Art transforms athletic space

The mini golf art exhibit allows for a creative fusion of play and art appreciation.
The mini golf art exhibit allows for a creative fusion of play and art appreciation. Photo by Graham Hebel.

Behind the Chapel street bus station, installation art is scoring a hole-in-one.

Early this month, the New Haven gallery Artspace presented an artist-designed, mini golf installation at “The Lot,” its outdoor venue between Church and Orange streets. Part play space and part exhibition, the installation includes two nine-hole mini golf courses which were constructed by artists in the New Haven community, featuring works from local figures such as Matt Feiner of the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop and Nhv.org’s Ian Applegate. With entry fees of $5 per visit, the venue welcomes adults and children alike to experience the intersection of art and sport.

“The element of play makes the work more approachable,” said Artspace Gallery Manager Michael Galvin. “It encourages people to participate with the artwork.”

Galvin added that while art can often be isolating and inaccessible for the general public, Artspace uses The Lot as a space for community members to interact with work by local artists. In the past, the location has hosted other installations related to play, such as a basketball court and a swing set.

The mini golf exhibit is situated behind a popular bus station on Chapel street, a choice of location which one community member commended for its potential to enliven a historically dangerous area.

“This is a nice way to utilize the space,” said Tarshima Downing, a social worker who attended the opening reception with her two school-age daughters. “Especially with the economy the way it is, it will uplift people, [and] encourage them to be more open and creative.”

When she leaves the office in the evenings, Downing said she sometimes feels unsafe walking by the bus station area. The art exhibit enhances community presence in the area, she said.

The mini golf holes vary in their design and use of materials, with some veering toward the realm of abstract structure and others, such as MakeHaven’s string theory-inspired hole, in the vein of scientific models. Team members from MakeHaven, a cooperative workplace on State street which lends residents woodworking and mechanical tools, included members of the math departments at Yale and Quinnipiac University.

Feiner took a more playful approach with his installation, which uses old spokes and other leftover parts from his bike shop to poke fun at traditional mini golf courses.

“The spinning pedals are a joke, a kind of ‘ode to windmills,’” Feiner explained.

Heather Bizon, whose hole was heralded the most difficult at the exhibit, said she attempted to challenge traditional notions of mini golf by using a self-supporting structure that can be changed and manipulated by each incoming player.

“Apparently it’s a torture device,” she quipped. Bizon is an architect at Apicella + Bunton, the New Haven-based firm undertaking the renovations on Lanman-Wright Hall.

“Mini Golf” will be open at The Lot from Wednesdays to Saturdays through Nov. 8.

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