How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
Each project is different. Examples help tell the story. In 1994 Pepón Osorio’s En la Barbería no se Llora (No Crying Allowed in the Barbershop) was, simultaneously, an over-the-top evocation of an all-male Puerto Rican barbershop and a warm-hearted challenge to notions of machismo. It was set in an empty storefront in Hartford’s Frog Hollow neighborhood in the aftermath of severe and prolonged gang violence. We worked with neighborhood youth organizations to introduce the artists work. At the opening barbers from the neighborhood gave free haircuts, a local band played, there was a live broadcast on Spanish-language radio. Luis Cotto, a Real Art Ways’ employee who staffed the barbershop during the summer, is now a well-respected City Councilman. Another example is Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s Blooms project, an installation of four flesh-like gelatin blocks into which hollow-point bullets were fired and then “bloomed” through the material, simulating the effects of flesh punctured by bullet wounds, an injection of social reality into a sleek modernist form. (Both artists received “genius” grants from the MacArthur Foundation after their work with Real Art Ways.) Real Art Ways successfully utilizes public art projects to connect with communities. Another example is artist Mel Chin’s project Ghost. In 1826, Connecticut's first free African American church was constructed on Talcott Street in downtown Hartford. A church stood on that site until the 1950s. The site is now the entrance to an office building and parking garage. Chin re-created the facade of the original church, using a wood frame, plastic mesh, and chalked details. Stairs were constructed using rubble from the recently demolished Society for Savings building on Main Street and the type of iron rod used to hold back highway erosion. At the opening celebration, the choir from Faith Congregational Church, the descendant of the original Talcott Street Church, sang in the space that had been sacred for more than 130 years. Ghost was installed for 6 months in 1991. This project was not about nostalgia. Ghost called into question whether human constructions, such as social, philosophical, and religious structures, can prevent the erosion of our cultures and communities. Ghost was intended as a catalyst for reflections on change. Other examples include three artists’ projects set in our immediate neighborhood of Parkville. In 2000, videographer Liz Miller resided in our neighborhood for four months and created a series of video portraits of eight neighborhood seniors, which were projected in our cinema for several months as segments preceding feature film screenings. In 2002, poet Verandah Porche worked with us for a year, during which she created an extensive and vivid volume of “told poetry” based on intimate conversations with more than 60 neighborhood residents. And in 2003, artist Harrell Fletcher created a video of members of the Parkville Senior Center reciting an affecting passage on mortality from James Joyce’s Ulysses. (This video was selected for the 2004 Whitney Biennial.)
Have they been refined over time?
In 2009, Real Art Ways commissioned, organized and presented four simultaneous, site-specific public art projects in Parkville and Frog Hollow. Satch Hoyt, Matthew Rodriguez, Sofia Maldonado, and Margarida Correia each completed residencies in Hartford, met with leaders from and residents of the neighborhoods, designed and installed their projects, and conducted tours.