Window of opportunity for city storefronts

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER
As local photographer Ginger Grant was thinking about the perfect location for the additional artwork in her stock one day, an idea sprouted as she was driving by vacant storefronts in Bristol.
“As an artist, I have tons of stock when I’m in between galleries, so the perfect idea is to find a location to hang it,” said Grant.
Looking at the bare windows of those buildings, Grant started to plant the seeds for project that could not only expose local artists but could also help spur economic development in Bristol. Currently, Grant’s idea involves local artists to come together to decorate those windows with the goal of showing what those empty buildings could potentially look like if occupied.
When she started thinking about whether to rent space for her photographs, Grant said she noticed a lot of empty windows in her neighborhood, and reflected on how she could help her community. Grant said the idea of hanging art in the windows of empty storefronts in Bristol could lure people in.
“I want a vibrant community,” said Grant, adding how she would like to see the windows have a “home” or “holiday” feeling. “With the holidays coming up, [Bristol] will want to drive people in.”
Grant said she hopes to hang all kinds of artwork, including her own photography.
In addition, she also hopes to “dress up” the window, showing the community what is available to them, to draw them in and look at the space to see what they could put in that store.
“The idea is for people to decorate a window, and they can work with the owner of the building, they can work with the town, maybe make a theme,” said Grant, adding how she noticed nine empty storefronts alone, including several in the West End.
Grant said she hopes to get more artists and store owners on board with the project, which she would ideally like to start soon. Recently, Grant has spread word about the project on Facebook, which Bristol Rising has supported.
Right before starting his new position as the city’s brand manager at the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Mark Walerysiak had discussions with Grant about details of the project, especially with the kind of artwork themes that could send a message on the empty storefront windows.
Although the building owners have yet to get on board with the project, Walerysiak said he hopes the project moves forward, as it could serve as an opportunity for the city to incorporate its branding.
“I really want to foster the idea of community, and show that there are a lot of people willing to pull it together, and make [the buildings] more vibrant,” added Grant.
Grant added that she hopes to have a written display featured in each storefront that includes information about the lease as well as details on square footage.
“I’m hoping they’ll be able to lease their space faster…with this additional exposure,” said Grant, adding that she hopes the project also exposes the artwork.
Walerysiak said the project itself also gives those buildings a vibe and energy, noting how Bristol has a strong artist community.
“You’re beautifying a space. You’re telling a story through art,” said Walerysiak, adding that the project could inspire artists to start their own studio. “You’re showing off these spaces—making them more appealing.”
Anyone interested in getting involved with the project can contact Grant at gingerleegrant@gmail.com.