BETHLEHEM, PA – A new cross-culturally inspired mural entitled “The Tree in the Mirror” now adorns the northern wall of Touchstone Theatre, designed by international artists Deng Dafei and He Hai, directors of the Beijing-Hangzhou visual arts collective called the Utopia Group, and created in collaboration with local mural artist Jim Gloria, Co-Founder of the Totts Gap Arts Institute in Bangor, PA through the institute’s Heritage Mural Education program. The mural was completed in April as a part of Touchstone’s recent two-year-long community-based project, Journey from the East, which sought to explore the history, heritage, and future of the Chinese community in the Lehigh Valley and America.
The mural project was supported by The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which provides funds for downtown and surrounding traditional neighborhood revitalization and improvement projects within the Lehigh Valley. “The Chamber Foundation Grant Program is a unique opportunity for nonprofits, community groups and municipalities across the Lehigh Valley,” says Lorie Reinert, executive director of the Chamber Foundation. “The beauty and sustainability of our main streets is a high priority for The Chamber and the business community, and we are glad for the opportunity to provide support for projects that will provide a positive visual impact in our downtowns and on our Main Streets.”
The finished mural, proudly displayed on Touchstone’s wall, is the result of extensive collaboration and reflective of both the international and local community. The piece highlights themes of cross-cultural exchange and identity, with images significant to both Chinese and American perceptions of culture scattered throughout. Outlines of both countries can be found hidden in the leaves of an expansive tree, along with other symbolic images such as a Chinese dragon, George Washington’s profile, and even the Bethlehem star.
“The Mural project at Touchstone is a perfect example of collaboration,” said Lorie Reinert. “We are so happy to be able to provide a portion of the funding for this project and others like it!”
The cast and crew of “Journey from the East” posing in front of the newly
created mural; Utopia Group artists, He Hai and Deng Dafei, are center.
About Chamber Foundation
What began in Bethlehem to help fund holiday decorations in 1985 has evolved into a Valley-wide 501c3 organization. In 2008, during one of the most challenging economic periods in U.S. history, the Chamber Foundation began raising money for all of our main streets and traditional surrounding neighborhoods. Modest grants were awarded in communities to help start and finish hundreds of projects. These dollars leveraged other donations and matching funds, rallied local volunteers, and instilled community pride. The result? $300,000 in Chamber Foundation funding has led to more than $6 Million in projects completed to date!
Founded in 1981, Touchstone Theatre produces and presents both original and classic productions, with a dedication to the renewal of theatre as a vital art form. Touchstone works to foster collaboration on a local and national level through educational and youth empowerment programs, using theatre as a community-building tool. Visit us on the web at www.touchstone.org
The Utopia Group was founded by artists Dafei Deng and Hai He in 2008. Utopia Group creation is based on reflection of self living condition, mingled with cultural research approaches, in order to give an account of reality out of universal ideal expectation, thus drawing artistic inspiration with imagination. The two artists have been traveling around the world to obtain a deeper investigation of “real life”. The utopian ideal is rooted in Utopia Group artistic creation with varying presentations according to changing times; the Utopia Group strives for spiritual enlightenment embodied in art works.
Totts Gap Arts Institute (TGAI), a non-profit community arts center, was founded in 2006. TGAI fosters a cooperative relationship with local communities, giving the arts an integral role in their revitalization efforts. In 2012, this vision was further manifested through the creation of the Heritage Mural/Film Education Program, which is a cooperative collaboration with community groups, business and local government designed to draw economic development via the creation of landmark murals. More information can be found on the web for Totts Gap Art Institute: www.tottsgap.org and Heritage Mural Education Program: www.heritagemural.org