Volume 19 Issue 47 | April 6 - 12, 2007

Downtown groups move to add art to construction areas

By Brooke Edwards

Within the next few months, some of the many Downtown construction sites should start to look a bit more inviting.

A subcommittee of Community Board 1 voted unanimously last Wednesday to support the use of Lower Manhattan Development Corporation community enhancement funds for “construction mitigation,” which will include the installation of art projects on fences, barriers, scaffolding, shrouding, and even portable toilets and dumpsters that accompany construction sites.

“We are looking for ways to beautify construction sites and to mitigate the visual impact of the construction,” said Downtown Alliance president Eric Deutsch during a presentation to the C.B. 1 Arts and Entertainment Task Force last Wednesday.

Sites being considered for art installations intended to make people stop and stare — and increase foot traffic to the local businesses — included Wall St., Fulton St., Beekman St., South Ferry and particularly Maiden Lane.

“The businesses want their foot traffic back,” Deutsch said, “and art installations could help do that.”

The idea of adding art to Downtown construction sites had been kicking around for at least a year, and Pam Chmiel, who owns Klatch coffee shop on Maiden Lane, may have helped reignite the effort when she asked the Alliance about it earlier this year.

At the C.B. 1 meeting, Deutsch said the Alliance plans to request $5 million from the L.M.D.C. for large-scale projects, though he stressed that they will proceed with three or four pilot projects regardless of whether their request is approved.

Deutsch was joined by Tom Healy, executive director of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

“We’re putting up seed money for some initial pilot projects,” Healy said of the L.M.C.C., but both Healy and Deutsch said they are hoping local businesses and community groups will help to sponsor further installations.

The L.M.C.C. has issued an “open call” for artists to submit proposals for the installations. Artists had been pitching ideas to the cultural council even before the call went out, but Healy did not reveal any details of what has been suggested. The deadline for the proposals is May 1, and details can be found on the L.M.C.C. Web site,

Healy said the council is open to all visual media, and that possible projects might include painting, collage, sculpture, architectural designs or light installations.

On areas where it is already congested, like Liberty St., Healy said they will not add art installations that will slow people down. Instead, they plan to just clean up the construction sites and add some brightly colored signage to make it more appealing.

Healy agreed to come to C.B. 1 with proposed projects and sites before development begins. He said they will also talk to local businesses and residents in areas where installations will take place. Healy said, “We want everyone in the community to be on board with this.”

The subcommittee of C.B. 1 also voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the release of the remaining $7 million in L.M.D.C. cultural funds to the L.M.C.C. Healy did not specify how these funds would be allocated, other than to say that they would go to support Lower Manhattan arts organizations.

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