Lebanon, NH

Contact Name
Adam Blue
Project Dates
Design, Business Planning, Marketing, Networking
In 2008, AVA Gallery and Art Center offered a printmaking class titled, Linocut and A Public Art Project, which partnered our nonprofit art center with three regional grocery stores - each of which donated 100 unbranded, brown grocery bags to be embellished by students in the class. Enrolled participants learned printmaking skills and techniques from an accomplished arts professional, developed their own original designs, cut and kept their own blocks. Using donated ink and the bags provided, they also took the fun challenge of producing a big print run - good music, good community, and prints everywhere! Once dry, the bags were returned to the stores - where surprised and delighted customers took home their weekly supplies in a beautiful artwork made by their neighbors.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
Create an arts education opportunity where community members learn new skills from a working artist; successfully complete an achievable creative challenge; make art a part of everyday life, for the participants and for the greater community; and cultivate institution-level relationships with local businesses.
Have they changed over time?
This project is complete.
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
Three regional grocery stores and co-ops, one teaching artist, participants in a printmaking class, the donor of the printing inks, our nonprofit community art center.
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
The project plan required developing a budget, class curriculum, finding the right teaching artist, the marketing and administration of a class, sharing the "big picture" plan with the participants, contacting and informing local businesses and individuals for donations, writing the press release, documentation.
Have they been refined over time?
This project is complete.
What were your major obstacles?
Projects following this model are very do-able.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Communicate early and often.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1)When approaching a potential business partner, here are a few things to consider:
a. Don’t be surprised if the potential partner doesn’t immediately recognize what you’re hoping to accomplish. You may very well be turned down by people who are busy at that moment and don’t have the energy to figure out what you’re working on. Ask if the timing is right before you pitch them on your project.
b. If you can see an opportunity to use materials they may already have in stock (aka – any product that will come at no additional expense to their business model), that’s an easy decision for them to make in favor of your project.
c. If you are going to require the business to invest in new materials for your public art project, consider asking them to fund the project from their marketing budget. From the perspective of the business owner, a benefit of participation in your partnership project will be the increase in customer satisfaction that comes with receiving a free piece of art; a second may be the marketing they receive when you announce the roll out of the project to your community, including word-of-mouth accolades from their customers. So before contacting any business owners, figure out the cost of a display ad in your local newspaper or a one-minute radio spot for your region, and frame your ask in terms equivalent to these outreach channels. The business owner may not understand what you’re hoping to do right away, but they may recognize quickly that the buzz you’ll create for their customers could have a higher return than buying an ad that only lasts one day…
2) From the perspective of the participant in the printmaking workshop, here are some of the benefits they receive, above and beyond a regular class:
a. The artist gets to keep the plates they’ve cut for future personal use
b. The artist gets to produce a big print run, as a team and on a deadline, which is part of the fun of printmaking
c. The artist gets to add a line to their developing CV
d. Having just performed “a random act of art and kindness” may just add another layer to the sense of accomplishment they’re likely to associate with themselves, your arts organization, and the project.
3) Document everything and be sure to send a press release!
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
We received great feedback from the participants in the class, who accomplished a lot together. We received great feedback from the grocery stores - each of which had their expectation exceeded for the quality of the experience we helped provide their customers - at no cost to them. We received great feedback and thanks from people who got the welcome surprise of a free artwork in their home. There was an abundance of goodwill spread among everyone touched by the project.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We received great feedback from the participants in the class, the grocery stores, and the customers at the grocery stores.
Were there unexpected impacts?
The project was covered by The Valley News, our regional newspaper. The conscientious review of this project, its participants and its outcomes, shined a spotlight on art-in-the-community in a fresh and open way. Positive acknowledgement of projects like this one has helped AVA Gallery and Art Center go on to produce many more public art projects since.