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United Way of Lancaster County


‘Shaping Tomorrow’ forum explores strengths, challenges of Lancaster’s artistic community

Poet Evita Colon, right, makes a point as Rufus Deakin looks on during a “Shaping Tomorrow” forum on creative expression at the S. Dale High Leadership Center on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

When it comes to art and culture in Lancaster, “the volume has definitely been turned up,” Marquis Lupton said.

Lupton, who hosts WITF’s public affairs show “The Spark,” served as emcee Thursday evening for a forum on Creative Expression, the first of four “community conversations” the Lancaster County Community Foundation is hosting in conjunction with its “Shaping Tomorrow” grant awards.

Fielding Lupton’s questions were four local panelists: Poet Evita Colon; West Art Community Center co-founder Rufus Deakin; musician and artist Terian Mack; and Ed Harris, president of Discover Lancaster, the county’s official tourism marketing organization.

Terian Mack, left, and Ed Harris.

“Arts and culture are the heartbeat of any destination,” Harris said, and the vibrancy and diversity of Lancaster County’s offerings are tremendous.

Colon is Lancaster’s first poet laureate; she is the founder of Speak to My Soul and co-founder of A Concrete Rose Bookbar. Lupton asked her about her creative process; and whether she ever suffers from imposter syndrome.

“Often,” Colon said, but “I don’t allow things to stop me.” When she brought up the issue with her therapist, she said, the response was empowering: “You aren’t invited to any room you’re not supposed to be in.”

As for her process, it’s experimental and entrepreneurial, she said. One of her mantras is “fail forward”: Not everything works, but you always learn something and gain muscle memory.

Hear the discussion

To hear Marquis Lupton’s conversation with Evita Colon, Rufus Deakin, Terian Mack and Ed Harris, tune into WITF’s community affairs program, “The Spark,” on Friday, April 26.

The show runs from 12 noon to 1 p.m.; the conversation will be featured during the second half, beginning around 12:30 p.m.

Deakin said he and his business partner, Josh Gribbel, experience imposter syndrome every day: They’ve never undertaken a project like West Art, and they’re figuring it out on the fly.

The two men were convinced from the start that there was a need in Lancaster the kind of communal artistic space that West Art aims to be. Deakin said their work to bring it to live over the past year has taught him “how important creative expression is to community and to building community.”

Marquis Lupton

The duo are working toward a mix of businesses and shows at West Art that will allow them to offer low-cost studio space. That’s a resource that’s becoming scarcer as rents rise. It’s one that’s essential for artists, whose work pays the bills but who may not have anywhere suitable to set up at home, Mack said.

Mack has been making music aimed at young people and has performed at local schools. He agreed with Lupton that shaping the rising generation is a deep responsibility and one he takes seriously. He’s also a muralist: He said it makes him self-critical when he sees people taking in one of his murals; but at the same time, “It’s probably the most fulfilling thing.”

The panelists encouraged the audience and the community at large to patronize local artists and venues and to share information and recommendations with friends and on social media. As for would-be donors and philanthropic organizations, simplifying grant applications would help, Mack said: “If y’all have money for us, make it a little easier!”

Shaping Tomorrow

The Community Foundation partnered on Thursday’s forum with the High Foundation, which hosted it at its headquarters, the S. Dale High Leadership Center in Greenfield. The event will be followed by three more, on Wellbeing & Vibrancy, Next Generation and Our Planet.

The four conversations explore the four categories of award in the Community Foundation’s “Shaping Tomorrow” grant initiative, through which the foundation is distributing more than $1 million in celebration of its 100th anniversary.

The Creative Expression awards were announced last month at a reception at Rock Lititz. The Wellbeing & Vibrancy awards will be announced Saturday at a wellness fair in Buchanan Park; the corresponding Community Conversation will take place on Thursday, May 16.

Events around the remaining two categories will take place this fall.