Jamestown, NY – Over three hundred people are sought to help create a mosaic tribute to a Jamestown legend. On Friday, September 28, a team of community-focused artists known as the Art Force 5 will travel to Jamestown Community College and engage hundreds of students, staff and community members in “no-talent-required” art-making. Each participant will spend five minutes painting a simple pattern onto a ceramic 2” x 2” tile with the final completed image paying tribute to Catherine Harris, who was instrumental in the Underground Railroad’s path through the city.


The program will begin at 12pm Friday and run until 5pm Friday at the Hamilton College Center on the JCC campus. The event is free and open to the public, welcoming a local church from 12pm-2pm and general public from 2pm-5pm. Upon placing the final tile on the board, there may be an impromptu 2-mile hike by the Art Force 5 to visit the site of Catherine Harris’ home on West 7th Street.


The city’s official website states “Catherine Dickes Harris was born June 10, 1809 on a farm near Meadville, Pennsylvania and came to Jamestown with her husband in 1831. Perhaps the community’s first Black citizens, they built a small house at what became 12 West Seventh Street. Although only sixteen feet in length, it is maintained that as many as seventeen runaway slaves could be harbored at one time. One of the few Blacks in the United States to operate a station in the Underground Railroad, Mrs. Harris, a free-born Black, risked a heavy fine, imprisonment, and her life to help an enslaved people. In 1881, seventeen years after the close of the Civil War, the small house served as the first site of the AME Zion Church, which she founded. Mrs. Harris died February 12, 1907 and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery.”


Founded at Alfred University, the Art Force 5’s mission of “creativity over conflict” has led the team to travel throughout the state and country, often using art to address significant community issues. In 2016, they were awarded the Unite Rochester prize and assisted the Rochester Police Department in connecting with communities through art. In 2018, the program was awarded a SUNY Performance Improvement Fund with the promise of serving a dozen SUNY communities each year. This past summer, a SUNY All-Star Team - comprised of students from five different SUNY schools – was granted a summer headquarters on Governors Island off the southern tip of Manhattan.


“We hope to find our next superhero here in Jamestown,” said Hiram Cray, the program’s teaching fellow at the School of Art and Design at Alfred University – part of the New York State College of Ceramics, one of 64 institutions within the diverse SUNY system. “One student, painting one tile, engaging in one simple conversation about the impact of one historic figure might lead to joining our next super team either in NYC, Buffalo, or Rochester.”


Next, Cray and the team travel to Morrisville, Schenectady, Orange County, Ulster County, Sullivan County, and NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology similarly engaging communities and recruiting heroes. He half-jokingly compares the program to Marvel’s X-Men, sensing potential within students and helping them realize their impact in their own communities. Questions about the program can be directed to and the program’s website can be found at