Pastels in hand, guided by a world-famous pencil artist who lives in the Hill, parents and children gathered to meet a challenge: to “see our city through your eyes and through your heart.”
Peter Webster issued that challenge to a group of New Haveners gathered at the Ives Memorial Free Public Library to join a community-wide art project called Uniting Visions: A Communal Mosaic of New Haven.
Webster, a community activist and theater and opera director, organized the series with renowned artists Gregory “Krikko” Obbott (pictured above). They are conducting the workshops from March through May at all five library branches. The first session took place at the Mitchell branch in Westville. During April, workshops will be held at Fair Haven Library at 182 Grand Ave., and at the Stetson Library at 200 Dixwell Ave. The series will conclude with a workshop in May in the Hill neighborhood at Wilson Library, 303 Washington Ave. The project has a $1,000 community engagement grant from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, and lots of volunteer time and energy on the part of the organizers. (Click here for a background story on the project.)
Stacks of drawing and colorful construction paper filled a table along with cupfuls of pencils, markers, and pastel crayons at the session held at the main Ives branch, last Thursday. Webster laid out additional art supplies — tools that New Haveners of all ages will use to portray city neighborhoods as part of a unified communal mosaic of New Haven.
He also introduced the group to Krikko, whose detailed murals of urban landscapes are sold and displayed worldwide. “He has a spark that doesn’t let anything get him down,” Webster said in his introduction, asking Krikko to share the story of his name.
“My African name is Krikko, which means happiness, and my grandmother gave it to me,” Krikko said.
Krikko’s monumental drawings include landmark locations like the Empire State Building, the former World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, Yankee Stadium, the U.S. Intrepid Museum, the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, and Fenway Park.
From New Haven’s Union Station, where one of his drawings was exhibited for many years, to City Hall and points in between, Krikko’s drawings are becoming as familiar as the landscapes they depict.
The Nigerian-born artist said he was encouraged to pursue his education in the U.S. by two Peace Corps volunteers who recognized his talent. He graduated with a hard-won degree in architecture from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette School of Architecture and Design. His personal narrative, part of which he shares at the workshops, is intended to be more motivational than technical.
“When kids see an ordinary person like me making it, they are inspired,” he said.
Eyes and mouths widened as Krikko unfurled some of the massive posters depicting panoramic aerial cityscapes that, understandably, elicit wonder. Sweeping metropolitan views that simultaneously depict individual bricks and other minute architectural detail are drawn with his preferred Staedtler brand pencils.
“These posters are only 8 percent of the size of the originals,” Krikko told the group.
Entering Krikko’s Hill Museum of the Arts, a former carriage house that was redesigned and restored by Krikko with the help of others, the majestic scale of his intricate drawings inspire a sense of flying above the landscape.
The floor-to-ceiling drawings reach a height of 20 feet in some cases and are created with many individual panels pieced together. They are not technical drawings in the strict sense. Krikko alters perspectives and shapes within the landscapes, telling a story and creating a sense of place that is perhaps more inspiring than the real thing.
Those wishing to attend remaining library workshops need only bring their enthusiasm and willingness to participate.
“I don’t care if you can’t draw,” Webster told the group, making it clear that special training or artistic skills are not a requirement for expressing one’s feelings and ideas about the place they call home. Some of the workshop participants included ...
... sisters Enyla Williams right, 12, and and Emani Williams, 13 ...
... Joseph Boomer, 8 ...
... his mom, Shawnee Melendez ...
... and Steven Zhang, 12, lower left.
In addition to displaying art in the libraries, an exhibit is planned for Krikko’s Hill Museum of the Arts at 210 West St. and at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in June 2015.
For more information contact Uniting Vision’s Project Coordinator Peter Webster or participating libraries.