves as the directbuilding the Fenceor of CEED, but is also the project director of the Arts & Environment Initiative within it.

Amara understands that public art beautifies the environment and promotes revitalization, and her many successful CEED projects have thus identified the environment as an important tool for community development. One locally celebrated and nationally recognized project has been Read Between the Signs. Initiated in 2002 by Amara, this public art project is a continually growing sculptural “fence” of discarded road signs. It is not only a magnificent work of art that recycles old, abandoned highway signage, but it also incorporates solar- and wind-powered kinetic components including a motorized Ferris wheel and a series of fish that ‘jump’ out of a stream!

Depicting local sites aFence buildingnd people, the unique “fence” beautifies the Route 322 gateway to Meadville while covering a chain-link fence and hiding an unsightly storage lot. It has since become a landmark for the community and today visitors stop along the roadside to get a better look at what is locally known as “The Fence.” Amara works together with Allegheny College students, local high school students, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in the creation of the Fence and without the help and support of the local community the project would not have been possible. To get a full view of the Fence, click here.

Amara explains that the project “celebrates our community and the landscape and environment that both surrounds and contains us, and defines who we are. The possibilities are limitless and the work that results will depend largely on who are partners are, and those in the community who take the time to bring us their ideas.” If you are interested in learning more about the project and its construction, be sure to watch the two informative and inspiring videos that are available for download on the Read Between the Signs homepage
Shadybrook Park Event Poster

Amara and the community will be celebrating another successful CEED project—the revitalization of Shadybrook Park—at a free public arts event in Meadville this coming Saturday, June 25. The project was initiated in 2007 with the goal of transforming the Shadybrook Park recreational area into a green space with improved access to Mill Run, a historically important urban stream that runs through Meadville. The project included a sculptural stormwater filtration system to improve water quality, stream bank stabilization, landscaping, public art installations, and improved accessibility. It is just one of the inspiring examples of how CEED’s more than seventeen annual projects bring college and community groups together to create something beautiful for everyone to enjoy. The Shadybrook Park project was led by CEED and the City of Meadville in partnership with local schools, and supported by federal and state funding.

The event will feature live performances by local musicians, a dance troupe, and a puppet show. A Global Water Dance will be performed in celebration of World Water Day, an international event that honors all water resources and promotes the availability of safe drinking water. The park rededication ceremony will also invite the public to take part in a community signature mural on the park’s spillway, further linking the project with the local community.

For more information about the event click here.

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One Response to “Let Amara Inspire You!”

  1. Wonderful to see Amara’s dedicated efforts appear on the NVP blog. And it is so true the Amara’s work inspires (as well as calms the cynics in a room) others to creatively engage communities. How do we help get the word up and out into a broader marketplace of ideas?

    Keep after it Amara! Wish I could join you at the opening of the Shadybrook project. Eager to see photos — please post them on this site if you can.


    Comment by Stephen Goldsmith — June 21, 2011 @ 12:54 pm

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