Lighten Up

Lighten Up: MATRIX 164 Artist Jan Tichy Collaborates with The Amistad Center’s Teen Advisory Group to Create Public Art Installations

As part of its ongoing Community Engagement Initiative, the Wadsworth Atheneum unveiled its third and latest Artist Residency project this spring. The project, titled, Lighten Up: A Public Art Project by the Teen Advisory Group, is comprised of a series of public light-based artworkscreated jointly by museum MATRIX 164 artist Jan Tichy and The Amistad Center’s Teen Advisory Group (TAG). The works are site-specific, located at various organizations along Albany Avenue and adjacent neighborhoods in the North End of Hartford. The museum hosted a free public opening reception to celebrate the project’s culmination at the Wilson-Gray YMCA Youth and Family Center on Sunday, May 20, from 7:30 – 9:30 pm. Download a printable map of the installation locations and more information about the works here.

Taking inspiration from the Wall of Respect in Chicago, Tichy’s goal was to use public art as a way to inspire, encourage, and celebrate the community, which led him to select Upper Albany as the location for this project. On an early visit, Tichy toured Hartford, observing both famous landmarks and little-known neighborhoods. He noticed that while someareas of the city such as Frog Hollow/Park Street and downtown are home to many sculptures and painted murals, works of public art in neighborhoods surrounding Upper Albany are much fewer and farther between. His interest in past museum director Chick Austin and the Austin House were also factors in his selection, as the stretch of Albany Avenue that serves as the central artery for the selected sites connects downtown to the Austin House.

“In their interactions with the artist, TAG members learned about the artistic process, the role of public art in building community, and were encouraged to make unique artistic choices,” said Johanna Plummer, Georgette Auerbach Koopman Director of Education at the Wadsworth Atheneum.

“This is truly the most exciting and art-based project TAG has undertaken in its eight years, combining youth education and community service,” said Olivia White, Executive Director of The Amistad Center for Art & Culture.

Lighten Up connects thematically with Tichy’s work, but also empowers the teens in TAG to tell their own stories of Hartford through public art. Each work is unique and intended to evoke a different response in the viewer. For example, a sculptural work at St. Francis Hospital will use cool colors to evoke a sense of calm among patients and their families, while another work at the YMCA will emphasize the ways that the tragedy of the Trayvon Martin case has resonated with people around the country. Other installation sites include Sigourney Square Park, the Old North Cemetery, and the empty pedestal in Aaron Fein Square.

About The Artist Residency Program
The Wadsworth’s Artist Residency program is part of its Community Engagement Initiative (CEI). Launched in 2008 by museum Director and C.E.O., Susan L. Talbott, its overall goal is to define and measure community impact; implement sustainable programs; enhance the experience of all visitors; and improve the cultural life of greater Hartford. Artists involved in the program work closely with Hartford community groups to plan, develop, and execute a collaborative project. Past projects include a spray paint mural created by youth at Mi Casa Family Services with MATRIX 160 artist Kim Shoenstadt, and a photography workshop at the Hartford Boys & Girls Club of Asylum Hill, inspired by the work of MATRIX 163 artist Claire Beckett. In recognition of the important accomplishments of CEI, Charter Oak Cultural Center, a leading arts and social services organization, honored Talbott with the 2012 Vision Award for Arts and Education.

Jan Tichy / MATRIX 164
On view now through August 5, 2012, Jan Tichy / MATRIX 164 is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States. Based in Chicago, Tichy combines elements of the visible and the invisible in darkened spaces with moving light, creating mysterious worlds that suggest lunar landscapes, secret military sites, and futuristic cities. Through a mixture of sculpture, video, photography, architectural models, and installation, his work addresses his interests in art and architecture, as well as politics. Tichy graduated with an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he currently teaches.



Lighten Up, Locations & Descriptions:

1. Wilson-Gray YMCA Youth & Family Center, 444 Albany Avenue, Hartford, CT 06120

It Could’ve Been Me,
Rokquielle Rabsatt-Lightner and Roy Scott
LEDs, clothing, wire, PVC pipe

A life-sized figure in a hoodie illuminates the YMCA’s wall with a heartbeat-patterned light. This work is a tribute to Trayvon Martin and to the young men like him who struggle against racism and violence here in Hartford.

Love and Acceptance
Shanique Reid
Electric tea lights, paper bags

This piece was performed at the opening reception on May 20. The artist encouraged visitors to take rainbow-colored luminaries from a large arrangement, sending a message of love and acceptance to local GLBT youth.

2. Old North Cemetery, 1832 Main Street, Hartford, CT 06120
VIP Flowers
Alexis Edwards
LEDs, cloth flowers, plastic tablecloth, vellum, wire

Like white funerary wreaths, the letters “VIP” and “RIP” are alternately illuminated as a reminder that the cemetery and its grounds should be treated with the same respect as the important people buried there.

Afi Geffrard and Vaneisha Harrison
LEDs, metal, wire, spray paint

This white metal bird appears ready to take flight from the gravestone of Maurice Rondeneau Esq., encouraging visitors to re-envision the cemetery as a beautiful, peaceful place.

Paths of Fireflies
Johanna Plummer

A quote flickers in Morse code on the Mason and Alice Cogswellgrave: “Tracing early Deaf history is a bit like tracing the paths of fireflies. The field is mostly dark, except for scattered moments of illumination.” – H-Dirkson L. Bauman

3. Aaron Fein Square, Ridgefield and Greenfield Streets, Hartford, CT 06112

Honor Roll Revisited
Samantha Gorski and Hannah Phillips
LEDs, vellum, wood, PVC pipe

An Honor Roll with the names of local World War II soldiers once stood on this pedestal at Aaron Fein Square. An homage to the original, this miniature obelisk is illuminated with patriotic red, white, and blue lights.

4. Albany Avenue Library, 1250 Albany Avenue, Hartford, CT 0611

We Are the Lights
Armani D. Pimienta
LEDs, photographs on transparencies

A series of photographs glow from the side windows of the newly-renovated Albany Avenue Branch of the Hartford Public Library, celebrating the unique people and stories of our community.

5. John E. Rogers African American Cultural Center, 1240 Albany Ave, Hartford, CT 06112

Jan Tichy

The grandparents of two TAG members attended the Northwest School, which has a rich history and a bright future as the home of the John E. Rogers African American Culture Center.

6. Saint Francis Care Hospital, 114 Woodland Street, Hartford, CT 06105

Chanel Ross and Shannon Ross
LEDs, wood, wire, assorted medical supplies

Created from repurposed and re-imagined medical supplies, these cool-colored sculptures in the St. Francis Care Hospital entrance are intended to soothe incoming patients and their families.

7. Sigourney Square Park, Sigourney andSargeant Streets, Hartford, CT 06105

Love Not Hate
Aislyn Brown and Kimberly Vasquez

Rainbow-colored LEDs lining the top of the Sigourney Square Park entrance gate glow dimly at first, but slowly brighten to represent positive changes in the park, such as the playground renovations planned for July 2012.

Lydia Huntley Sigourney
Estada Laurore
LEDs, plastic bottles, paper, ribbon, silk flower petals, sand

Each of these flowery bottles suspended from a tree in Sigourney Square Park contains a ‘message in a bottle’ from Hartford’s past: a poem by Lydia Huntley Sigourney, for whom the park was named.