Metro, Arts, Newton

Newton Community Pride Fills Vacant Storefronts with Artwork

A photograph of a vibrant red archway in Mexico next to a red “for rent” sign draws public attention in an otherwise empty Newtonville storefront window. As a part of a new public art initiative sponsored by Newton Community Pride, vacant Newton storefronts will display professional artwork in an effort to beautify the city.  

“It’s a lovely opportunity to have shoppers and diners and pedestrians stumble across a beautiful piece of artwork, as opposed to brown paper cardboard or a for lease sign, so it makes a nice addition to our villages,” Gloria Gavris, board chair of Newton Community Pride, said. 

The project, called WindowART, incorporates the pieces from Newton Community Pride’s annual FenceART project, including local artist Howard Fineman’s “Nestled Arches, Mexico.” This public art initiative is a submission-based competition that displays winning artists’ work on fences throughout Newton, such as at the Newton Free Library and the Newton Senior Center. A jury of professional artists selects 20 submissions to be printed on vinyl banners and displayed throughout the year. 

Newton Community Pride rotates the art among five Newton fences every 10 weeks, beginning in October and November, Gavris said. Submissions to the competition were open to artists who reside, work, or participate in art classes in Newton. 

“In looking at the past inventory that we had we said, ‘Why don’t we repurpose them and use them for window art?’” Gavris said. “And that’s exactly what we did.”

The three by four foot vinyls from the 2019 and 2020 FenceART project will be on display for a minimum of 60 to 90 days, according to Gavris. She said that the artwork from the 2021 project is currently on display on the fences. 

“Works that would have normally just been rolled up and put away are now being repurposed and given a second life,” Gavris said.

Artwork has been installed in the last week and a half at two locations, according to Gavris. The locations include on Washington St. in the trio courtyard and at 34 Langley Rd. next to Johnny’s Luncheonette. 

At the storefront on Langley Rd., Sidney Hutter’s The Clear Group – 3 Plate Glass Vases, which features three geometric glass vases, is on display along with two other pieces. 

“If the storefront gets rented we would take them down, but we can rotate them amongst different locations, so that they don’t get tired and then the same pedestrian or shopper isn’t looking at the same thing,” Gavris said.

While these are the only display locations currently, Newton Community Pride is hoping to generate more interest from property owners, Gavris said. Interested vacant storefront owners can submit a location request for artwork.

The number of pieces on display at each location depends on the window size, and there are currently 16 vinyls on display, Gavris said. 

“It depends on the size of the window, if they’re long and narrow we’ll try to find a long and narrow piece of artwork, if it’s a very big space we might be able to put up two pieces of artwork at that location,” Gavris said. 

The artwork encompasses a variety of mediums and subjects, including photography, sculpture, and pottery. The various pieces pull from unique disciplines, Gavris said. 

Vacant storefronts across village centers point to the impact of COVID-19, Gavris said. 

“I suspect some landlords and some retailers were unable to pay the rent, because of lack of pedestrian and foot traffic and shoppers and unfortunately had to close down,” Gavris said. “So I see just amongst my travels within the villages, there’s at least two or three vacant retailers that have gone out of business.”

Because of the pandemic, Newton Community Pride has pivoted its focus to public art initiatives since January, Gavris said. WindowART is the group’s third public art initiative, another being the Newton Al Fresco project that focuses on beautifying outdoor dining spaces in Newton, according to Gavris. 

“So, it just looks to try to add a little bit more color and creativity to an otherwise bleak looking window,” Gavris said. “Just to have new residents experience quality art when they least expect it.”

Featured Image by Julia Remick / Heights Editor

April 25, 2021