The Big Zipper Project

Friday, November 20th, 2015 marked the closing day of the Big Zipper Gallery – a pop-up art gallery, located in the long time vacant Eldred Building located on Chestnut Street in Downtown Meadville.

The gallery was organized by Lee Scandinaro, an AmeriCorps VISTA Member serving with the Lake Effect Leaders project under the Meadville Neighborhood Center (MNC). The 20th was actually an extended opening, due to the constant influx of community members coming into the gallery on Monday and Tuesday.

Scandinaro and other members of the Meadville Neighborhood Center welcomed over 200 individuals and families to the gallery at the opening celebration on Saturday, November 14.

Community members from all over Meadville brought energy and excitement into the longtime vacant Eldred Building with an evening of food, drink, music, and celebration of local artists. The focal point of the celebration was the unveiling of the BIG ZIPPER PROJECT, a collaborative community art piece conceptualized by Artist in Residence to Allegheny College, Steve Prince.

Throughout the summer of 2015, MNC facilitated carving sessions where members of the Meadville community could design and carve their very own piece of art. 300 community members came out to these sessions and created pieces that went into creating one massive wood carving piece representative of a Zipper. The pieces were glued together, creating 4 sections of the zipper, and then covered with ink, and printed onto 4 large pieces of paper with the use of many a steam roller on September 12th, 2015. The print was then framed and revealed during the pop-up celebration with much enthusiasm from attendees.

This project was much more than a tribute to the zipper, which was invented in Meadville. The creation of this first print was symbolic in many ways. Folks were intentionally randomly given a piece of the zipper.

“Symbolically, we wanted everyone to note that that piece represented each and every one of us,” said Prince at the unveiling.

“…[W]e didn’t get to choose. I didn’t get to choose to be 6-foot-6, African-American, born in New Orleans, Louisiana, left handed with a size 15 foot. I didn’t come out of my mother’s womb knowing exactly where I was at and basically saying, ‘Nah, I want to go back in’. You are who you are and you have to work with it. And that’s the beauty of community. We are who we are and we have to work with it, not only the individual body but the community collective body. That was one of the great things about this project.”

Steve Prince
Artist in Residence to Allegheny College

Prince and others with MNC also wanted to clarify that this also was only the beginning of this ongoing project. “This is one portion of it,” Prince said as he prepared to help remove the sheet of fabric covering the Big Zipper. “This is something that is going to be ongoing in our community where we continue to add pieces. The dream that we have is for this thing to be over a couple city blocks long. We want this thing to block off Chestnut.”

While the unveiling of the BIG ZIPPER was a central part of the gallery opening, the gallery itself was so much more. Several local artists of all ages donated their art to be displayed at this pop-up gallery from November 14th – November 20th. The theme of the gallery was “What Meadville Means to you” and featured diverse types of art including wood burnings, a video of the Crawford County Fair, photographs, paintings, original signs from the now demolished Talon Zipper Factory, and much more.

The gallery, the second event in the pop-up series, was an immense success in so many ways. The event raised over $600 for the Meadville Neighborhood Center, and generated a lot of buzz around this new non-profit. These pop up initiatives are just one example of the potential this organization holds, and proof that it is a desired fixture for Meadville.

“The large number of Meadvilites that came to the Big Zipper unveiling assured me that the Neighborhood Centers time has come,” said Barb Newcamp of the Meadville Time Trade and the Neighborhood Center. “[This is] a confirmation to all who have worked to bring the vision to a reality. We must carry on carry on.”

Barb Newcamp
Former MNC Board Member

Carry on they will.

Find the BZP…

BZP in the News

Unzipping Potential

Max Copeland
Allegheny College’s The Campus
17-November-2016

Creative Placemaking:
The Big Zipper Project

Center for Community Progress
12-October-2021

The Big Zipper Project

Eylie Buehler
Allegheny College’s The Campus
17-September-2015

BZP Flyers