Williamsport artists and residents recently gathered on a bright Saturday morning for Factory Works’ official unveiling of the Lady of Light mosaic pillars at the Pajama Factory, an historic building renovated to provide space for artists and local organizations. The pillars were designed by local artist Dai En and created in collaboration with fellow Pajama Factory artists and the broader Williamsport community, guided by the storytelling work of Heart of Williamsport.
Orchestrating the project was Factory Works, a nonprofit organization within the Pajama Factory complex that strives to ensure a collaborative and educational environment for artists, woodworkers, and the bicycling community.
“For Factory Works, this project represents our community – a community that embraces the values highlighted through the storytelling process,” said Jeannette Carter, president of Factory Works’ board of directors. “These core values express gratitude for our community’s culture and its supportive environment for creativity, inclusion, and growth.”
The two pillars are a striking 11 feet tall and 18 inches in diameter with kaleidoscopic patterns of dazzling glass and stone tiles that, upon closer examination, reveal curiosities like dice, bottle caps, and toy cars. The objects were donated as part of the Share Your Heart Project, which brought people together to share their experiences of the Pajama Factory and Factory Works. This deep engagement with the community’s stories provided the inspiration for Dai En’s beautiful mosaic work.
“I can’t say it belongs to me any longer. It has a life of its own,” said Dai En. “Bringing the ‘treasures’ into it… allowed more community interaction and building of the story and meaning.”
Heart of Williamsport lent its extensive story-gathering experience to the process, having dedicated the last few years to the citywide implementation of Community Heart & Soul®, a Pennsylvania Humanities Council supported approach to community development that uses the tools of the humanities to creatively engage residents in planning and decision-making processes as a way to strengthen a town’s social, cultural, and economic vibrancy.
“The process of storytelling was robust and Heart of Williamsport supported us all the way,” said Carter. “Their guidance and assistance impacted the project’s strength and the representation of community values in the mosaic design and creation.”
Alice Trowbridge, coordinator for Heart of Williamsport, said that the collaborative approach to creating the Lady of Light mosaic has been especially important during the pandemic, when people yearn for greater human connection and to tell their story.
“Everyone needs a chance to speak their truth and feel heard,” said Trowbridge. “Seeing something this beautiful coming from a collection of personal stories and experiences connects people, evokes pride, and instills a sense of belonging.”
After a series of speakers, the Lady of Light celebration concluded with courtyard music by the Susquehanna Jamcrackers and tours of an exhibit by Chad Andrews in the Factory Works gallery.
Support for the Lady of Light mosaic pillars was provided by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.