The pursuit of public art projects continues with a novel idea that engages the community in the decision-making process
Sure, we’ve got Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Orangemen basketball and a mutual dislike for Villanova. But fear not, more positive Syracuse magic came out of days just passed, in the form of art. Nothing brings people together, fosters community, and brings out the beauty and potential of a space better than shared art. This art comes in all shapes and sizes, and is born from all kinds of ideas. All were present at a new event called Salt City Dishes.
Dishes, an event to raise money and awareness for Syracuse community art projects, asked Syracuse to Dine In, Support Happenings, and Enliven Syracuse (DISHES, get it?) at the soldout event Sunday, Jan. 23, at St. Clare Theater, 1119 N. Townsend St. Attendees enjoyed the company of local artists, art lovers and community members, ate a menu of locally sourced food, jammed to some good music and listened to presentations on nine potential community art projects geared to engage people of Syracuse and bring out the city’s inner brilliance. “We know the potential of the city and the potential of the people,” said Stasya Panova, an organizer. “That’s what this is all about.”
After the ideas were put on the table, audience members—which numbered 130—voted by ballot, and the project with the most potential was announced and awarded a grant of $1,000. Syracuse Urban Beautification Public Art Resistance, also known as SubPar, was the inaugural victor. SubPar performs what is called art interventions, taking street art to a new level by incorporating ceramics and screen-printing into visually neglected areas.
“We’re injecting beauty and value into streets,” said SubPar’s co-founder Joel Weissman. “Artists would serve as public servants, contributing to the culture. What the city is and can become is only possible through an engaged populace.”
SubPar was formed by Weissman and Tonja Torgerson during an art activism class at Syracuse University. “When it comes to activism, we both have an interest in art in public places,” Torgerson said. When this thirst for activism and art was discovered, SubPar was born.
SubPar plans to spend the Dishes grant on supplies such as clay, glaze, screen-printing tools and potentially a website and film documentation of the project. Right now SubPar is still in the research phase of finding exact locations for their art. But keep an eye out in the near future. “I hope that people feel that they’re a part of it. I hope that people see those works and think to themselves, I made that possible,” Torgerson said. “That’s something that makes the work more strong, and gives us more to work with.”
Dishes evolved from an idea based on Brooklyn’s FEAST event, a similar community funding arts project. (FEAST stands for Funding Emerging Art with Sustainable Tactics.)
Rachel Somerstein moved from Brooklyn to Syracuse last summer, bringing the idea with her. “The one in New York City, a friend of mine runs and I attend,” said Somerstein. “I felt that Syracuse needed its own FEAST.” From that spark of an idea, events were set in motion and with the help of Panova and third organizer Briana Kohlbrenner, Dishes was created.
While SubPar received the most audience votes, other worthy projects were present Jan. 23 as well. Stay tuned for the next Dishes event, taking place on May 1, when SubPar will be presenting their progress. “I’m really hoping this gives our city a new type of face,” said Panova. “The city needs energy and has the energy contained all within it. We just hope to give it a voice.”
Every Dishes event will have a call for artists, with presentations and the awarding of a grant, just like the January conclave. Each upcoming event will include a report from the artist who won the previous grant. Organizers haven’t yet decided if the rejected projects listed below can resubmit in the future.
• Library Farm, a community garden set up next to Northern Onondaga Public Library in Cicero. The idea is that anyone can “check out” a plot of land for no cost—much like you check out a library book—and farm it for a season. “We want to extend the definition of literacy to food, and how it relates to the economy,” said Thomas Gokey, a presenter for the project. The food farmed is shared in the community, including local housing shelters. The project also holds classes on farming. The Library Farm is working to raise money to make their project ADA accessible, to employ an irrigation system and habitat gardening and to purchase new equipment. For more information on the Library Farm, visit www.nopl/org/library-farm/, e-mail email@example.com, or call 699-2032.
• Upstate Improv Festival, a two-day festival on April 8 and 9 providing network and community for upstate improvisers. More than 30 groups from communities and colleges will attend and participate in shows and workshops. The event will entail opportunities for team performances and all-star improvisational jams. For a taste of the Syracuse Improv Scene, visit http://saltinewarrior.net/.
• Syracuse Community Cookbook Series, an idea to preserve culture and family history locally. The idea is a curricular project in the form of a workshop to help high school students collect family recipes and hand-bind them into their own family cookbook. Extras would be made and sold to keep the project sustained. “This would feel the pulse and beat of the great multicultural city,” said presenter Daniel Alguilera. To get involved, e-mail Daniel Alguilera at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Walking on Water, an idea for an audio-walking tour in the city, consisting of multi-authored, layered stories. “It would be a constantly shifting public art monument,” said presenter Nathaniel Sullivan. Walking on Water is already under way with a Centro bus ad campaign in March and a show at the Community Folk Art Gallery in April. To get involved, contact Nathaniel Sullivan at email@example.com, or Jay Muhlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Storefront for Syracuse, a Syracuse University student-run initiative, presented their idea for The Front, an effort to revitalize the vacant storefront space in downtown Syracuse. The target area for this project is 217 E. Genesee St., which has been vacant for the past two decades; the group hopes it will soon be home to art galleries, meetings, lectures, events, film screenings and more. The Front has a few events planned—The Syracuse We Saw and Connecting the Corridor—so keep your eyes peeled. For more information, check out aias.syr.edu/front.
• Art Cart (think Mystery Machine meets summer art camp), a mobile workshop throughout the summer for children in elementary school through early teens. Different guest artists would lead different workshops, the materials would all be kept in the vehicle, and best of all, the workshops would be free. Toward the end of the summer, a larger-scale project would be put into effect—something like a mural or art installation. “The Art Cart would bring art to the community and activate spaces,” said Sara Mills, Art Cart presenter. “It would make art as visible, accessible and public as possible.” To get involved, e-mail Sara Mills at email@example.com.
• Skillshare, a day of do-it-yourself workshops, a place to share talents and learn skills, whatever those might be. Skillshare is in its second year, and wishes to expand and connect with as many people in the community as possible. “Anyone and everyone has skills to share with the community,” said presenter Vanessa Marquez. The event is scheduled for late spring or early summer. For more information, see www.syracuseskillshare.org.
• FiboCuse, an idea blending art, community and mathematics. The idea is to use Fibonacci numbers—a series of numbers in which two consecutive numerals add up to the number following them—to create a map, marked with art, starting in Syracuse and expanding as far out as possible. “Syracuse can become the center of the mapified universe,” said presenter Brendan Rose. To get involved, contact Brendan Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about DISHES, visit http://saltcitydishes.blogspot.com/.
Power to the people: Syracuse Skillshare presents its public arts project during the inaugural Salt City Dishes event, held Jan. 23.