Published July 29, 2019
By Lee Howard
New London — First it was lights, and now it's art.
Two years ago, New London Main Street got funding for a Light Up New London campaign that tried to make the upper part of State Street more welcoming with colorful LED lighting in several empty storefronts.
Problem was, according to Main Street executive director Kristin Havrilla Clarke, critics pointed out that the storefronts being lit weren't all that welcoming themselves.
So next month the downtown-boosting organization is unveiling Our New London, an effort to get professional, amateur and student artists to spruce up empty storefronts with colorful displays. The project is funded by the Connecticut Office of the Arts and the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut.
The idea is to pair up lighting with art that focuses on what residents find appealing about their community.
"We're looking for quality work," Clarke said. "We want to see what inspires you and makes you proud about your community. We'll see who gets excited and engaged."
Local art educators Aly MadersonQuinlog and Amy Hannum are teaming up to help fill at least half a dozen spaces while also engaging youths in the project, which will be unveiled Aug. 16.
MadersonQuinlog has been working on a pilot project in collaboration with about a dozen New London Youth Affairs students this summer, creating cyanotype pictures of young people at the Harris Place building and then hanging them in one of the State Street storefronts.
"We're trying to make the spaces look and feel more inviting," Clarke said.
The idea is to bring more people downtown to look at the artwork, she added, with the hopes that someone might then decide to start a new business downtown.
Clarke emphasized that she isn't necessarily looking for new artworks to be created as anyone interested in lending artwork to the project can contact her at (860) 444-2489 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the State Street project is successful, she added, another similar idea might take root on Bank Street within a block to block-and-a-half area.
The artwork is expected to remain into the fall, she said, with a new theme possibly replacing the first around the winter holidays or even during Halloween.
"We want to get people to rediscover New London," said Hannum, who has a pop-up gallery and Reiki studio on upper State Street.