According to Andrew Wolf, the new director of New Haven’s Department of Art, Culture and Tourism, the Elm City has a shot at gaining global prestige for its emphasis on public art.
Bloomberg Philanthropies is naming three global cities for public art this spring, and New Haven is planning to submit an exhibit titled “Omnigrid: Space, Plane, plus Time,” Wolf said. The installation, to be located in front of the Apple store on Broadway, will provide a three-dimensional “lenticular view of what New Haven looked like in the 19th century, with horses and buggies,” said Wolf. If the city is awarded the designation, it will receive at least $1 million over two years to support public art projects.
In addition to the Omnigrid installation, the city is commissioning a public art project that has not yet been determined at the Helene Grant School. The project is part of the Percent for Art in Public Spaces Program, which dates back to 1981 municipal legislation that mandated one percent of city construction costs for remodeled buildings be reserved for commissioned art work.
“Art is what brings people together,” Wolf said, adding that he hopes to use public art to attract tourists to New Haven.
In conjunction with the city’s more recent $1.6 billion plan to renovate all new public schools, the Percent for Art Program has provided over 30 schools with works of art, and the Helene Grant School will be the newest addition after submissions are reviewed by a selection committee.
Project coordinator Elizabeth Antle-O’Donnell said that once the selection committee is fully formed, it will review the candidates’ general portfolios, after which they will narrow the applicant pool to three to ask for site-specific proposals. The final decision will probably be made some time in March, Antle-O’Donnell said.
According to Wolf, Mayor Toni Harp is hoping to further expand the Percent for Art program with the support of Gov. Dannel Malloy.
The value of these artworks in public spaces exceeds aesthetic pleasure, Wolf said.
“It’s a job creator,” Wolf said. “When we put artists to work, we create sub-jobs for fabricators, painters, installers, definitely insurance agents.”
Wolf also emphasized the role of art as a force that brings the community together. Though he said that the arts may lack the urgency of issues such as homelessness, he would not want to city to completely forsake it completely.
Artist Suikang Zhao, who has worked on various public projects for the past 20 years, echoed the sentiment, noting that public art has the power to uplift people. His architecture, “Sky of Writing,” was integrated into the ceiling of New Haven’s Celentano School in 2003, commissioned by the Percent for Arts Program.
“Public art is very convincing,” Zhao said. “It’s an open forum.”
Zhao explained that in his design, he used light to symbolize that the students should have dreams for their future.
After its renovation is complete, the Helene Grant School will be renamed the Dr. Reginald Mayo Early Childhood School after the former New Haven superintendent.