Arts council annual event brings community to the table

The Adams County Arts Council's The People Project 2022 takes place this weekend with a free artwork exhibit and performance.

Arts council annual event brings community to the table
Adams County Arts Council instructor Christian Parker helps a young Adams County resident work with stained glass to add to his mosaic 'One Piece at a Time,' part of The People Project 2022. (Photo courtesy Adams County Arts Council.)

When it comes to having a seat at the table, there’s room for everyone. That’s the idea behind this year’s The People Project 2022, presented by the Adams County Arts Council (ACAC).

The council will present artworks on free display throughout the weekend and a live performance on Saturday, October 22, at 7 p.m., both at the theater at Mela Kitchen.

Attendance to the performance is free, but seating is limited and attendees must register to secure a spot. The artwork exhibit will be available to view for free throughout the weekend during Mela Kitchen’s operating hours.

Each year the council determines a theme for the project based on community input. This year’s theme, ‘My Place at the Table,’ stemmed from the idea of how “gathering around the dinner table can inspire conversations,” according to the council.

“This theme speaks to the importance of a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere, which is absolutely vital to a community’s health and well-being,” said Lisa Cardigan, executive director of ACAC and the original creator of the event.

The live performance will feature spoken essays, choral performances and original songs. Participants are members of the Adams County community, and their works will focus on personal experiences around the theme.

The ACAC notes that the idea of a seat at the table doesn’t have to be literal. It can mean having a metaphorical ‘seat’ in community and society. The idea “speaks to inclusion and diversity.”

Out of five or six final concepts that arose from public input sessions the council held in February and March, the council chose the table theme because “that is what apparently resonated with people,” said Karen Hendricks, spokesperson for the ACAC. “Something in that language must have caught people's attention.”

“Hopefully it’s stirring something in people that sparks those ideas and that creativity, to then bring those gifts to the community through the People’s Project performance,” she added.

The public at large had the opportunity to participate in this year’s event by contributing to a stained-glass mosaic directed by local artist Christian Parker, an instructor at the ACAC. More than 100 Adams County residents helped to cut, grind, wash and foil the glass pieces which Parker then assembled into a pattern. He titled the piece ‘One Piece at a Time.’

“It really became important to have a public art component,” Hendricks said. “It’s a beautiful way to symbolize what a community can create together.”

After the weekend, the mosaic will hang in the window of the ACAC’s building on Washington Street for the public to view.

The mosaic 'One Piece at a Time' in working progress. The artwork will hang in the window of the Adams County Arts Council's building after the exhibit for The People Project. (Photo courtesy Adams County Arts Council.)

Funding for this year’s project came in the form of a grant awarded as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, distributed by PA Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

According to Hendricks, the ACAC’s application was one of only 92 projects funded out of 337 statewide applicants.

Hendricks believes the project was chosen because it “looks at (American Rescue Plan) funds in a way of healing and helping a community through the arts.”

Funding also came from the Robert C. Hoffman Charitable Endowment Trust.

In the past the project was funded by grassroot donations and sponsorships from the community, including individuals, organizations and businesses. Now in its fifth year, Hendricks said the project “really has evolved over the years from something … produced on a shoestring budget to now having the proper funds to really flesh it out.”

The five-year anniversary is a “special milestone,” especially for Cadigan, who began the project as part of her coursework while teaching at Gettysburg College. Hendricks hopes this year will “have a brighter spotlight than ever before.”

“Maybe today more than ever it’s so important for us to listen to each other. Everyone has a voice. Everyone has a story to tell. As a community, what could be more beautiful than listening?”

More information on The People Project 2022 can be found at the ACAC website. Free tickets to register for the performance can also be made following the link. Tickets are first come, first serve.

Mela Kitchen is located at 1865 Gettysburg Village Drive. Operating hours are this weekend are Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.