Photo by Sasha Paris

In a healthy and resilient community, people of all religions and ethnicities are welcomed and respected. The murals proliferating across the city of Ithaca, coordinated by the organization Ithaca Murals, have engaged and celebrated a wide array of cultures. Amid a nationwide rise of anti-Muslim hostility and stereotyping, three local organizations — the Multicultural Resource Center, Al-Huda Islamic Center, and Greater Ithaca Activities Center — sought to make Ithaca’s Muslim community of about 750 people feel welcome and increase cross-cultural interaction with the creation of a mural celebrating their culture. In December 2016, the Multicultural Resource Center received a Neighborhood Mini-Grant from Sustainable Tompkins to purchase paint and other supplies.

Designed by local Muslim artist Lachlan Chambliss, the intricate Portals to Peace mural depicts five doorways showing scenes and symbols of Muslim culture across the world. Located at the entry of the Green Street parking garage, beside a busy street, it is seen by hundreds of people each day. Nearly 200 volunteers of all ages and diverse religious backgrounds, mostly non-Muslim, worked to create it throughout 2017.

At the ribbon-cutting celebration of its completion on November 18, and elsewhere, participants attested to the project’s importance:

“In this day and age when so much is going on in our country [and] in our world, where peace is being interrupted, where harmony and unity is being interrupted in ways that are ugly, symbols of peace mean so much.” — Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, GIAC Executive Director

“I think there is a need for understanding within cultures and between varieties of different types of people and walks of life. I think when that happens it makes the community as a whole stronger.” — Lachlan Chambliss

Photo by Ithaca Murals

“The most beautiful aspect of this service event was seeing the various community members of Ithaca come together to create something beautiful for their Muslim neighbors. As an [Alpha Phi Omega] volunteer, I got a great opportunity to leave the Cornell campus and learn more about this wonderful city.” – Tarannum Sarwat Sahar, volunteer

For a photo gallery and time-lapse video of the mural’s creation, visit the Portals to Peace webpage.

The Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program provides seed money to diverse initiatives building environmental, economic, and social resilience and well-being in Tompkins County. In turn, we need your support! Please donate today and help us support more wonderful citizen-driven projects to improve life in our community.  Special thanks to our sponsors: Park Foundation, Beck Equipment, Fingerlakes Wealth Management, Natural Investments, and Craig Riecke!