WASHINGTON DEPOT — Founded in 1952 The Washington Art Association has been an integral part of the Litchfield County art world. Over the years it has drawn the aesthetically curious to view, learn about, create and exhibit art. Now with its newly renovated building it is taking art to the streets. Thanks to the efforts of board trustees sculptor Mark Mennin and artist Barbara Talbot, a Sculpture Walking Tour has been created in Washington Depot.
“It’s a celebration of the town as well as the WAA and the art itself,” said Talbot, who has co- curated the show with Mennin. “This is an exhibition with no obvious narrative except for the town itself, the hills around it, and the river that runs through it. Washington Depot, named long before our capital, is a focal point in the larger community of Litchfield County that has a huge tradition of artists, writers, architects, dancers, and musicians both internationally known and self-exiled.”
Over 40 artists have elected to participate, including Julian Schnabel, Frank Stella, Elizabeth MacDonald, Lauren Booth, Joy Brown, Philip Grausman, Caio Fonseca, Lee Tribe, Mark Mennin, Wendell Castle and Arthur Carter. The artists have employed a wide variety of materials from steel to stone, wood, plastic and earth materials. All of the art is for sale. Curating such a disparate group of art, some small enough for a tabletop and others measuring 200 feet long, presented its own challenges. Sculptor Sam Funk has created a ten-foot paper airplane made of granite.
“The works were really chosen by how they would complement each other and what would jibe with the landscape and geography of the town,” said Mennin. “We have work from some world-class acquaintances as well as some emergent and local talent. We are trying to make an unusual show with the combination of characters and sites.”
Talbot and Mennin have been working on the project for about a year and a half. They conceived it as a way of not only celebrating the town by encouraging people to wander and discover art they might not otherwise experience.
Talbot said, “We asked ourselves how do you get people from one spot to another except by tempting them with things to see? The work is guided by that sense of geography. The town landscape is an integral part of the show since much of the art is displayed outside and its surroundings play are important to its impact.
“When we presented the idea to the various committees and boards of the Depot they jumped on the idea. They have all been real partners and we got all the necessary permissions,” Talbot said. “They cleaned up this whole area and we now have a beautiful park that had once been a dumping ground. We wanted people to walk the entire town, to see things they might not have ever seen and that includes one of the prettiest parts of the Shepaug River. It was the original location where the first natives settled in Connecticut and it was all wiped out in the flood of 1965. And now it’s been lovingly restored.”
Viewing the show can take as much or as little time as the viewer chooses. Start out at the Washington Art Association; visit the Plaza, where Judy Black Memorial Park has its own section with eight pieces; Plaza East extends from The Supply Company to the river; Titus Road comprises the fourth area.
“The most satisfying part of the show has been watching the installations, for the most part, gel well with the townscape,” said Mennin, “the buildings, the town’s plan and the river that runs through it. Also the creation of new public spaces in the last few years like the Judy Black Memorial Park and the brand new Titus Park landscape. It’s really a town that has shown that blight can become beautiful meaningful spaces that people want to be in.”
Mennin adds: “In addition to the town officials and friends and artists who have assisted us we have been fortunate to have a group of students who have been helping us as part of their community service. It has been so satisfying to watch youthful assistance become seasoned professionalism. They have every reason to be proud of their involvement.”
Additionally, Talbot and Mennin applaud the myriad of shopkeepers, town officials and members of WAA who have assisted them in their endeavors: Directors, Barbara von Schreiber & Ramsay Turnbull and the staff at WAA, James Salomon Contemporary, WAA president Peter Talbot AIA, Katherine Manning and Zeb Mayer, Town of Washington First Selectman Mark Lyon and his team, private donors, Washington Business Association, George Home, Judy Black Park Memorial, Justin Moore, Sabin Landscape Architects, The Green Spot, plus the many generous volunteers and supporters who are joining in the dialogue.
The WAA Sculpture Walk officially opened on Sunday and will be up through Nov. 1. There will be an opening reception on July 14, from 2 to 6 p.m., with refreshments. The exhibition is open to the public daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with scheduled tours on Saturdays with docents and layout maps available.
The Washington Art Association is located at 4 Bryan Memorial Plaza, Washington Depot.
For information call 860-868-2878 or visit www.washingtonartassociation.org.