Real Art Ways, an alternative arts space founded in Hartford, Connecticut in 1975, is one of New England’s liveliest contemporary arts venues, like Space in Portland, Maine, and AS220 in Providence, Rhode Island, presenting a heady mix of fine and performing arts.
This summer, Real Art Ways has commissioned four works of public art for Hartford’s Parkville and Frog Hollow neighborhoods. Entitled Real Public 2009, the installations add to the vitality of the community and highlight its ethnic diversity.
Photographer Margarida Correia, a native of Portugal, worked with members of Hartford’s Portuguese community to create a Parkville billboard display of Praia da Nazare, a famous beach in Portugal, and a series of street lamp banners featuring album covers of Fado singers. Stores in the neighbor play the mournful strains of this distinctive Portuguese music.
Satch Hoyt has installed his “Line Labyrinth” of white pillars and clothesline in Frog Hollow’s Pope Park. Hoyt, a British artist of African-Jamaican ancestry, created the labyrinth, inspired by a 12th century labyrinth in India, as an embodiment of the migratory voyages that have brought people from around the world to settle in Hartford.
Sofia Maldonado, a native of Puerto Rico, erected a vivid mural on the façade of the four-story, brick Pelican Tattoo building in Frog Hollow. The mural features women Maldonado met on the streets of the neighborhood in a green Puerto Rican landscape. Feminism, Latin heritage, and skateboard street culture come together in this festive mercantile mural.
Matthew Rodriguez, a native of Austin, Texas, was commissioned to paint cartoon faces on 77 trees in Pope Park. These childlike paintings turn overlooked urban trees into druidical figures that should appeal to the child in anyone.
One of the best things about the four Real Art Ways public works is that they are temporary. This is not to say that they are not of lasting value, but communities (Portland being one of them) sometimes make the mistake of commissioning public art that insists on its own right to exist in perpetuity when a brief stay would have been better.
Maps of the Real Public 2009 sites are available. And if you visit Hartford this summer to see the sites, also stop by Real Art Ways’ galleries where artists Jason Keeling, Chris Kaczmarek, Gelah Penn, Corey D’Augustine, Beth Krebs, and Chris Taylor are being featured.
[Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor St., Hartford CT, 860-232-1006]