Cigar Sign Yields To New Outdoor Gallery Space

DAVID SEPULVEDA PHOTOWhat’s black and white and “red” all over?

The answer to that old joke used to be “newspapers.” 

Today, the question could easily refer to a new billboard-sized art banner at a Fountain Street storefront in Westville center.

New Haven artist Tony Kosloski designed the banner, which was unveiled Saturday.

The unveiling of the giant 8’ x 24’ super graphic has launched Architect Eric Epstein’s idea to bring a rotating art exhibit to the highly visible building exterior at 12 Fountain St., steps away from the juncture with Whalley Avenue. Epstein and City Plan chief Karyn Gilvarg, his wife, own the building through a company called Three Coins LLC. Its current tenants include a wellness center and a tax consultant.

The inaugural art piece, a nearly full-sized, vinyl reproduction of a Kosloski painting, is a bold black and white, hard-edged image with a centralized blood-red splatter that reaches all perimeters of the work. Its title, “Execution Wall—paper for the controllers (head shot/life in the time of the assassins),” is no joking matter, and neither are the ideas that inform the making of this piece, one of a series of nine anti-Capitalism images made primarily in collage. “Execution Wall” is the only painted piece in the series dealing with issues of social, economic and political oppression, and assassination as a tool of control. The original painting was on display last year at West Cove Gallery for City-Wide Open Studios.

While not everyone will glean the political message of the painting. Of those that do, some may or may not agree with the artist’s perspective. Others may even be offended. Kosloski said he hopes that his “painting” will instigate dialogue: “If we’re artists, aren’t we supposed to do this?” Kosloski said he will be interested in community reaction to his work, “good or bad.”

“Five years after a cigar store in his building closed,” said Epstein, “people were still occasionally stopping in to the new businesses looking for cigars.” Old signage on the side of the building continued to boldly declare “Cigar House,” also indicating the store’s hours. In preparation for the installation, which included an electricians’ uni-strut system that allows art pieces to easily be swapped out, Epstein painted over the old cigar sign leaving but one remnant: a small circle of red that reads, “Fine Quality.”

Epstein, no stranger to public art, has previously donated space or participated in public art projects on that very same wall. Most recently, the wall was used for the giant interactive chalk board installation “Before I Die” during Westville’s Artwalk festival. Visitors were asked to write down goals on their “bucket list”—things they want to accomplish or experience before calling it a life. The installation was guided by art activists Alyson Fox and Valerie Belanger based on the work of New Orleans artist Candy Chang.

Several Artwalk iterations back, the wall was used for a giant streetscape of Westville building facades in which local artists and some Artwalk festival goers joined in to paint a 32 foot long community mural.

Epstein’s forays into public art have included the recent I Map New Haven project with Alyson Fox, as well as presenter and emcee duties at PechaKucha Night.

The newly dedicated wall space on Epstein’s building was also going to be used to occasionally advertise his tenant’s businesses. But Epstein has been inspired to continue curating art, including some of his original artwork that may be painted on hard panels, rather than presented as a reproduction. “This new space will be transformative for the building, and this part of Westville,” he said. “It’s the perfect place for this to be, because this is the kind of thing that happens in Westville.”

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posted by: Bill Saunders on March 24, 2014  11:25am

It is a nicely designed banner.

It would be a million times better if it were painted on the wall. 
It seems the ‘new trend’ is bannering, instead of art executed ‘by the hand’ 

You can blow any image up to whatever size you want if you got the dough to do it…..

At least no one called it a mural…...

posted by: anonymous on March 24, 2014  11:37am

A mural depicting gun violence in any form is a terrible idea in a city where some young black men are 600 times more likely to be shot than the average American resident.

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 24, 2014  1:07pm

Anonymous— Now, Now, don’t call it a mural…....

But you are right in that it reflects the pc politics of the privileged class with little understanding of the urban realities.

Isn’t this the same neighborhood that called the cops on a black guy hanging out in the park????? 

Since ‘that guy’ can’t hang out in the park anymore, is this message message   for him and his ilk…....???

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 24, 2014  4:24pm

Note to Artist:

Just know that Red is a gang color.  In the context of this public piece, it has unintended messaging.

I think context is everything with Public Art.  While I am sure that the original painting worked quite well at West Cove Gallery, the nature of public space, and the nature of unintended audiences must always be taken into account.  I

I always say it….Public Art Ain’t Easy. It takess a little mirth, a lot of openness, and an engaging way for people to interact.

The agenda should be fun, thoughtful engagement, mixed in with a little inspiration

I know this is your building.  I say you can do whatever you want with it, but you did open the dialog….

Let’s keep it going….. Interested in your thoughts…..

posted by: alex on March 24, 2014  9:02pm

Anonymous, we’re supposed to censor artists because people get shot here? The time for sweeping things under the rug passed a long time ago.

posted by: A. Thought on March 24, 2014  9:55pm

The advantage of a banner is that it can be changed at will. If it is political in nature, and the political climate changes, so can the art that depicts it.  We should be asking the artist what he is trying to portray before inferring a message that an abstract piece implies.  I look forward to the artist weighing in and providing us with insight on why he put this particular piece of art up on the wall.

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 25, 2014  1:10am

I like the picture where the ‘community’ is painting ‘together’.

You don’t get that with a banner, A. Thought.

posted by: smccaslin on March 25, 2014  10:44pm

I am so happy that Eric and Karen have decided to dedicate their wall space to art. Kosloski’s piece is a big, bold, graphic statement that I choose to interpret as a panel from a graphic novel. That is what I love so much about art, it’s interpretation is up to the viewer. I am excited to see what comes next for this space. But for now, I am enjoying my ringside seat to Kozlowski’s work. Maybe this will inspire more building owners to follow Eric and Karen’s lead.

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 26, 2014  10:33am


I think the example of the landlord in Fairhaven who commissioned the artist to paint the faux windows is a better community public art model.

Seriously, the plastic banners need to stop.
It cheapens the work and the experience. 

If this was my public art project, I would have hung the original, and sat with it over the weekend to talk to people that were interested.

Next week, new artist…....

posted by: anonymous on March 26, 2014  11:35am

I love public art, but this is just insensitive.

Ask a group of 10 New Haven children who aren’t from Westville or East Rock if they have family members who have been shot.

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 26, 2014  12:01pm


It is not as insensitive as the Artspace ‘Gun Violence’ Memorial that happened at their Bus Stop Lot over the holidays.  That was truly an misguided attempt at public art.

It is not as insensitive as the guy hanging the Nazi flag out his window in North Haven a few years back, but that was his attempt at free expression.

I hope this ‘gallery’ doesn’t walk that fine line towards a slippery slope….

posted by: A. Thought on March 26, 2014  5:15pm

Responding to Bill’s response to me….....yes, I liked the community mural as well.  But, as David says in his article, Epstein has chosen to “bring a rotating art exhibit to the highly visible building exterior.”  That implies that there will be other works of art to replace the current banner in the future.  LIke in a museum, the wall will not remain immutable.  Rather, it will provide the passersby with continuous new artwork to both stimulate the senses and bring about divergent reactions. How nice to break the boredom of viewing the same thing, on the same street, over and over again!

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 26, 2014  10:10pm

A. Thought,

Rotating is great. Short runs are better.  Artist on hand, with a little reception in the parking lot, even better.

But make it more than a viewing pleasure for passersby, make it a weekly impromptu community event, with real art and artists, in conjunction with something fun that makes people want to hang out for a little bit….

Inspire driver’s by to say “Hey, whats going there—let’s stop.”

posted by: Semi Semi-Dikoko on March 26, 2014  10:25pm

Well said and thanks for reminding us that interpretation and appreciation are about one’s … “intelligence brought to the subject matter. No one else can, (nor should), do the work for you. No one else can experience art for you. It rests squarely on your shoulder, the quality of your experience”. (William DeRaymond)

Well done Tony Kosloski, Eric Epstein, David Sepulveda, (for the reportage), and all the volunteers! Thanks for what you do in this entire city, (no just in Westville). I saw it on Saturday night after it went up and spent a good ten minutes admiring the work. It does brighten up the triangle. Good work!

posted by: ask on March 31, 2014  10:05am

for my response to all comments please go to the following link—-
read the article and listen to the video—-  thank you for all the
spirited debate ——
i have been doing anti capitalist work for twenty five years—- especially
about class war and the ruling elites—- we are on the cusp of a very
dangerous time and awareness of it is our only hope—-
sisters and brothers it is later than we think — each one reach one,
each one teach one—-  top down hierarchy must be confronted