Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Pop-Up Activist: Immigration, politics, art: They’re all pieces of the whole for Shamaine Daniels.


Walking among the couple dozen art venues in the typical 3rd in The Burg, you go into places you would expect to visit: galleries, restaurants, cafes.

And then there’s Shamaine Daniels’ garage.

A couple of months ago, the new Harrisburg councilwoman debuted her “Uptown PopUp Art Gallery,” an art space made possible by a few extension cords she ran from her kitchen and some lights she strung up.

“There is no heat or electricity, so the weather dictates the gallery’s schedule,” she said. “Thus the PopUp name, popping up when the weather cooperates.”

Screenshot 2014-05-29 16.27.11In honor of Women’s History Month, Daniels opened her gallery in March showcasing two female artists: potter and jewelry maker Phyllis Doherty and knitter Teresia Kuria. Mimicking European open-air markets, Daniels’ gallery brings the public to Harrisburg’s Olde Uptown neighborhood, adding a new venue for 3rd in the Burg.

The PopUp Gallery is just one of Daniels’ many interests and ventures.

Undergraduate classes in political science, international relations and sociology shaped Daniels’ philosophy and values. She developed an interest in politics and, in the May 2013 primary election, won a Democratic nomination to fill one of four seats on Harrisburg’s City Council. Knocking on lots of doors, she received more votes than any of the other 10 candidates and secured her seat on City Council.

As a city councilwoman, she hopes to help fellow residents succeed with personal and professional endeavors. She also wants to wage a war on blight, a problem that is literally close to her home, as she lives near several condemned buildings in what is otherwise a reviving urban neighborhood.

“Harrisburg has many beautiful historic buildings,” she said. “We need to preserve our history and turn our neighborhoods into safe and healthy communities. And in tackling the city’s financial concerns, I want to develop incentives that will attract businesses that pay above minimum wage.”

Arriving in Harrisburg in 2006, Daniels served as a staff attorney for the Community Justice Project, where she represented low-income citizens in state and federal courts. During this time, her most publicized case was as the plaintiff’s counsel in Lozano, et al. v. City of Hazelton, an immigrant rights case that attracted national attention.

Today, Daniels’ practice serves low-income individuals, women, immigrants and individuals with disabilities.

“I want to provide affordable legal services,” said Daniels, a native of Venezuela. “Everyone should have access to quality legal counsel, regardless of their ability to pay.”

Many of her cases are against commercial entities, specifically employers who do not pay minimum wage or overtime, or who do not abide by the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Daniels also chairs the Harrisburg Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), advocating for women from disadvantaged communities. She assists with fundraising efforts for the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, often opening her home to host special events.

In fact, she recently ventured to the National Mall to participate in Women’s Fast for Families, a two-day fast in support of fair immigration reform.

Whether she is assisting clients in her practice of immigration law or scheduling art exhibits, Daniels said she is dedicated to improving the quality of life for residents in Harrisburg.

As for the future of the PopUp Gallery, Daniels hopes to continue it as long as the weather stays warm—or until she finds a space with, well, heating and lights.

“Perhaps, one day, the gallery will become more than a pop-up, a business entity with electricity,” she said.

Daniels will continue opening her garage to visitors this month during her Uptown PopUp exhibit for the next 3rd in The Burg on June 20. Drop by to visit the gallery at 2018 N. 3rd St. in Harrisburg.

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