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.


  1. woah! what a totally official blog. can't wait to read more.

  2. This sounds really cool! I can't wait to see how it turns out.

  3. This is a really amazing idea! I can't wait to see it all happen.

  4. This is quite beautiful; what a great event. By the way, the story of Kirkland Ave and its ownership (or the lack thereof) deserves to be told. There seems to be some controversy over the application of the so-called "derelict fee statute." I may do some research and write about this.

  5. leave it to Mary to get to the dirt ....if only the derelicts would pay fees then everything would be ok? yes/no?