On Aug. 1 Norwalk 2.0 unveiled "Project Summer," a new painting by Norwalk artist Jahmane at the Norwalk Library.
The artwork was commissioned by Norwalk 2.0 as part of Faces of Norwalk, a creative placemaking program designed to ignite activity in downtown Norwalk.
Taking inspiration from the Works Progress Administration murals at City Hall and the library, which were created through a project established by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in mid-1935, Jahmane created a moment in time of summer in Norwalk.
Describing the piece, Jahmane said he was "inspired by my childhood memories of growing up and the fun we had in my neighborhood.
"Reminiscing about growing up in Norwalk, the Roodner Court housing project specifically, I wanted to give the viewer a cross-sectional look at what my summers were like growing up. Also, I wanted to present an alternate impression to what `ghetto' life was like, and suggest what it could be again.
"The piece is meant to reflect a time where kids actually went outside more and played, instead of locking themselves in a room behind a computer or watching TV. Though considered a `bad' part of town, it was still very diverse, as well as filled with games and excitement the generations of today could look to for inspiration."
"In its decision to enable the display of these paintings, the Norwalk Public Library board of trustees pointed to its ever-expanding role to help the library serve as a focal point for community art, literacy and other community benefits," Bradley said.
Norwalk 2.0 is a community and economic development organization dedicated to bringing people back to the heart of Norwalk's downtown. Linking the past with the future, the Faces of Norwalk received funding support from the Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts, which also receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The project goal is to create a series of arts events and street exhibits that speak to the historic economic vibrancy of downtown Norwalk and catalyze an artistic hub within the district. Through an inaugural year of programming, in addition to site-specific history engagement, Norwalk 2.0 plans to include a series of pop-up arts and retail experiences that place creative expression into the heart of the district and help forge ties from the new businesses in the retail area with the larger community and its historical roots.
Reimagining the WPA federal program initiated in the Depression Era, the Faces project put local artists to work creating new artworks. Norwalk 2.0 has commissioned new artworks to add to the extensive collection of WPA-era artworks on display at Norwalk City Hall and the Belden Avenue Norwalk Public Library.
Wall Street, which connects the east and west parts of Norwalk with a bridge over the Norwalk River, has been a vital part of Norwalk's growth up until the 1955 flood. Norwalk 2.0's ongoing project aims to capture the cultural significance of the history since that point, and has created programs and projects that have brought attention to the area.
"Innovation, design, art and technology have always been a part of the historic vibrancy of Norwalk," said Jackie Lightfield, co-founder of Norwalk 2.0. "Jahmane's work projects the carefree days of summer that we remember so well."
"Jahmane's art is so hopeful and joyful," said co-founder Maribeth Becker.
The state of Connecticut has invested in similar projects in other communities, notably Create Here Now in Bridgeport and Project Storefront in New Haven.
"Part of the strategy that Deputy Commissioner Kip Bergstrom has implemented, is to encourage and support emerging artists to catalyze downtown areas. We think that this is a good modern interpretation of what was accomplished with the original WPA program, and appreciate the support," Lightfield said.
Norwalk 2.0 has been working in partnership with the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, the Norwalk Library, the Norwalk Preservation Trust and the Norwalk Historical Society in efforts to leverage the interests and activities of the organizations in the area.