NEW LONDON—White paint on the south wall of Mord’s Hardware Hank, downtown New London, marks the start of the first public art project to develop from a 30-month, $262,500 grant awarded by ArtPlace America to the city of New London.
Jeff Vetsch, project coordinator, announced New London received the grant during last Wednesday’s city council meeting. Vetsch, Kristin Allen, project artistic director, and City Administrator Trudie Guptill were informed June 6 the city had received the grant. However, they were not allowed to say anything until June 25, Allen said.
ArtPlace America typically funds 35 to 40 projects a year.
When local organizers found out ArtPlace America had awarded New London the grant, “We didn’t believe it,” she said.
But at the same time, “It’s really cool,” Craig Edwards, ceramics artist, city councilman and New London Arts Council member said.
The first public art project connected to the grant will be a mural of a vintage photograph on the Mord’s Hardware wall. The public is invited to help paint the mural this coming week, Sunday, July 13 to Sunday, July 20.
The mural project will be weather dependent, and there will be scaffolding involved, although visitors don’t have to go up on the scaffolding, Allen said. The mural won’t take up the entire wall.
The space on the south wall of Mord’s Hardware is planned for a series of murals, she said.
As for the rest of what the ArtPlace America grant will be used for, while organizers have a general outline, “We are going to decide on many of these projects as we go,” Allen said. “Part of our vision is to make arts more visible for our community. “
To start with, organizers have three objectives:
The first is a “train the trainer” objective. Through an application process, five to eight trainers will be selected to engage in “how to” learning with Forecast Public Art, a Twin Cities-based arts support group.
The second objective will be “Building social capital through getting our trainers to do community projects.” In other words, the trainers will be planning the public art projects in more detail.
The ArtPlace America grant won’t pay for all of the different community art projects the group would like to accomplish. Instead, it will be used mainly as seed money.
“We’d like to utilize the funds to make them work for us,” Allen said. “We still have to raise funds from the community.”
The third objective is “To transform the lowertown space into an art-infused, creative commons,” Allen said.
Many of the public art projects will take place in downtown New London, along the Crow River, starting roughly at the canoe portage on the south end to the new parking lot on the north end, located behind the Happy Sol/the Rugged Sun.
The area is west of Main Street along the river, roughly from First Avenue Southeast to First Avenue Northwest.
“We want to create the space where art occurs and is visible while honoring the natural landscape,” Allen said.
Projects already in the works connected to the grant include the new city parking lot behind the Happy Sol/the Rugged Sun, which is considered a matching contribution because of its green space and arts elements, and an overlook of [the] river off the city office parking lot. The overlook project is being coordinated by Eagle Scout candidate Christopher Molenaar.
Other projects organizers would like to accomplish include a walking trail based on the Mill Pond trail plan, which includes a footbridge across the river and a community sculpture event planned for 2015, the year of New London’s 150th anniversary.
“There will be several different community development projects over the course of the next 30 months,” Allen said. “As for what this is, a lot of it will be determined as we go.”
The ArtPlace America grant is a joint effort between the New London Arts Alliance, city of New London, New London Communities in Action (CIA) and New London Economic Development Authority (EDA). Primary writers of the grant were Vetsch and his wife, Anne Dybsetter.
ArtPlace America is a collaboration among foundations, agencies and financial institutions that invests in projects in which artists and arts organizations play a central role in community development.