September 13, 2018
Who doesn’t like art? It makes us think, feel and can bring beauty into our life. Public art serves the same functions. Cities become more interesting and vibrant when its residents and visitors experience art in public places as they go about their day. The first public art programs started as part of the New Deal, with the formation of the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture in 1934. Today, governments often sponsor or fund artwork in public places, recognizing its value to their city or town, and Norwalk is no exception.
Here in Norwalk, CT public art abounds. The Norwalk Parking Authority has been a large proponent of public art with their “Art in Parking Places” initiative, in collaboration with the Norwalk Arts Commission. In one of their parking garages, the Maritime Garage, there is an urban art gallery. The Maritime Garage Gallery, situated across from the Maritime Aquarium, features regular juried art shows and community exhibits.
The Yankee Doodle Garage in the Wall Street area is itself a work of art with a light installation on its facade. The installation gives a sense of movement through logistically and creatively placed LED lighting that illuminate the exterior wall while drawing light from the garage interior LED lights.
Two other “Art in Parking Places” initiatives are in the South Norwalk Train Station. The first includes hand-sized, cast aluminum forms distributed throughout the station depicting items associated with South Norwalk, including an oyster schooner, a buoy and lighthouse, as well as a hat on a hat box. The second is located in the tunnel connecting eastbound and westbound sides of the station. A mural of silhouetted figures illustrating the transit history of the South Norwalk railroad station and the surrounding community reflected by the fashion of the generations of passengers that have passed through.
Another unconventional public art project in the city is found on traffic boxes, bringing creativity and color to South Norwalk. Dull traffic boxes have been turned into vibrant works of public art with themes including literary works as well as “Connecticut at Work,” representing aspects of Norwalk’s many diverse current and historic industries such as manufacturing, farming, transportation and oystering.
Norwalk also is home to its own New Deal murals – the largest collection in the U.S. These WPA murals are located in City Hall, the Norwalk Transit District, Norwalk Community College, the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, and the Norwalk Public Library. Other public murals are located around town at Calf Pasture Beach and in SoNo. Sculpture is also represented in a number of public places around Norwalk such as Oyster Shell, Cranbury and Veteran’s Parks, and Washington Street Plaza.
Seeing art around us in our homes and in our public spaces is good for the soul (some studies say it’s even good for our health!). We can stop, ponder, take a breath, feel different emotions and think beyond the day-to-day. Public art can even be an icebreaker, allowing us to start up conversations with strangers on the street. Norwalk has many spaces for us to do this. So get out, explore and enjoy!