As of Saturday, Ithacans will be met with something more colorful than a blank wall when they park in the Commons — a brand new mural, aiming to bring unity to the community.
Members of the Ithaca community celebrated Saturday morning the unveiling of this mural, a “hidden treasure that we can all be so proud of,” said JoAnn Cornish, director of planning and development for the City of Ithaca.
This mural, designed by local artist Lachlan Chambliss, is now featured in the Green Street parking garage in the Commons.
The mural highlights the Islamic community in Ithaca and the broader Finger Lakes region.
The mural “incorporates principles underlying some aspects of Islamic philosophy yet represents universal themes such as charity, with different architectural elements from cultures influenced by Islam,” Chambliss said.
The ultimate aim, he said, is to “encourage a diversity of thought and strengthen community relationships.” The mural, named “Portals to Peace,” depicts five doorways, each showing a different scene on the journey to peace.
On the theme of community unity, many of those in attendance had contributed to the mural themselves. In fact, nearly 200 Ithaca residents pitched in to help with the mural, according to an Ithaca mural coordinator Caleb Thomas.
When Thomas asked the crowd for a show of hands of who contributed, hands shot up from almost half the crowd.
For project coordinator Nagiane Lacka Arriaza, such generosity was a sign that “our community really does support us.”
The significance of the mural seemed to resonate with many others in attendance.
“In this day and age when so much is going on in our country [and] in our world, where peace is being interrupted, where harmony and unity is being interrupted in ways that are ugly, symbols of peace mean so much,” said Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, deputy director of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center.
In an interview with The Sun, Arriaza compared the mural to a “giant welcome sign.”
“As the climate in the U.S. has been a little bit unfriendly, to say the least, towards Muslims and our culture in the media is usually negative, we wanted to reassure the Muslim community here that they are in fact welcome,” Arriaza said.
“And that’s why we wanted so many people involved so that across cultures, across faiths, across beliefs, people could say, ‘Yes, we are in fact one,’” she said.