By LISA CAPOBIANCO
For Bristol resident Suzanne Godau, art in any shape or form can add not only character and depth, but also interest to any city.
That’s why the local artist has joined a group of other local artists to display their work in vacant storefront windows in Bristol while incorporating Bristol’s All Heart culture. Together, the artists form the “All Heart Art Squad,” which aims to spread arts and culture in the city. The Art Squad is the first of other action groups called “Heart Squads,” which are geared to better Bristol by “sharing a piece of heart and passion,” according to a press release from the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce.
Art Squad’s first project, “Operation: Storefront Art” launched on Wednesday. Different forms of art are now hung in vacant storefront windows across five storefronts in Bristol. The storefronts are located in the areas of Riverside Avenue, the West End, Forestville, Route 6, and North Main Street. The artwork will be available for sale, and information on the purchase is specified at each storefront. The project will last for a total of six weeks, concluding on Friday, May 15.
A resident of Bristol for more than 20 years, Gordau said she felt honored to be involved in the project.
“I am getting to work with some very talented and caring individuals in a project that can’t help but benefit the city of Bristol,” said Gordau. “In addition, this was exactly what I was looking for in terms of bringing my passion to the next level.”
On display at 369 North Main St. (the former Milestone Restaurant) is Gordau’s oil painting of apples on a large canvas. She also has other oil paintings on display and for sale, including one called “Peaceful Passage,” which depicts Connecticut marshlands.
“I absolutely love creating paintings and would love to share them with as many people as possible,” said Gordau.
Other storefront locations that will display artwork include 15 Memorial Boulevard (the former Tinty’s Furniture between Bristol Liquors and Amanda’s Treasures), 175 West St. (next to Boss House Cuts), 61 East Main St. (The Forestville Industrial Center), and 123 Farmington Ave. (the former GNC).
For Bristol resident Ashley Lodovico, displaying her art in two empty storefronts in the West End serves as a way to give back to the community where she was born and raised. An art teacher at Holmes Elementary School in New Britain and Tunxis Community College, Lodovico said she hopes that through the art displayed in storefront windows, “people will become more aware of the great community Bristol is and the potential of what it can strive to be.”
“With my artwork, I aspire to help Bristol residents see the potential the West End has and start infusing the possibilities that will bring about the change it…needs to help restore the neighborhood that it once was,” said Lodovico, adding how the community helped her talent blossom.
Local photographer Ginger Grant is another artist who feels proud to be a part of the project. Grant said just while handing some art pieces a couple weeks ago, people from the community stopped by to see the artwork.
“I am very excited to be a part of this,” said Grant, who has conceptualized a project like this late last year. “Seeing the empty storefronts decorated with art is very eye-catching.”
In addition, each artist has donated a piece of art that represents “All Heart” to every storefront. This will serve as part of a social media contest involved in the initiative.
Visitors who pass by that storefront can Tweet or Instagram a “selfie” in front of the All-Heart artwork with three Hash Tags: #allheart, #operationstorefrontart, and #bristolct. By doing so, they can automatically enter into a raffle to win the art work.
Mark Walerysiak Jr., brand and marketing manager of Bristol, said the project itself was an idea that was conceptualized awhile ago. The goal of the initiative is to promote the community’s art and culture, draw attention to storefronts to help lease/sell vacant spaces, and to improve the look of neighborhoods, as well as to offer a vehicle to spread the positive All Heart culture and to offer a project that inspires community participation and tourism, the release said.
Walerysiak said the project not only showcases the talents of community artists, but also showcases what a vacant store could become if occupied. Whether an entrepreneur or an artist is looking for new space, the artwork displayed in the storefronts could inspire people from different walks of life, said Walerysiak.
“It really beautifies the neighborhoods,” said Walerysiak, adding how imagination can cultivate energy in a community. “It allows storefront owners to showcase their space at no cost. You never know what great results could come of that.”
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO