This week, the typical colors of New England autumn will be joined by vivid orange, in the form of a shiny bicycle that sells handcrafted artwork. Called CityLove, this bike-propelled retail shop that sells handmade local gifts is working to make New Haven art easily accessible to city residents.
The retail shop is an initiative of Project Storefronts, a program that connects artists and entrepreneurs to new retail spaces in hopes of promoting the local artistic community in New Haven. CityLove, which will sell handmade products including canvas tote bags, T-shirts, pins, journals and stationary, begins its official run tomorrow and plans to continue through the holiday season and beyond. Elinor Slomba, program manager of Project Storefronts, explained that the organization spearheaded the idea for CityLove as a means to help artists prepare to sell their work professionally while also promoting locally made products in a city whose artistic community is often overlooked.
“We don’t have a ‘Welcome to New Haven’ gift shop right now, so this fills that niche and encourages artists to incorporate New Haven in their branding,” Slomba said. “There’s a large emphasis on product development as well as products that speak to a sense of place.”
The bicycle and the cart both come from New Haven’s The Devil’s Gear Bike Shop on Orange Street. In addition to providing these materials, The Devil’s Gear owner Matt Feiner said he also plans to support the mobile shop by selling hand-printed T-shirts with a tricycle logo spelling out “First Love,” as a bicycle is often a child’s first love.
Feiner said he became involved with CityLove because he believes the initiative is an innovative way to promote local artistic talent and support the city community more broadly. He added that he believes many Elm City artists have been “overlooked” for New York or Los Angeles artists.
“New Haven isn’t famous for its art, but it absolutely should be,” Feiner said.
Among the other dozen vendors whose work will be sold on the bike is Clymenza Hawkins, a photo collage mixed-media artist who has lived in the New Haven area for four years and operated a Project Storefronts pop-up store this summer.
Hawkins, who will be selling cards and journals that focus on “women in transformation,” believes the mobile shop will be beneficial to artists and consumers alike.
“It’s a good way to expose local artists who may not have access to a gallery or the media; it’s nice of the community to know who they are and in a small way help them out by buying something homemade or handmade. Whatever craft it may be, it’s art,” Hawkins said. “And it’s a great thing [for consumers] to know about before the holidays, because people are still interested in handmade gifts, even in this world of technology.”
Slomba echoed this sentiment, adding that the community response has been overwhelmingly positive so far and that the project plans to continually improve the concept as they receive more feedback. She added that the artists who carry works on the cart have already been paid, and CityLove hopes to eventually carry work from up to 20 artists at any given time.
CityLove can be found on Church and Chapel Streets this week, as well as at the New Haven Pride Street Festival this weekend. Prices range from $1.50 for pins to $30 and up for larger pieces.