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Best Art in a Public Place
Hippo readers voted for their favorites:
 
1. Republic Cafe, 1069 Elm St., Manchester, 666-3723 (Best of the Best)
If you’re not distracted by Republic’s food (which won some awards in our Hippo poll, too), you might notice that the walls are plastered in food for the eyes, too. The large, colorful prints in the back of the restaurant are photos by Republic Cafe co-owner Claudia Rippee, who also teaches photography at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. They depict graffiti art in lower Manhattan. Rippee took them in 2008 and 2009. Toward the front of the cafe, you’ll see some “pinhole” photos, which Rippee took in Paris and Rome. There are a couple of spots in the restaurant that rotate art; toward the front on the left hand wall, you’ll see a watercolor by Susan Siegel.
 
2. Concord Arts Market, Concord, Bicentennial Square, concordartsmarket.com  (Best of Concord)
You can only check out the juried art here during the summer and fall (and only on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), but there’s a lot to see: handmade handbags, jewelry, pottery, paintings, notecards, pet-related products, clothing, handmade gifts and more. This year, the market’s founder Katy Brown Solsky opened two more summer arts markets due to the demand, one in Dover (Sundays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., doverartsmarket.com) and one in Claremont (Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m., claremontartsmarket.com)
 
3. Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash St., Manchester, (Best of Manchester)
The Currier Museum is well-known in the state for its permanent and rotating exhibits indoors, but also its outdoor art; right when you walk in the front entrance, you’re greeted with a 35-foot-tall red and black sculpture called “Origins,” which is by Mark di Suvero.
 
4. Greeley Park Arts Show, Nashua (Best of Nashua)
The Greeley Park Art Show is the biggest event that the Nashua Area Artists’ Association organizes each year. The show, which takes place at Greeley Park, features artists from all over New England who set up their display for weekend. This year, NAAA is organizing the 60th Greeley Park Art Show; it occurs Saturday, Aug. 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 18, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit nashuaareaartistsassoc.org.
5. City Hall, 1 City Hall Plaza, Manchester
The “Art on the Wall at City Hall” is an exhibit that rotates about every two months, said Manchester Arts Commission Chair Becky O’Neil, but right now, the 8th Annual Employee & Family Art Show is on view through Aug. 28. This city employee and family art show is, according to a release, made possible by the National Arts Program (nationalartsprogram.org). Anyone can come in and see the art show during City Hall hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Tuesday until 8 p.m.
 
6. Nashua Library, 2 Court St., Nashua, 589-4600, nashualibrary.org
You can usually expect to find some sort of art show in the Nashua Public Library gallery, which is downstairs at the library. Right now the work of Monty Whitfield is on display throughout August. Also on the grounds of the Nashua Public Library are six sculptures, three from the Nashua Sculpture Symposium, three lent by the Leonard Burbank Fund. Two of the sculptures are depictions of turtles (from the Symposium), and one, right out front, shows a couple of children reading a book. 
 
7. Andres Institute of Art, 93 Route 13, Brookline, andresinstitute.org, 673-8441
Co-founders John Weidman and Paul Andres created the New Hampshire Institute of Art in 1998, and it has since become a mountain of sculptures, 72 of which are nestled in the 140-acre sculpture park. Every year, the Institute hosts a sculpture symposium with artists from all over the world creating art to place on Big Bear Mountain. This year, it’s Sept. 15 through Oct. 6. Call or email trails@andresinstitute.org to schedule a free guided walking or audio tour.
8. Cat Alley, Dean Ave., Manchester
One of Manchester’s most beloved public displays of art is its alleyway full of cartoon cats. The creation of Cat Alley involved many organizations, including InTown Manchester, The Palace Theatre, Kas-Bar Realty and the Manchester Arts Commission. It’s easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there; it’s on Dean Avenue in the alleyway between Lala’s Hungarian Pastry and abi Innovation Hub. You’ll find it walking down Elm Street.
 
9. NH Institute of Art, Manchester
NHIA has two galleries open to the public: The French Building (148 Concord St., Manchester) and the Amherst Street Gallery (77 Amherst St., Manchester). These galleries typically rotate every four weeks during the school year. The school’s student exhibition hangs now through Aug. 14 (and features 1,000-plus pieces), and after that, it’s the faculty exhibition. During the year, most of the shows are by visiting professional artists and are free to view during gallery hours, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.
 
10. Southern New Hampshire University, 2500 N. River Road, Manchester, 629-4622
Southern New Hampshire University is home to the McInich Art Gallery and the SNHU Sculpture Park, which is composed of works on loan from established New England artists. The sculptors, according to the release, have chosen specific sites for their work, and these installations of art will change over time. Visit snhu.edu/art for more information or for a map to find the sculptures. (The sculpture park is open to the public.)
 
Perhaps you’ve seen this?
A handful of Southern New Hampshire’s public art displays
 
Moose Myth in Concord
If you’ve walked along downtown Concord, you might have come across “Moose Myth,” which is in front of the SMILE building on S. Main St. The artists are Boston-based sculptor Donna Dodson and Bow resident Andy Moerlein, who works as an art teacher at the Derryfield School. The sculpture was brought to downtown by Steve Duprey, local developer and art collector. The piece, Dodson said, has been displayed in Portsmouth’s Market Square, among other places. 
 
Nashua’s Sculpture Symposium 
Since 2008, artists have been invited to Nashua for three weeks to create outdoor public art for the city (the artists’ stipend plus materials are the only cost). You’ll find the sculptures like these around the city; some of them, such as those artists this year — Julio Aguilera of Venezuela, Miguel Angel Velit of Peru, and Tony Jimenez of Costa Rica — are brought in internationally, while others, such as John Weidman, are local. The Symposium is made up of different volunteers from four partner organizations: the Andres Institute of Art, the Nashua Artists Association, City Arts Nashua and the City of Nashua. You can visit the site at sites.google.com/site/sculpturesymposiumofnashua to learn more about the sculptures and to locate each one.
 
“Crosswalk” by Ernesto Montenegro 
This sculpture, which you’ll find at the intersection of Granite St. and Old Depot Road in Manchester, gives the viewer a bird’s-eye view of pedestrians walking across the street. The bronze sculpture was finished and dedicated in May 2011. It was made possible through contributions made by citizens to the Manchester Art Fund (through the Manchester Arts Commission). 
 
“Vivace” in front of the Verizon
The Manchester Arts Commission also solicited this work in 2006, according to the organization’s Facebook page. The artists involved were husband and wife Jonathan and Evelyn Clowes of Walpole. The installation began in May 2009, and was funded by community members who donated to the Manchester Art Fund and the City of Manchester.
 
Eagle Eyes: Litchfield Lane, 
Bedford and the skate park
Eagle Eyes is well known for the mural work on Litchfield Lane, but the group has been involved with a number of other projects, too; they played a large role in the paint design of the skate park in Manchester, and recently, the group created a 10-panel mural that hangs at Seabee St. in Bedford. Eagle Eyes member and painter Debbie Curtin says that she’s gotten a lot of positive feedback the group’s art. When she painted the tiger mural on Litchfield Lane, passerby were very interested in what they were doing. Kids watched from the street; adults came up to chat. “One woman even asked us to paint the roof of her car,” Curtin said. 
“It’s just nice to know that what you’re doing is getting noticed,” said Tristen Curtin, her daughter. Visit eagleeyes1.org.
 
The Manchester meter project
Six meters carefully placed in downtown Manchester are aimed aimed to diminish the number of panhandlers in downtown Manchester; the public is encouraged to feed their spare change to these meters, whose profits will go directly to New Horizons for New Hampshire. They’re easy to spot, as as they’re artfully decorated by six local artists. The project was organized by New Horizons head Charlie Sherman, Friends of Art Manchester and city Alderman Pat Long.
“We’re always looking for new ways to generate revenue … Alderman Pat Long came up with the idea, and we ran with it … Pat’s a big supporter of the arts. We have become such an art community that to get the artists involved certainly draws more attention,” said Charlie Sherman, Executive Director of New Horizons in a phone interview. “Since I’ve been here, New Horizons has been a big supporter of partnerships. We’re trying to partner with as many as we can in the community.”
 
Positive Street Art
Positive Street Art has a plethora of public art projects on its resume; the most recent is the Grove Street Park project. Their latest involved spray paint and a cool-colored, swirly design, which, while inspired by the brook that runs through the park, sort of also resembles the playground version of Starry Night. It took one weekend cleanup and at least two weekends of painting, with Sarah Roy, Manny Ramirez and Cecilia Ulibarri leading the design and a lot of help from local volunteers. You might have also seen the group’s murals behind Dunkin’ Donuts (the one next to Nashua’s Portland Pie) and on Ash Street.
 




Is your city pretty?
How public art can transform a community

08/08/13
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



8/8/2013 - The structure at Field’s Grove in Nashua looks like the playground version of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” — the steps are painted with swirling blue and purple winds and the blue climbing net is splashed with bright yellow to make a star-kissed sky.
 
Positive Street Art’s original intention in painting the playground was to cover the vandalistic “tags” that cluttered the equipment while inviting the community to create something beautiful. The nonprofit did similar work in Nashua last summer, painting the blue, yellow and purple mural behind Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street and the mural of a young girl on Ash Street this spring.
 
But, as PSA founders Manny Ramirez and Cecilia Ulibarri, and really, any public art advocate will tell you, it’s not just about covering up the ugliness.
 
“Public art personalizes a city. It brings the community together, not only in creating it, but its effect makes people smile,” said Barbara Pressly, Nashua alderman at large.
 
Its effect can also create positive change; Lance Quenneville, a street artist in Manchester, used to be what you’d call a “tagger,” or as Eagle Eyes advocate Anthony Williams put it, “an under-the-bridge kid.” But once he became involved with Eagle Eyes, he opted instead to create commission-driven mural art. 
 
Arts have long been linked with economic growth of a city, but lots of advocates argue that public art, specifically, can make a city a more desirable place to visit, to start a business — and to live. Ramirez says that whenever he’s painting a mural in Nashua, he’s constantly stopping to talk with curious and interested passersby. 
 
So if public art is good for a community, why isn’t there more of it here?
 
Good for the city, good for the soul
Public art can take many different forms, but for the purposes of this story, we’re looking at visual art that the community is involved in making, is funded by the community and/or is in a public place. 
 
As a firm believer that public art builds communities, Monica Leap, owner of Studio 550 in Manchester, wants to see more of it in Manchester. She wrote an entire graduate thesis based on this premise (specifically, how art and transportation can augment one another). 
 
“It does a lot for a city,” Leap said in an interview at her studio. “For one, it builds community pride … especially if you get the people who are living in the neighborhood community involved in either making it, designing it or painting it.”
 
Then there’s the idea of beautifying a city and giving it character. Many American cities bigger than Manchester or Nashua have gone to great lengths in doing this; Philadelphia, specifically, was mentioned by multiple people in multiple interviews as a forerunner in the vandalism-to-art movement, and is one of the prime examples of what public art can look like when the community rallies behind it. (The murals are breathtaking; check out explorer.muralarts.org or muralarts.org to see images of the art and the stories behind them.)
 
“Public art can also be a way for the city to embrace its culture or history,” Leap said.
 
A couple of upcoming projects will do just that. The West Pearl Street Mural Project, a 40-foot by 35-foot full-color historic mural on the side of 83 W. Pearl St., will picture a view of Nashua in 1909. The 2013 Nashua Sculpture Symposium’s three sculptures by South American sculptors will be placed in Latino neighborhoods near the Ledge Street School, on Pine Street and at the corner of Ledge and Pine streets.
 
Leap said public art can also be a method of “way-finding,” she said, a device to brand a neighborhood or a city. The Currier, for instance, is the building with the large red sculpture in front of it. To find the place where the Piscataquog Trail meets the Riverwalk Trail, look for the big bull sculpture. 
 
Carol Eyman, outreach and community services coordinator at the Nashua Public Library, says that public sculptures are especially memorable for children. The Nashua Public Library’s grounds contain six sculptures, and more than the building itself or its surrounding topography, kids will remember that the library is the “building with the turtle sculpture out front.”
 
“Often, that’s the type of thing that sticks in their mind. … Those things are so much larger than life from a child’s perspective and can be really memorable for them,” Eyman said in a phone interview.
 
Open invitation to paint
In New Hampshire right now, there seem to be two categories of public visual art. One train of thought is to commission professional artists to create original works to be displayed around the city. This is in the form of sculptures, murals or, in Concord’s case, a city’s architecture. These installations usually mean big bucks, which might involve private donations, fundraising or state money.
 
The other is less expensive but controversial in its own sense: mural and graffiti art that invites community member participation, particularly youth. 
 
When Ulibarri and Ramirez formed Positive Street Art in 2011, they said, Nashua did have a decent public art scene, but it was more traditional. 
 
“We wanted to bring something different,” Ulibarri said. “Bigger cities have more of that urban art feel to it. That was more of our style.”
 
The bigger question for Ulibarri and Ramirez was this: how could they do this while having community members embrace them? For Ulibarri, the answer came from her son, Anthony. He’d regularly ask if, while she was painting, he might paint with her. 
 
“I thought, if he’s interested and inspired by painting, other kids might want to do the same thing,” Ulibarri said. So, they started by reaching out to different youth groups in the city.
 
Their first mural was on the Dunkin’ Donuts building in downtown Nashua.
 
“We were really excited to do that. It was our first main mural, and it’s highly visible in the city. … We got a huge hit of responses, all positive,” Ulibarri said. 
 
People began asking if PSA would paint their doors, their buildings and their playgrounds. This spring, PSA finished a mural along Nashua’s Heritage Trail that depicted a young girl squatting to pick tomatoes and blueberries, and this summer, the group decorated the playground at Field’s Grove Park. That project was also put together on request, this time by Sarah Roy, who partnered with PSA upon frustration at seeing spray-painted tags and vulgar messages written in Sharpie pens over the playground structure.
 
Most of the murals PSA creates include a community-devoted section, though in some murals, artists Ramirez and Ulibarri will outline the image for volunteers to fill in, almost like a coloring book.
 
“It’s about the experience of being part of the mural. … I think it’s great that people want to be a part of this,” Ramirez said in a phone interview. 
 
PSA has also hosted programs and workshops with young artists that focus in developing artistic skills.
 
The other public art organization is Eagle Eyes, which is based in Manchester. Eagle Eyes was formed as a community watch group in 2006 after the murder of Officer Michael Briggs, but it soon turned into an organization to use art to cover vandalistic “tags” that cluttered downtown, specifically Litchfield Lane. If you’ve been down there recently, you’ve seen the result in the form of jungle, underwater animal and collage murals. 
 
Though both groups have found good feedback, in some senses, they both are working to dispel the idea that street art and vandalism go hand in hand. Many artists might call what these groups do “graffiti art,” but the art itself is not graffiti in the traditional sense. The artists gain permission to paint, draw or design on a public surface. (And what’s more, they’re encouraged, even requested to do so.) The term “graffiti” in “graffiti art” simply relates to the style or street-side location of the art.
 
The term can be a bit confusing.
“When you say ‘graffiti,’ what comes to people’s mind is destruction. Sometimes the image is not what people respect. It’s not like saying that graffiti isn’t a legitimate form of artwork, because it is,” said Anthony Williams. 
 
Williams has been heavily involved in promoting public art in downtown Manchester, having played a role in the organizing and painting of Cat Alley (it’s on Dean Avenue, right off Elm Street, created before the Palace Theatre’s rendition of CATS), and in a new group called Friends of Art Manchester, whose most recent project was a collaboration with New Horizons for New Hampshire and InTown Manchester that involved six artist-painted parking meters scattered around the city.
 
Founders of both Nashua and Manchester groups believe in and have seen the effects of involving community members in the work, particularly at-risk youth. In fact, they argue that involving these kids is key in preventing vandalism.
 
Fighting vandalism
“People who don’t understand, they see the words ‘street art,’ and they see the word ‘positive,’ and they think, ‘How can you put those things together?’ Our goal is to show people that you can deter future vandals and also change the perception of urban art with youth and adults alike,” Ulibarri said. 
 
The idea, which is echoed by Eagle Eyes founder Cheryl Mitchell and art project director Anthony Williams, is that getting kids involved early, kids who want to make their mark with art, can prevent these same kids from creating their art, instead, on private or city property.
 
“When you involve children on mural projects like this, they get to sign their names. It’s a totally different perspective,” Williams said. 
 
There’s also a train of respect; on Litchfield Lane, anyway, taggers will deface around a mural, but they usually don’t touch the art itself. (Some murals and art projects — such as the one on the Field’s Grove Playground, specifically — also make certain surfaces more difficult to deface due to their design.)
 
Ulibarri is looking to expand PSA into a community service initiative, to have kids who get in trouble with vandalism, specifically, offer their time and artistic abilities to PSA. 
 
“We want to work with courts in the future, to have kids work with us so that they might experience it [graffiti art] in a different way, to hopefully divert them from vandalizing again,” Ulibarri said. “Sometimes the community service they’re [troubled or at-risk kids] doing have nothing to do with what they got in trouble for. But if their punishment caters to why they got in trouble, it can change their perception of it.”
 
We want public art in our city
If only it were that simple!
 
Right now, there are many, many arts organizations in the state that are working to put public art in their downtowns. (And by that, we mean too many to name here.) Some have been more successful than others, in part because of the type of art (art installations, sculptures or murals done by commissioned, professional artists can be more expensive) and in part because of a town or city’s population and perception of art.
 
So how do you make it happen?
 
“I think you need a few different things,” Leap said. “First, you need the city to care. … Then there’s the policy aspect. You also need people to champion the effort. And, of course, you need the artists, and you need the community to buy in.”
 
PSA and Eagle Eyes haven’t had to deal with many policy issues just yet. They’d received requests or oral permission before they began working on most of their work. The only big projects that required formal permission were the Field’s Grove and Heritage Trail projects. 
 
“Most of them [the murals] are on or through privately owned businesses, but if they are part-owned by the city, the city has to give some of their approval,” Ulibarri said. 
 
The tricky part comes in when you’re commissioning (and paying) professional artists to build permanent art to be installed within the city. The Manchester Arts Commission has installed five sculptures in the city (“Crosswalk” at the intersection of Granite and Old Depot streets, and “Vivace” in front of the Verizon are two) and commissioned at least one mural (Cat Alley). MAC pays for sculptures through the art fund that comes from the proceeds of the  “Art on the Wall at City Hall” gallery exhibition (artists show their work here every two months for a small fee) and from private donations. Their meetings are public, and occur on the second Monday of every month from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at City Hall.
 
“Anyone can come to us with ideas,” said Becky O’Neil, chair of the Manchester Arts Commission. Once a project is settled upon (or at least brainstormed upon), MAC’s job is to secure a piece of property for the work, which can be quite tricky if you’re working with sculptures or really large murals.
 
“Then we put out a call for artists, and then we jury it,” O’Neil said. “It sounds simple, but it’s a long process. … And it’s not cheap.” 
 
MAC often has to work through the Parks Department, the Economic Development Department and the City of Manchester during this process.
 
Besides finding permission, space and artists, there might be costs you don’t think of. Judith Carlson says that it’s going to cost about $35,000 to paint the West Pearl Street Mural. Part of this goes toward the artist’s pay, part for the paint (the mural is going to be huge), but in addition, there are costs you might not even think about, like liability insurance. City Arts Nashua is also installing a drip edge along the roof line so that water won’t drip on the art and a protection base near the bottom so that drivers don’t park too close (and thus crack the mason area of the wall). 
 
That’s not to say that there aren’t inexpensive ways to do it. For paint jobs, anyway, creating public art can be inexpensive. Leap sees the city of Manchester brimming with new possibilities for public art: vacant storefronts, electrical boxes, Public Service of New Hampshire boxes and storm drains are all artistic opportunities, she said. Businesses are often interested in sponsoring projects like this (Dunkin’ Donuts helped PSA with its mural). 
 
“I think it’s way more cost-effective to paint things like that. … It’s just a couple of gallons of paint and artists’ time. … It’s just a matter of getting everyone on the table. You can make it not as expensive,” she said.
 
Boosting economy
Those who pay attention to art trends in New Hampshire might know that the arts play a significant role in our economy; not for the first time, the state participated in a national study of the economic impact the arts has, as prepared by Americans for the Arts. The findings show that the arts produce millions of dollars in economic activity ($115.1 in 2011) and full-time jobs (3,493, also in 2011; more informationn available at nh.gov/nharts).
 
Though those interviewed knew of no official studies relating to public art in New Hampshire, specifically, many indicated that public art made a town or city a more desirable place to live.
 
“The Manchester arts scene is certainly a considerable economic drive,” said Will Stewart, vice president of Economic Development and Advocacy in the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. “I think it [public art]  has a very positive impact on a city for residents and visitors. You go to any world-class city, and what do you see? You see public art, whether in the form of statues, sculptures or other media … I think that public art is a signal that a city is cultured and sophisticated.”
 
An attractive city filled with arts and culture is also, traditionally, a place where businesses will want to start up or move to, Stewart said. They want art outside their business (check out the new mural by NHIA students outside of Firefly) and they want art inside their business (Dyn also commissioned NHIA students to paint New Hampshire golf course-inspired murals, which you can read about in our “Local Color” section). 
 
It’s why Concord is looking to incorporate this in its “Complete Streets” project, said Tim Sink, president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce and member of Creative Concord. The project aims to widen sidewalks and improve pedestrian friendliness, which, in return, he says can contribute to more visitor spending.
 
“One of the components [in the “Complete Streets” project] is incorporating more public art in the downtown area,” Sink said. “The intention is to make downtown more of a destination, not just a place where people are making quick errands, but a place where people want to spend more time. By including more public art, you’re accomplishing that goal. It just makes for a more pleasant place to be.”
 
Judith Carlson, who’s organizing the West Pearl Street Mural Project in Nashua, says that public art shows that residents care about the city.
 
“When people see public art, they relate not only to the art, but to the fact that the place where the art ‘lives’ is cared for by its residents, and therefore looks and feels like a safe place to be. … People want to live in an environment that has a heart and soul,” Carlson said.
 
The future of public visual art
At last weekend’s PSA gathering to celebrate the Field’s Grove artistically painted playground, neighborhood kids climbed, slid down and jumped on the colorful equipment. Kids like 7-year-old Kaden Sund, were happy with the design — he liked the colors and the bumpy steps. The kids who helped paint, like Anthony Ulibarri, were proud. 
 
Parent Joy Bennett was also pleased; Bennett decided at the event she was going to take her daughter Bridgette to the park more often, now that the structure isn’t covered in graffiti. (Three-year-old Bridgette likes the park because it’s purple.)
 
Manny Ramirez is thrilled and sort of surprised at how well PSA has been received over the past year and a half.
 
“[Residents] love the work we’ve created,” Ramirez said. “The city has been very embracing to this kind of art, and to us. … It’s a good feeling when you know you’ve done something that changes the way people think about something.”
 
What Nashua will look like in three, five years, Ulibarri and Ramirez aren’t sure; Ramirez says he’d be happy painting the whole town, while Ulibarri is hoping that, more than anything, Nashua will continue to embrace art. 
 
Leap is hopeful for Manchester and other New Hampshire cities, too.
 
“I think that interest in it is growing. Public art in the community and being excited about the arts, I think, is this natural part of urban revitalization or any kind of urban renaissance,” Leap said.





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