To celebrate the (safe) reopening of Salem’s Artists’ Row for the 2020 summer season, lead artist Liz LaManche and a team of community members filled the block with a series of decorative ground and wall art murals signifying inclusion and welcome. The design of Unity Path uses whimsical, vibrant colors with core elements from a diverse array of communities and cultures represented in today’s Salem, blended in with gorgeous mandalas and scattered decorative features to draw visitors in and encourage them to explore and enjoy this place together.

Listen to a great interview with contributing artist Stephanie Espinal on “The Chaos Within”, podcast produced by Creative North Shore. (The Chaos Within – Stop and Look with Espy, Episode 22, July 29, 2020)

See article on Creative North Shore, 7/10/20: “Despite Delays, Unique Challenges – Artists’ Row 2020 Residents Excited to Reopen” -by Joey Phoenix

The installation unites the input and work of a multicultural group of area artists, sharing ideas and symbolic language from the range of cultures represented in Salem today, including: Latinx, African American, Indigenous, Middle Eastern, Albanian, Brazilian, Dominican, Afrohispanic, Afro-Caribbean, Puerto Rican, South Asian, and European.

North side of Artists Row seen from Derby Square. Yellow shape is an African Adinkra sylbol signifying unity and understanding, purple flower is inspired by Albanian folk art.

“The initial goal of the project was to include and represent the culture of at least the top five most spoken languages here in Salem in 2020 when this project was initiated. Through a robust community input design and implementation process the project grew to include so much more.”

The theme of the mandala as a central focus was chosen to unify symbols from different places: Mandalas are radially balanced symmetrical configurations of symbols, containing a circle with a center point. In various spiritual traditions, they may represent the cosmos, a unified whole or the home of a deity, and may be a focus for meditation. The concept is original to Hinduism and Buddhism of South Asia and Asia, which were in contact with Salem through a long trading history. In modern times the mandala concept has been incorporated into Western thought, especially as a focus for meditation and symbol of enlightenment.

“There are of course so many cultures making up who we are today, that we could never include them all. However, the team is hopeful that with the presence of so many different elements from a wide array of cultures, that ALL who enter the space will feel included and welcome. Unity Path’s ultimate goal is to create a fun & vibrant space that showcases Salem’s seafaring history and celebrates its creative, diverse, welcoming present.”

Friendship mandala at south entrance, seen past planters with flowers inspired by art of: Albania, Middle East, Central America and Brazil.
Elements in front of local art business Shindig. The blue waves relate to Salem’s status as a coastal city. The circle is a symbol of a unified whole almost the world over. Concentric circles were inspored by Brazilian contemporary art.
Friendship mandala at south entrance, with decorative elements. The circle is a symbol of a unified whole almost the world over. Concentric circles were inspored by Brazilian contemporary art.
Welcome wall facing New Derby Street, by local artist Keshia DeLeon.
Pineapples signify welcome in many cultures, especially the US and the Caribbean. The central design was inspired by Brazilian lacework, and is also an element of geometrical art from the Middle East.
Welcome wall contains words of welcome from the most populous cultures in Salem: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Albanian, Hindi. The turtle signifies the Northeastern First Nations tribes.

Blog posts:
Read the updates on the progress and completion of the project during July!
Wrap-up post Aug. 2 with pictures!

Mermaids often recall for us Salem’s maritime history. This figure represents Iemanje, goddess of water from Yoruba tradition as celebrated in Brazil, also sometimes depicted as a mermaid! She symbolizes the welcoming, positive, & peaceful influence of the feminine and the ocean.
Mandala at the south entrance of Artists Row blends a rainbow of hands, hearts and pineapples. Flowers on the planters are inspired by art traditions from Central America, Brazil, the Middle East and Albania/Europe.

The project was organized by lead designer Liz LaManche, who brought us the popular ground tattoo installation, “Salem’s Connected World,” in 2015. LaManche is a public artist who uses color and symbolic visual language to make city spaces more fun, meaningful and sustaining, bringing people together in a shared experience. Their socially conscious practice includes being both eco- and people-friendly, committing to low waste and supporting local communities, with emphasis on uplifting and employing BIPOC and women local artists.

Contributing artists:
Design team includes:
Liz LaManche, Eileen Riestra, Keshia DeLeon, Miguel Cruz, Julia Cseko, Stephanie Espinal

Paint team includes: 
Anna Dugan, Stephanie Espinal, Erin Survilas, Scott Froeschl, Kate Holloway