Sunday, September 28, 2014

Under91Project Complete.

The Under91Project was a major step towards making public art more accessible and available in New Haven. The event was open to the public yesterday, and people who came to the event simply to view public art were all handed paint brushes and asked to participate in the process. Artist and Craftsman, a new shop on Chapel Street, donated much of the paint.

Efforts of the Organizers
Organizers worked countless hours providing the community with a democratic process of electing the artwork that they wanted to see on the wall. They spent time canvassing the community, knocking on doors often speaking to residents in español, " ¿qué quieres en la pared?" (What do you want on the wall?" Other questions were on the survey such as, "¿Eres un artista?" (are you an artist?) and "what do you think of the view of the underpasses now?" were expressed to neighbors on both the East Rock and Fair Haven sides of the Humphrey and State underpass.

Questions as simple as "Do you want art at the underpass?" were asked, so not to make assumptions about what the neighborhood felt that they actually needed. These survey forms were translated into an .Xls sheet, and guided the project's leaders in making decisions along the way.

The organizers were Aicha Woods, an architect who works for a major firm here in town. Jessica Holmes, alderwoman for Ward 9, which is East Rock and parts of Fair Haven; Tina Lindstrom, the chapter leader of AmeriCorps Alums for Connecticut, and Ian, the author of this article, who provided support with documentation. Two business school students Boris Sigal and Yoni Landau were also involved, and helped make it possible to secure funding and performed many tasks of overall project management. Aaron Greenberg, alderman of Ward 8 was also very involved in organizational logistics. All of their efforts led to the aforementioned democratic process, in which a panel of judges chose from an open call to entries, and decided upon a smaller list of vetted projects, whom the public voted for at an event which was also canvassed and promoted by the organizers. The Connecticut State Department of Transportation approved the project, and it became the first example in the state of public Art approved by the DOT.

The results were two very different final products, each of their own virtue:

The Final Product(s)

Donated much of the paint.
On one side, the legendary Hi! Cru painted something reminiscent of a Dalí. In that, by description, there are a series of curious planets in formation (Rage) which turns into a bathtub with a rubber ducky. (Symbolism). Atop the bathtub, Spaceman Dave. This evolves into a giant hand reaching from above the highway (the hand of human traffic). The hand is reaching for a boat in distress on rocky waves, perhaps an immigrant boat from one of our lost cousins during the Storm of Sandy in a journey from Block Island. That, in turn becomes Scuba Steve in the desert. There is also a Joshtapus in there somewhere. You will find many various different amazing connection pieces in this tangential diatribe on the history of humanity, the presence of artists in our community, and the future of these neighborhoods.

It is also of note that the Hi Cru used the data that was collected from local residents and integrated it into their proposal. Months earlier, children from Fair Haven were reporting their preferences to the canvassing organizers, and indicated they were interested in seeing planets and spacemen and the desert and the ocean, among many other recommended themes on the wall.

There was also an incident where equipment was stolen from the storage container it was locked in. this set back the project, and the public is still invited to donate to the project.

On the other side, we found an amazing Basquiat-esque tribute to the human condition; the desire to create and be seen as art. This was created by individuals and was basically what anyone that day felt like saying in the form of art. The concept was implimented by Guru Swami Dame, a Westville resident who promoted and organized the public outreach and interaction for the painting of the north side of the wall. People were literally handed paint brushes and given a selection of colors.

The Process

First, the whole underpass was primed with a water barrier sealant. This was conducted by professionals, who completed the entire operation in the first day. They held an industrial sprayer, powered by a generator, and guided their way through the 15' process (over 100' wide) with an industrial scissor lift.

That same night, the Hi Cru went out with a giant projector on the south-facing wall. This provided the correct framework and spacing for many of the objects in the piece that they painted. It was part of a plan that was proposed to the public, so it needed to look like the sketch. Many would say that the final product looked better than the sketch.

For the North side, Alberto Colon developed the abstract swirls on the left side of the mural, and the geometric patterns on the right side of the mural. In the middle, the word "Love" is spelled out in in bold letters, outlined by artist Dooley-O. These letters were filled in by the public that day.

The event yesterday was attended by an estimated 500 people from the local area, many of whom participated in painting on that occasion. Food and light refreshments were provided, as well as DJ Dave Coon and Jason Bischoff-Wurstle and Dooley-O. It was a landmark event of community building, participatory public art, and city-wide cooperation.

Much of these events were promoted on both the @nhvmusic and the @nhvorg Instagram and Twitter features along the way.

Route utilized by travelers through new haven, to bypass downtown gridlock, taking chances with the almost 3 miles of city streets favored above the I-91 merger traffic.

The result is something to see and drive by, which many people did that day on their way towards avoiding the highway traffic heading into New Haven. There was a ton of traffic during the event. Much traffic stemming from lane closures got off I-91 at exit 4, took a left directly through the Underpass event, and turned right on East Street to reconnect with I-95 at Long Wharf. Remarkably, everyone was safe, even with the onslaught of oil tankers and 18-wheelers cutting through the event to skip down East Street to Long Wharf.

You're welcome to see the results of the presentation by visiting the art project at your leisure, and perhaps incorporating an experience at local Da Legna pizza nearby, or the new Coffee Pedaler, also a short distance walk from the underpass.

View Under91Project in a larger map. And route utilized by travelers through new haven, to bypass downtown gridlock, taking chances with the almost 3 miles of city streets favored above the I-91 merger traffic.