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Fitchburg comes together to revitalize downtown area through art

Kassmin Williams | 8/22/2013, 8:55 a.m. | Updated on 8/22/2013, 8:55 a.m.
Contemporary art stone carver Nora Valdez will kick-off the initiative with the presentation of her public sculpture “The Immigrant,” which ...
Carver Nora Valdez Courtesy of Fitchburg Art Museum

A Fitchburg public art series called Main Street Arts Project is looking transform the city’s downtown area into an upbeat and energetic place by recruiting four artists’ to create work in unused public spaces on Main Street.

The goal of the public art series is to revitalize the downtown area, increase business and build community partnerships by inspiring the youth and entrepreneurs to view vacant public properties as sites for learning and an opportunity for creative change.

Contemporary art stone carver Nora Valdez will kick-off the initiative with the presentation of her public sculpture “The Immigrant,” which focused on “the many struggles of an immigrant.”

The sculpture will be permanently installed on the corner of Main and Prichard streets and will be celebrated during the opening ceremony from 1 to 3 p.m. Sept. 7.

The ceremony will include an artist talk and a performance by musical group Son Boricua.

Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong sees the art series as an opportunity for the community to come together and revive the downtown area.

“This is an amazing opportunity for the city to work with local artists to promote arts initiatives throughout downtown,” Wong said in a MAP press release. “The Main Streets Arts Project will bring together experienced artists and our public school students to use art to help reinvigorate the downtown area.”

Valdez worked with adults and the youth as an artist-in-residence at the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center and the Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster as part of the project.

She provided boxes and suitcases to the students who created mixed media artworks about their own immigrant experiences, ideas and thoughts.

These works will also be on display as part of the open festivities Sept. 7.

MAP was coordinated through a partnership between the City of Fitchburg, Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg State University, Montachusett Regional Planning Commission and the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority.

MAP organizers believe a piece like Valdez’s is important to Fitchburg as a city shaped by successive waves of immigration.

“The investment in the city’s cultural economy is another step forward for the renaissance of downtown Fitchburg,” said Fitchburg State president Robert Antonucci. “This piece tells so many of our collective stories, and the Main Street Arts Project tells our future. We are honored the be part of a partnership with so much potential to benefit our city.”

Fitchburg Art Museum Director Nick Capasso described displaying Valdez’s piece display in the city as a unique opportunity.

“Fitchburg is home to many monuments that honor individual historic figures and veterans of several wars,” Capasso said. “Now, The Immigrant will join them to acknowledge the experiences and contributions of multiple communities that have shaped Fitchburg for over 100 years. Very few cities have done this. Our city should be proud.”

As part of the program, there will be a MAP Ambassador Program where art museum guides will greet the public, share information and encourage the public to participate in the revitalization.

On Thursdays there will be hands-on activities for the public that will include gardening, visual art, storytelling and learning the history of stone carving.

MAP Ambassador Program dates are:

• Wednesday Aug. 28 and Sept. 4 from 2 to 5 p.m.

• Thursday, Aug. 22, 29 and Sept. 5 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Friday Aug. 23, 30 and Sept. 6 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.