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Emma Fisher already knows that art can draw people together.

The Carlisle High School junior has seen how creativity and collaboration can form a strong bond with her friends and kid sister.

Starting Sept. 12, she will be one of 26 students participating in a six-week program to produce a community mural that will be painted on an outside wall of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church at the corner of North West and West Louther streets.

Not only will the painting serve Carlisle as a portrait of civic pride, it will be part of her legacy as a student and local resident.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Fisher said. “It’s really exciting. I’ll be able to see the final product for years afterwards.”

She learned of the project on the first day of school after her art teacher, Ashley Gogoj, told the portfolio class about the artist-in-residence program to bring Ophelia Chambliss of York to Carlisle to mentor students on how to produce a mural.

Since then, Fisher has been sharing the news with other people, energized by the prospect of bouncing ideas off her classmates. She hopes the Carlisle community gets involved and appreciates the effort.

The mural will be created on parachute paper, which enables the full painting to be sectioned off. This will allow greater opportunities for local residents to be part of the creative process to bring unity to the community.

“We have been filling up our pages with fun so that maybe we could incorporate some of those ideas,” the 16-year-old Carlisle girl said of her fellow artists. “I guarantee it’s going to be amazing. It’ll be good because everyone in here is good.”

Classmate Lanik Minaya thinks the early stages of the mural project will be the most stressful, what with all the planning and brainstorming. But she was also confident about the outcome.

“The end product is going to be good,” Minaya said. “The point of it is to bring everyone together.” Up until now, her biggest collaboration in art has been the annual Carlisle Arts Learning Center float for the Halloween parade.

The mural and the artist-in-residence program is an outgrowth of Color Carlisle, an initiative to bring art to the local community, said Gogoj, art and design program chair for Carlisle Area School District.

The artist-in-residence program will bring Chambliss into the high school art studio at least two days a week to teach upper-level students the step-by-step process of painting a mural that by early November could cover a 100-by-30-foot section of church wall facing Memorial Park.

Between the visits by Chambliss, students will work with Gogoj on the different steps of the process that would not only incorporate their ideas but the input and artwork of Carlisle residents.

Chambliss of Manchester Township, York County, specializes in projects that pull communities together in a way that embraces diversity. Color Carlisle recently held an event to drum up financial support for the mural and to allow the public an opportunity to have input into what Carlisle means to them.

“I am excited about the way they are approaching this project,” Chambliss said. “I have not been on a project where it has been so well thought out before. I am also looking forward to working with the advanced art students.”

Part of her instruction will involve talking to students about how visual images can be used to represent community pride. One of her goals is to have the art students use their skills to fine-tune the images provided by the public with shadow, depth and texture to add dimension to the collaborative work of art.

Junior Hailey Myers of North Middleton Township is looking forward to the opportunity of working with a professional who made a career out of her artwork. “It’s really a unique experience for a high school to have,” Myers said. “It would make the community proud that our high school did this.”

Jamyla Spells, also of North Middleton, is a senior with aspirations of becoming an animator or a cartoonist. She already has an ongoing digital comic strip that she hopes to compile into a book.

“It’s really important for me to do something for my community,” Spells said.

The artist-in-residence program is being funded by a $5,000 grant from Jump Street, a private, nonprofit community based arts incubator located in Harrisburg and serving central Pennsylvania.

The Bison Foundation of Carlisle Area School District has provided a $2,500 grant for the program, Gogoj said. She said the remaining $2,500 was raised through private donations.

Email Joseph Cress at


News Reporter

History and education reporter for The Sentinel.