Organizers are hoping that a continuing series of weekend art events in will be a source of creative thinking and ideas for future use of the park and reconnection of the area with downtown New London.
The series began on July 14 and continue through Aug. 18. Each event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The events are being funded by a $100,000 Creative Placemaking grant, awarded to through the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts.
“The artists are getting to know the neighbors at Riverside Park, because the total Creative Placemaking project wants to know how they want to use Riverside Park,” said Sandra Chalk, executive director of New London Landmarks.
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Chalk said the Art Jams are part of a larger effort to better connect the northern end of New London, including Hodges Square and the campuses of and the , with downtown New London. She said other plans include a landscaping school study into the use of Riverside Park and the creation of walking routes, charrettes at Winthrop School to brainstorm ideas, and a survey of Hodges Square business owners. Chalk said planning will continue through the winter, with the hope that a final plan will be ready in June to facilitate grant applications.
On each day, one artist leads a workshop while other participating artists attend in a supporting role. Several participants have experience working with students in schools as part of the Connecticut Higher Order Thinking Schools Program.
“I’ve been experiencing this as a newbie for the first time,” said Dr. Roger Tremblay, who has been a teaching artist for a year. “You get blown over by the extent of the ownership these kids take in the school.”
Tremblay uses technology, computers, and mathematical patterns to create art. While he won’t be setting up a computer lab at Riverside Park for his Aug. 11 workshop, the focus will remain on mathematical patterns that occur in nature.
“It’s also offering another way for people to look at the world around them,” he said.
Mark Patnode runs a workshop this Saturday on painting and self-expression. Children will help create “moving murals,” using canvases that can be removed from the ground and paraded around the park. Patnode said the hope is that this project can continue in perpetuity in conjunction with the schools.
Patnode said the process also allows children to direct the process and exposes them to different kinds of thinking. He said he hopes to get not only kids but their parents and community members involved in the mural creation as well.
“My aspiration is they’ll take ownership of the concept and have some aspiration of where the murals can go,” he said.
L’Ana Burton, who led a dance and body movement event on July 21, said such projects allow children to have a greater perception of self-worth and potential. She said the event also asks participants what they like most about the park and what they would like to see there.
“We’re trying to build on those wishes. I really like that,” she said.