a photo of Westville's mural As In The Light of Marielle, by Faring Purth

Westville Village, New Haven, CT

Contact Name
Elizabeth Donius
Project Dates
April 2016-Oct 2018
Tags
Placemaking/placekeeping, Marketing, Event, Entrepreneurship, Downtown preservation/main streets, Design
Since 2016, the Westville Village Renaissance Alliance has deepened its commitment to supporting and strengthening the community of artists and arts-related enterprises in Westville. This initiative has several key components: 1) The creation of the Westville Public Art Initiative, which to date has funded and implemented eight public art projects. 2) The expansion of our arts-focused community events, particularly City Wide Open Studios Westville, which this year featured 30 + individual studios, and a storage container installation on Central Avenue. 3) Branding efforts undertaken to promote Westville's arts identity and the thriving, diverse, community that sustains it.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
The goals of this project were to 1) beautify Westville through public art; 2) promote the artists working in Westville and to promote their work; 3) promote Westville - as a place to make art, see art, start arts-related businesses, visit arts related businesses, and participate in a diverse, inclusive community of creative-minded people; 4) to pay artists as fairly as possible for their work.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
The Westville Village Renaissance Alliance funds and coordinates the Public Art Initiative, the branding efforts, and the ancillary events and costs for Westville's piece of City Wide Open Studios.

Artist /entrepreneurs Misti and Luke Hanscom jump-started and inspired this new wave of efforts by opening Lotta Studio/West River Arts - a hybrid enterprise encompassing 13 individual artist studios, a co-working space for creatives, a photo studio/event space and a coffee bar. This anchor institution quickly attracted new talent and energy, including well-known artists like Mohammad Hafez, and many of the artists driving the projects included in this initiative. Additionally, the Hanscom's serve on the public art selection committee, provide technical support for many installations, and serve as art directors for Westville's branding efforts.

ArtSpace - our partner for CityWIde Open Studios events. Coordinating the Westville weekend through Artspace's larger event amplifies its reach and its scope, help to spread the Westville gospel beyond New Haven's border.

Southern Connecticut State University - our partner in creating street banners for Whalley Avenue. Southern covered the cost of installation, a huge savings for us, and shared their reduced rate for the creation of the banners. The poles have Westville banners on one side, and SCSU banners on the other.

Westville businesses from Affiliated Foot and Ankle Surgeons to Bella's Cafe have partnered with WVRA in the presentation and installation of public art pieces throughout the Village.

Arts-related Westville businesses Strange Ways and the Kehler Liddell Gallery provided additional programming and publicity in a coordinated manner, optimizing the impact of events like City Wide Open Studios.

The City of New Haven offered financial support of our public art efforts through their neighborhood vitality matching grants, and through a willingness to say yes to projects on city property, including tile mosaics on a bridge and a vinyl wrap of a city bus stop. The city also supported the hanging of our Whalley Avenue banners and assisted in securing the state permissions.

The Westville/West Hills Community Management Team provided funding specifically for the creation and implementation of the Westville Banners on Whalley Ave.

The State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development provided significant operating support to WVRA, allowing for the underwriting of this projects.

The Carolyn Foundation supported WVRA's arts-related community programming, including our CWOS efforts.

Travis Carbonella - Westville's resident videographer captures our community as only he can, and has helped to define what makes Westville so unique.

Individual artists who live and work in Westville play critical roles in all of these efforts. The public art committee, responsible for selecting sites and judging proposals, is comprised entirely of Westville-based artists, three of whom happen to also be business owners. Without the full commitment of the 30+ individual artists, there would be no open studios event. And finally, our branding efforts are directed and implemented by the talented artists of Westville, drawing on our home-grown talent to convey our message.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
As we work to ensure the economic health of Westville Village, our top priority is to fight against vacancies, empty lots and blighted buildings. We do this through a number of different strategies, for example, we recently worked with the Yale Law School Community and Economic Development Clinic to change the zoning code in Westville Village. But we have come to recognize that our top recruiting tool for growing Westville is our community of artists and the arts-related businesses they have created. In the past year a new vinyl record shop, a high-end vintage clothing boutique and Connecticut's first Cat Cafe have all opened in Westville. These new business owners will directly site Lotta Studio, Neville Wisdom Fashions, Strange Ways and other businesses anchored in the creative economy when discussing why they chose Westville.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
The creation of Lotta Studio and West River Arts inspired our approach to this project. The initiatives outlined here were a way of harnessing the new energy and creativity at West River Arts and extending it and amplifying it throughout the Village.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
Public Art
1) Secured the funds to underwrite the first CFP for public art projects in Westville Village.
2) Assembled a committee of neighborhood artists, identify locations and set application criteria.
3) Worked with the artist community to get the CFP out there.
4) Committee reviewed the proposals, selected projects, and approved budgets.
5) WVRA Staffer Noe Jimenez, himself a Westville based-painter, worked closely with each artist to implement their projects.

City Wide Open Studios, in collaboration with ArtSpace
1) Held open meeting with Westville-based artists to discuss goals for CWOS and secure community buy-in.
2) Recruited artists with studio space in Westville to register for CWOS.
3) Worked with Westville-based artists who did not have studios in the Village to provide temporary 'pop-up' studio space. In 2017 these studios were in empty storefronts. In 2017 , with most of our storefronts filled, we chose to work with PODS Storage to provide six temporary studio PODS.
4) Secured sponsorship agreement, street closures , liquor permits and sponsors for CWOS street party.
5) Worked with partner orgs (ArtSpace, Kehler Liddell Gallery, Strange Ways, West River Arts) to promote the full weekend of events as well as the work of individual artists.

Branding
1) Assembled team of talented photographers, videographers, design and communications professionals from and committed to Westville.
2) Identified the messaging. In our case: creativity, community, diversity, fun, vibrancy.
3) Set a budget - for creation and for distribution.
4) Identify distribution methods. In our case: social media, some print materials, some facebook ads, street banners for new Whalley Avenue median.
5) Documented community events and other elements of the creative economy at work. Created a varied library of images and video
6) Shared some immediately through social media , using hashtags and partners to create as wide a reach as possible. Kept it fresh.
For Banners -
1) Identified what we hoped to communicate through the banners. In our case: This is Westville. Art happens here and we have a wide variety of artists working here.
2)Worked with committee (we used our existing public art committee) to identify the work to be showcased.
3) Shared plans with the larger community and solicit their input.
4) Secured partnership with SCSU to help alleviate the cost of the banners while telegraphing a connection between Westville and the University.
5) Secured permits, permissions and contractors and installed!
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Obstacles for public art included: Getting permission from local property owners and buy-in from local business owners. Logistical challenges regarding weather, and durability of the pieces were also a consideration. Ensuring a fair application and review process, so artist-applicants felt their projects were considered thoughtfully.

Obstacles for open studios included: Ensuring that all or most artists commit to participation.

Obstacles to renewed branding efforts: Ensuring high-quality, low cost images and video that presented a cohesive vision.

Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Starting early in terms of obtaining permissions in helpful. We identified locations before soliciting applications so we were able to secure permissions ahead of time. Flexibility is helpful. Making sure the artists and the affected businesses know each other and what to expect is important. Regarding logistical challenges, this is a key area where having actual artists run the program meant we had the practical knowledge on hand to solve those problems. Ensuring a fair review process just requires thinking through how projects will be solicited and chosen and then being transparent about that process with applicants.

For Open Studios, participating artists pay a fee and commit to being present in their studio for the better part of a weekend. We held multiple community meetings with Westville's artists to discuss the potential of the event and what they hoped for it. Through this outreach we enlisted the individuals in our team effort to promote the visibility of Westville's artists.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1) Build a network of partners, collaborators and participants early on.
2) If there is to be a selection process, make sure your process is fair and transparent and that a diverse group of voices is in the conversation.
3) Create projects that best leverage the skills of your assembled partners and provide the most support and exposure for your specific community assets.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
Our community is more beautiful and more visually interesting as a result of our public art efforts, and that is something that is appreciated and enjoyed by countless visitors. Our shared values of creativity, community and inclusivity and fun are reaffirmed through the welcoming spirit that pervades our open studios events. And as noted above, the strengthening of our artistic community and identity has lad to tangible economic investment in our community.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
Absolutely.
How did you measure this success or progress?
Our CityWide Open Studios events are well attended each year and continue to bring hundreds of new visitors to Westville each year. Our public art projects have been well received and enhance the neighborhood immeasurably. The results of our online branding efforts can be measured through the significant increase in followers and video views that affirm the reach of our materials. But most significant is the anecdotal evidence, the perception, voiced repeatedly by neighbors, acquaintances, and sometimes even journalists, that something seems to be 'happening' in Westville. Yes yes. Exciting times in Westville, we reply.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
I cannot think of any