Alexander Calder, Swoon, BiP, and Claes Oldenburg are among the artists whose works make up the rich tapestry of outdoor art in New Haven. And if you’re not sure where they are?… There’s a web app for that.
ArtSites New Haven is a new interactive, mobile-friendly website that will locate, describe, and illustrate outdoor art in and around the city. It’s the brainchild of 27-year-old Selby Nimrod. She said the goal is to educate people about what's around them in their city. "What many people don't realize about New Haven is that you can see everything from historical monuments, to twentieth century modernist sculptures, to really fantastic street art. So there's a real variety."
The web app is the latest contribution from Site Projects, a non-profit that commissions public art in New Haven. They were looking for a way to start a conversation about the history of public art that wouldn’t be in the form of, as Nimrod puts it, “a droning lecture.”
So, on a comfortable, sunny afternoon, we gave her web app a test run. iPhones in hand, standing on a New Haven street corner, Nimrod gave me a demonstration. We tapped out ArtSites New Haven in our web browser and followed a Google map to the nearest piece, which was Ann Lehman's sculpture Intersection.
The red painted steel sculpture stands nine feet tall at the busy intersection where Temple and Trumbull streets converge with Whitney Avenue. As traffic whizzed by, Nimrod articulately described the piece.
"It's done in the modernist style. It's actually these beautiful curving arrows, that for me, really get at the dynamics of the intersection itself," Nimrod said. "It really kind of mirrors that kinetic energy and the confusion of all the traffic. What's most remarkable about this is that it's two halves, and you can see the seam if you look closely. But it looks like one whole piece. And in that way, I think working with materials like this and really knowing them, as she clearly does, is very seductive. "
Nimrod’s description of Ann Lehman’s piece is an example of what you can read on ArtSites New Haven. She researched and wrote many of the essays on the site, so It’s a little like having your own personal walking tour.
After visiting that sculpture I caught up with Ann Lehman. The artist is now 87. I found her comfortably in her element, melding metal with a torch at the end of a sculpting class she teaches.
Lehman seemed delighted to know the piece she constructed 35 years ago will live on in the technological age. "That's nice," she said. "It's public art, which is wonderful. In this town we have so many, many pieces. It's wonderful. And people have told me as they drive down Whitney Avenue it puts a smile on their face. Well, that's good. I like that."
There are more than 30 works of art catalogued so far. Some of the other features on the site include an archive under the heading ARTcheology. There are embedded links for additional resources and a video component. Their slogan probably sums it up best: Art is Everywhere. Find it!