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Meet the Artist: Salina Almanzar

On Thursday, October 26, 2017, the Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Pennsylvania will be held in Lancaster City. It is a great honor to be chosen to host the awards, and in celebration, the Lancaster arts community has rallied together to put on a week of events. Leading up to the week, we’ll be highlighting a handful of amazing individuals that make up the Lancaster arts community. Read on to find out more about local artist, Salina Almanzar.

How are you involved with the 2017 Governor’s Awards for the Arts?

I saw the announcement at the Fulton. My partner went and he live-streamed it. I was familiar with it and what the Awards were, and what the whole-statewide art program was. Then, at an Artist Mixer I learned ways to get involved and I knew I wanted to do a project of my own. So, I’m doing a series of story collecting days and photo-collecting days in the Southeast, in my old neighborhood. My partner is going to photograph folks who live there and I’m going to ask them what does it mean to live in the Southeast and how has your culture influenced Lancaster. Then, all that content will eventually be made into a mural that will be placed on CAP’s building, the Community Action Partnership. We’re going to paint the corner that’s on South Queen and Chesapeake.

I’m on the public art advisory board as well. Natalie Lascek, who is also on the board, and I are doing a public art tour. We’re asking everyone to dress in red so that becomes an element of public art.

I’m also helping Annie Kerekgyarto with “Untitled.”

What made you pursue art?

I took all the art classes I could in high school and then I was pre-med when I started F&M. But, I realized that I only like anatomy and not dead people and germs. So, I dropped that and I knew I was going to major in English. I took an art class because I thought I should go back to what I know and what I’m good at. When I realized, I could double major I decided to major in both English Literature and Studio Art.

Because it was Franklin & Marshall there were ways to make both majors play off each other. I took some theory classes that helped me think about how I wrote and my artwork, and how I was making art and that also influenced how I wrote. That was a lot of fun.

Tell me about a current project:

Besides the mural as part of the Governor’s Awards at CAP, I just finished a community art piece for the Fulton Theatre. We’re still working on how we’re going to do the signage for it. That’s on King Street.

A lot of the art work I do now focuses on what it means to be a Latina and what it means to be Puerto Rican or a multicultural Latina from the United States. I use data that I find or books that I find or even comic books, so anything that I’m reading and writing about will eventually become a part of my art.

I consider myself a DIY artist and a DIY activist. It’s all about identity and social justice and how arts can be the nice little package that it comes.

Are you a Lancaster native or transplant?

I was born in the Bronx and raised in Lancaster. I moved to Lancaster when I was ten or eleven in 2001 after 9/11. It hit close to home. I had come to Lancaster every summer to see family, so it wasn’t too big of a transition.

As the art scene in Lancaster continues to grow, what do you think lies ahead for art in Lancaster.

I love that it’s a bite-sized city. I like that the connections that you make last for a longtime. I live a few blocks from F&M, so that has been my backyard for a while. I like that everything feels so close and accessible. I think that’s very important especially as an artist that wants to work in community. I don’t want to enter space where I don’t know anyone and I plop my art down that doesn’t do or say anything. I need to make sure I’m building connections. If I’m making a public art piece, I should know the community it’s going into and humanize them.

As the art scene continues to grow in Lancaster what do you think lies ahead?

I think this is a big moment with the Governor’s Awards for the Arts. This is a moment where we can move from art as simply an aesthetic to art as a means of creating change. I’m so glad that Pepon Osorio is coming. He’s one of my favorite artists. So much of his what he does is sharing other people’s narratives – using his artwork to elevate their voice. A lot of the art on Gallery Row is good, but it’s not necessarily deep or doing work beyond looking nice, which is certainly a function of art and that’s fine. But, I’m excited to see, at least with our public art, how we push a little further. If Lancaster as a community is already this good in terms of art, it might be easy to push one step further.

Are you apart of any local groups or organizations?

I’ve been working with CAP a lot lately. I just helped organize a community clean up. It’s a grass roots, knocking on people’s doors and finding what they need event. That’s really important to me.

I’m on the community engagement committee for the Fulton Theatre, and the Public Art Advisory Board. I’m also running for School Board for the School District of Lancaster, and I’m working with Zoetropolis to organize a panel for the Dolores Huerta documentary. I do a lot of projects and collaborative work.

In what ways do you see art and community intersect in Lancaster?  

I would like to see it intersect more. The most recent public art project I’m super in love with is Béatrice Coron’s “Moving in the Right Direction,” the gate that’s right in front of King Elementary right where the community pool is. The way that they organized that project to me is the example of what community and art should be. She visited art classes and asked the students what they wanted and got their input. The kids drew pictures and she took some of the elements from them into the piece. On one of the gates is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. and on the other side is the quote in Spanish because she understood that if most of these kids are English as a second language learners then it would signal that they belong. I think that’s an example of us doing it right. I hope to see more of that. Being on the Board I feel like I can push that and people are very receptive.

Do you have any hobbies?

I like to play Minecraft. That’s my wind down activity. I also have gotten into comic books recently, mainly one’s with women of color in them, which Marvel has been doing a great job with. Usually if I’m stuck, I just pick up a camera. I blog as well, I have two blogs. I like to stay busy.

For more information about the 2017 Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Pennsylvania, go to www.pagovartslanc.com.

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