Humphrey’s Got A Brand New Can

Allan Appel PhotoThese stately new wind turbines will soon be coming to to Humphrey Street between State and East. They won’t produce energy, but products arguably as important: beauty, less litter, and connected communities.

In a fun-filled ceremony at City Hall Wednesday afternoon, six 55-gallon trash drums were presented to the city by Oil Drum Art. The drums were decorated by dozens of artists ranging from the kids of Solar Youth to undergraduates organized by Yale’s Office of Sustainability. The city in turn formally donated them to the Upper State Street Association.

Three of these particular drums in their previous lives held not oil, but paint; three others held chocolate syrup. During the ceremony they also temporarily held two kids, at the mayor’s playful suggestion.

Upper State Street Association board member Michael Pinto said the group in turn will deploy the cans to beautify – and catch trash – on the stretch of Humphrey between East and State.

That block has been rendered forsaken and derelict by the I-91 overpass that severs Jocelyn Park from the southern East Rock neighborhood.

“We’ve been looking for three years to reconnect and overcome that stretch,” he said.

Now the unexpected and delightful means have been found.

Ten-year-old Briana Thivierge (at top of the group photo) was particularly pleased with her wedge or section of one of the drums on which she worked, called appropriately her “canvas.”

On it she painted what you come up with when you go fishing. In addition to an azure sky and pink sea, the can shows a rare species of fish with a glittering eye stud, two frogs, and a magenta-colored beer bottle, maybe an ale.

She’s part of a Green Jobs Youth Development program, operating through Solar Youth and other organizations, that has been busy this summer learning landscaping and beautifying the city from a playground in West Rock  to the Holocaust Memorial.

Oil Drum Art was founded in New Haven by Jack Lardis who presided over the ceremony. Since 2003 more than 350 drums have been painted by some 1500 artists and students. “The art work confronts issues clustered around oil,” he said.

In that vein, each of the six drums had a general theme, including food, water, energy, and recycling.

Melissa Goodall, who works at Yale’s Office of Sustainability and is a mover and shaker with the Upper State Street Association, brought the groups together in the project, which also included Southern Connecticut buildOn and the city’s Office of Sustainability.

After being introduced by Lardis as the mayor of Elm City, DeStefano said, “I wish I lived on Humphrey. When you walk your dog, you’ll have new energy [as a result of the drums]. Can I get one on my street?”

The answer wasn’t clear, although Goodall said the pilot project might not catch on. “Logistically, it becomes a challenge for the city,” she said, because the drums are heavy.

She nevertheless pronounced the drums a cool, hip, and “fabulous symbol” of partnership between the city and Yale. She thought the idea might work also as planters, which do not have to be lifted or emptied.

So who’s servicing and maintaining the drums?

Already an arrangement has been worked out whereby the association’s staff or volunteers will lift plastic bag liners when full out of the drums. Then they will be left adjacent to the drums for the city’s periodic public works pick up.

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posted by: MR on July 25, 2010  1:01pm

I spotted one of these this morning (corner of State and Humphrey, near the Dunkin Donuts) and it looks so cheery and fun….a big thank you to everyone involved!