Saturday, February 21, 2009

Movement Workshop with Kelley Mariani

On Tuesday, February 17th Kelley Mariani led a dance and improvisation workshop designed to explore site-specific movement in Kirkland Ave. Through tuning into our physical experiences of Kirkland Ave, we were able to understand more deeply the way space shapes our relationships to each other and to our surroundings. Some of the prompts Kelley posted on the walls during this workshop included:

How does Kirkland Ave shape your movement?
How is moving in Kirkland Ave different from moving through it?
Follow a feeling.
Trace any line in the space with any part of your body.
Stand still and listen. Notice what you notice.
Find a new path.
See how your body can fit into the alley's nooks and crannies.
What have you discovered about Kirkland Ave that you didn't know before?

Most of this workshop was filmed, and the (awesome!) footage will probably be projected at the Art-Out, on March 13th. Also, the group's findings and experiences are helping to shape future performances in Kirkland Ave, such as FRAME, which will be on April 10th and 11th.

Exploring the Spaces in Between with Woody Pistrich

Spending time in Kirkland Ave has allowed me to meet and talk to some very interesting people who live and work around the alley. Meet Steven "Woody" Pistrich.

Woody owns Pistrich Design and Builders in South Deerfield, which has done work in buildings surrounding Kirkland Ave over the past couple of years. Woody came out to visit and talk about Kirkland Ave during the movement workshop. He led me around the alley, pointing out interesting architectural features and old projects he had completed over the years. It was really interesting to see the layers and changes to the space over time, visible through changes in brick patterns, old pipes and wires, and filled in doors and windows. He taught me a lot about masonry and the characteristics of old buildings.

When I asked Woody to add a "brick" to our "If These Walls Could Talk" activity, without pausing he wrote "Repoint me! -->". When I asked him what that meant, he told me repointing is the process of remortaring or repairing spaces in between the bricks. He pointed to a place in the wall where the mortar was wearing away, leaving the bricks more exposed.

I love the different ways people relate to and understand the spaces that surround them. Each person brings a unique perspective and knowledge into a situation. Piece by piece, the story of Kirkland Ave is unfolding, it's personality growing. Thanks to Woody and to everyone who has shared their experience of Kirkland Ave so far.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Art-In Recap

The Kirkland Ave Project kicked off with an Art-In this past Friday, February 13th. Though chilly, many people turned out to see what was going on and to creatively explore and document the alley with us.
People came to draw, dance, photograph, video, play with projectors, and to learn more about the project.

There were activities that people could participate in, such as "If These Walls Could Talk", where one could imagine what one of the bricks in the wall might say, and write it down and stick it to a new "wall."

Another activity was to frame something in the space that you want someone else to notice with duct tape.

People wrote haikus constructed from the graffiti and words in the alley, and made rubbings with crayons to capture the different textures in the space.

Watch locked neighborhood
unauthorized pirate kiss
complete disposal
- by RPWB

It was really interesting to see what people created and left behind in Kirkland Ave.

It was wonderful talking with so many people and hearing their stories and ideas about the space. A big thank you to everyone who came out and played and shared with us! If you or your work is in any of these photos, please let us know! Thanks to Julia Handschuh and Haley Morgan for photos from the Art-In.

Also, thank you to Ballybunion Reality, LLC for letting us use the breezeway behind the Guild for tea and warmth, to Deals and Steals and the Green Bean for supplying the tea and cups, to Mike for helping us clean and set up, and to all of the building owners and managers for their support in this project.

Be sure to check out the glass cases in the breezeway behind the Guild for more documentation of the Kirkland Ave Project, and mark your calendars for the Art-Out and artHAPPENING on March 13th from 4-7pm!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

We are in the process of collecting and sorting and uploading pictures, video, and artwork from this past Friday's (great) Art-In. We will have it all up on the site within a couple of days, so stay tuned!

If you have any pictures or such from the Art-In, we'd love to see them! To share, please e-mail

Have any lingering thoughts, images, ideas, feelings, or reactions to the Art-In, Kirkland Ave, or the project in general? Please post 'em on the blog and keep this party going!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Kirkland Ave in the News

Kirkland Ave has been buzzing with media attention this week. Check out articles about the Kirkland Ave Project in Thursday's Daily Hampshire Gazette, Friday's Daily Collegian, and in this week's Valley Advocate as the "Pick of the Week."

We hope to see you at the Art-In tonight, from 4-7pm! It is going to be great time, I can feel it in my bones...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What is the Kirkland Ave Project?

Kirkland Ave in Northampton, MA is a site full of interest and exciting potential. Kirkland Ave is an alleyway located in the heart of downtown Northampton, MA. It runs parallel to Main Street, between Downtown Sounds and La Fiorentina. Here is a map of it!

View Larger Map

There is dispute over the ownership and title of the space dating back to the Civil War. There is no record filed with the city designating it a public way, and yet no private owners to be found who pay taxes for the space. This leaves Kirkland Ave as somewhat of a no-man's-land, with no one caring for the upkeep of the space or enforcing parking, and encouraging litter and graffiti to accumulate. Surrounding building and business owners have periodically improved the space over the years, installing lighting, a handsome sign, and even a mural in the mid-nineties, but Kirkland Ave remains a largely neglected and overlooked space.

In 2008, one of the building owners who line Kirkland Ave approached storefrontART to do a project that would clean up the space and create murals. Quickly, we realized that this project could be much more effective and meaningful if we expanded the scope of the project.

The Kirkland Ave Project seeks to revitalize this centrally located and historically rich space through a series of programs and events designed to creatively enhance the spaces' aesthetics and function. Local artists and community members from Northampton will have an opportunity to use their imaginations and talents to explore and engage with the space and each other. This project hopes to work together with other organizations and initiatives in Kirkland Ave to create a space that is more accessible, visible, and usable. Increased interest and pedestrian traffic in the space generated by the projects will hopefully help deter crime and neglect, while raising pride and awareness of Northampton's unique community.

Kirkland Ave's successful revitalization depends on a process sensitive to the needs of the community and of the space itself.This project recognizes the multiplicity of voices and visions already present in Kirkland Ave, visible in it's graffiti, stencils, stickers, and tags, and through the wide spectrum of people who use the space. The Kirkland Ave Project seeks to work with and not against all of these interests. This is an opportunity for all of these voices to be heard, recognized, and and a part of a new chapter in Northampton's cultural revival.

Phase One of the project will first investigate what possibilities and experiences the space shapes and holds, and then Phase Two will use the results of those investigations to inform more permanent changes to Kirkland Ave.

Phase One consists of a series of creative investigations of the physical space, to take place four times in February and March, culminating with a public performance and installation in April.

A.) ART-IN (Fri Feb 13th, 4-7pm).
Artists of various mediums are invited make and plan non-permanent work about Kirkland Ave, in Kirkland Ave. It's kind of like a jam session or open study group for creative thinkers. The Art-In is open to the public, and artists of all mediums and abilities are invited to participate. Please bring your own supplies to work with. You can come explore the alley with your eyes, ears, hands, and imagination; with your sketchpad, camera, body, or tape measure. There will also be activities, games, nice people, and hot tea.
The aim of this first event is to raise awareness and spark creativity in this new site for public art.
The Art-In will coincide with Northampton's monthly Arts Night Out, and be free and open to the public. Work generated at this event will inform future projects in the alley.

B.) Movement Studies (Tues Feb 17th, 4-7pm).
How does space shape our interactions with each other, our selves, and our environment? How does the space move, and how does the space ask our bodies to move? In this investigation, improvisational dancer, choreographer, and artist Kelley Mariani will explore and facilitate site-specific movement with a group of movers. Their explorations will be videoed and are open to the public to witness and participate.

C.) Youth Workshop (working date: Tues March 10th).
Students from area schools will be invited into Kirkland Ave to use their imaginations and critical thinking skills to investigate the space. Through play, Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), and experiential education activities, students will be asked to locate, illuminate, illustrate, and challenge their ideas about what the space is, what it was, what it could be, and how to use it.

D.) Art-Out/Art Happening (Fri March 13th, 4-8pm).
Temporary installations, performances, sculptures, and visual art will take place in and around Kirkland Ave. Artists will construct temporary interactive installations, sculptures, treasure maps, and mini performances within Kirkland Ave, drawing on their research during the Art In one month earlier.
This date will coincide with Arts Night Out and be a part of storefrontART's third artHAPPENING. The event is free and open to the public, and is sure to be very fun.

E.) FRAME (Fri April 10, Sat April 11)
Phase One will culminate with a collaborative performance and installation that responds to the investigations in Kirkland Ave by Haley Morgan and Kelley Mariani, titled FRAME. Support for this performance is made possible in part by the Northampton Arts Council.

Materials and documentation from Phase One will be used to inspire the creation of murals during the spring and summer of 2009. A diverse group of artists will work independently and collaboratively in Kirkland Ave to paint murals, though specific programs and events are to be determined.

Throughout the process of revitalization, open dialogue within the community will be encouraged and valued. Please be a part of it! A thriving community and culture depends on making time and space to gather, share, and create together.