Creating BUZZ: DUDA’s Project U
October 5th 2012 · 1 Comment
By Tom Martin
In the weeks and months to come, we will be hearing about a new Downtown Utica Development Association (DUDA) initiative dubbed PROJECT U – “more than meets the eye.”
The basic premise of ARTS IN WINDOWS, the first segment of this ambitious campaign, is rather simple at first glance: place eye-catching art in various forms in the windows of both vacant and occupied storefronts and businesses in downtown Utica.
To be sure, putting pictures in windows will not turn downtown upside down. However, the increased activity in the city’s business sector of recent vintage needs to be nurtured. As Utica Monday Nite’s Lynn Mishalanie observed, “It wasn’t that long ago that you could roll a bowling ball down Genesee Street for blocks at a time and no one would notice.” As the traffic picks up again and things slowly but surely start to not just level off, but actually move forward, DUDA wants to create momentum. This may seem painfully slow–a bit like the rebound of the national economy. Yet If one would take a good look around, or better yet, with keen eyes, take a walk around. One would see positive change.
Project U considers ARTS IN WINDOWS to be an ongoing effort with three-month long exhibits, to be changed quarterly or seasonally to keep it fresh and interesting. There might even be some holiday themes in the future – and a few surprises.
Vacant windows in a business district do not beckon business. Unengaging, uninviting, depressing–lifeless and empty buildings tell of failure or inactivity. Artistic displays, however, add interest, color and a reason to pause and admire.
Some of our displays will have feature furniture and accessories from regional manufacturers and retailers to enhance the art pieces and to create ‘home-like’ vignettes. Promoting local manufacturing such as Harden Furniture, Meyda Lighting and Saranac, helps to secure jobs for the area.
People will get out and walk around a bit more just to take in the displays. Some downtown workers will actually leave their offices during lunch breaks or before and after the 9-5 work hours and explore. Increased foot traffic leads to further discovery and comfort in the city. More people will come to enjoy the new and the long-standing cafe’s restaurants and taverns. They might linger to do more business at the local banks, insurance offices, theaters, galleries or the newest tattoo studio. DUDA president Regina Bonacci is fond of saying that “in time, our suburban neighbors will come to realize that they will not die simply by crossing the city line from New Hartford, Frankfort or Deerfield into Utica.”
Parking improvements are in the works. Long vacant buildings are being prepared for new tenants, and future developments will be announced in a short time. Obviously, these things do not happen overnight. Many things need to change. ARTS IN WINDOWS is simply a small step in the right direction.
The creative minds behind this project are as varied as the buildings and the window spaces to be dressed. Many artists have been involved in numerous showings around the country–some across the globe––and their energetic re-.
aging. Some are youthful, driven and daring; others, quiet, thoughtful and precise. All share their individual passion and expression. Some works will be available to purchase and thus will help enhance the careers of local and regional citizens. Included are paintings, mural art, photography, wood and metal sculpture, “soft sculpture,” jewelry, puppetry and more. Their will be student art from Pratt at MWP and from groups such as SCULPTURE SPACE, the ARC and United Cerebral Palsy.
Some of the artists who are participating include Lisa Juen Sinnott, whose high quality and visionary jewelry pieces will grace the windows of Bank of Utica; Christopher Rice from Boonville, who creates incredible welded metal sculpture.; Tim Rand , whose portrait art is amongst the most awesome around these parts; and let’s not forget Tony Thompson and his outrageous mural art. Hard to miss! A number of his artist friends from Syracuse may participate, too. There is plenty more. Come discover for yourself.
The scope of this project will start in diverse locations–Broad Street, First and Main, Bagg’s Square East and West, Liberty Street, Genesee, LaFayette and Devereux. Display locations will expand as more artists and more building owners wish to participate. Utica is blessed with an awesome arts community–so creative and talented, so ready to express themselves unselfishly and communally.
A much hoped-for result of all this is to transform vacant buildings into new prosperity, commerce and jobs. Imagine what a fully functioning business sector would do for Utica, the regional economy and our young people’s future. Perhaps we will create a tech business incubator or conference center.
Put aside complacency and cease bad-mouthing this city. Utica has been suffering for way too long. Get the message out there! Network a “LET’S DO THIS MESSAGE” on the street, social media outlets, to all your friends and neighbors who want to move our community forward. Utica is a ‘can-do’ and a ‘will-do’ place for the next generation, but only if we all do our part.