Tim Prentiss’ shimmering Windframe, fluttering in the breeze that comes off of Long Wharf. Electroland’s College Faces, staring out from that bright and bold LED display at Gateway Community College each evening. Swoon’s Katherine G and Dawn and Gemma, darkened and cracked around the edges. Claes Oldenberg’s cloistered Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, locked away to weather alone in a college courtyard after making a political stir. The list goes on.
Ever wish there was a place to bring these works of public art in New Haven — spanning time, place, and conditions of commission — together? Independent Curator and Artgogo Founder Selby Nimrod did too, and she had a hunch she wasn’t the only one.
That’s the idea behind ArtSites New Haven, a new and delightfully mobile-friendly website that points viewers toward works of public art across the city, be they murals, sculptures, street art or installations. A direct collaboration with SiteProjects, the website seeks to educate and engage New Haveners interested in the city’s public art landscape, which includes work from the mid-19th century through this year.
The idea came into being last spring, when Site Projects Director Laura Clarke approached Nimrod about doing a series on the history of public art. A discussion of an app followed, and “the basic concept for ArtSites was born,” Nimrod said. Last year in October, she offered several public art tours during City Wide Open Studios. When tours sold out and she was peppered with questions about everything from Josef Albers’ Repeat and Reverse (1963) to Michael Anderson Torosaurus (2005) to Swoon‘s wheat paste Nee Nee (2014), she knew she was on to something.
“I think something that people don’t know about New Haven is the great variety of public art, and the quality of it,” she said. “There’s a lot of art that people might see by chance but otherwise don’t even know is there. We see ArtSites enriching the urban environment.”
“This is a gift for New Haven. It’s out there for everybody and anybody,” added Clarke. “It’s an interesting experiment on our part, because we’ve invested a huge amount of time and creative energy on it, and we hope people will use it.”
Fully outfitted for the 21st century, ArtSites New Haven responds to an increasing need for websites to not only be user friendly, but almost gamefied. Viewers are greeted by big, bright blocks of sans serif text that ensure easy navigation, and the fun only begins there. By clicking on “Artsites Near Me” from anywhere in New Haven, users can immediately narrow results to their location, the program dropping pins on a modified Google map. Clicking a pin — there are currently 60 spread throughout the city — reveals not only an artwork but its history. Archival photographs, preparatory sketches, and detailed explanatory essays are just some of the goodies that await those hoping to learn a little more about art in the city. For instance, an essay on Art in the Park, a 2014 Site Projects commission that kicked off their Catalyze + Celebrate: Commissions + Conversations symposium last year, further discusses the goal and thought behind each work, bringing them to life for viewers who want to know more.
In developing ArtSites, Nimrod has built up stories along the way, from Claes Oldenberg himself making edits to her essay on Lipstick (Ascending), to the kind of work that went into Felice Varini’s Square With Two Circles, to creepy and historical anecdotes from the New Haven Preservation Trust about the Grove Street Cemetery.
These stories, Clarke added, need a legacy as Site Projects continues to commission public art. ArtSites “won’t go away. We will continue to build it. For a small group like ours to create something like this is a monumental acheivement and to get the first 60 entries in there, and we expect to continue to build it out ... over the next 12 to 15 months add another 60 entries, and then continue to add to it as long as it seems vital and it seems like people are using it. We would love to get people to take ownership and start to tell us what direction to take it.”
Visit ArtSites New Haven here.