Monday, February 13, 2012

innovative cities = uncharted territory

Lately we keep hearing that innovation is the big driver of economic growth and that innovation takes place in cities. What makes a city innovative? Among the factors often mentioned are arts clusters and place-making. (For an in depth analysis of what makes cities innovative, check out the Streets Ahead report from the Work Foundation in the UK.) It isn't just because I love art that I spent some time checking out the arts component of Winterfest 2012 in Lowell. Filling up empty store fronts with pop-up art galleries and installations is a great way to bring art into the foreground and to create public places. Innovative cities are uncharted territory to some, and Uncharted Studios brought some major creativity to Merrimack Street in downtown Lowell during Thursday night's gallery walk.

The intriguing video image in the window draws you in to a space filled with painting, video, music, and spoken word.  Inside, the  installation makes a place and delights the eyes and ears.

Video in the Window at 66 Merrimack Street
As video images flowed over the paintings and Mike Dailey banged on his drums, I got totally immersed in the colors and patterns around me.
Video Projected on Painting

Constantly Changing

Mike Dailey on Drums
He paints and drums too!
Folks discovered that they could play with the images too.

Watching How the Video Alters the Paintings
People were positioning themselves so the  video enlivened their sweatshirts and hipster sweaters.

Playing with the Shadows
People started doing shadow puppet things with their hands and their bodies, which looked really cool from outside the window too.
The Gallery
Visitors filtered in and out of the gallery. Many of them just happened to be passing by on the street. They weren't even aware of the gallery walk.

More Changes -- More Color
Every time I looked up, the paintings looked different.

This One's Getting Hypnotic
Once I tore myself away from the hypnotic images and went back outside, I still couldn't manage to leave the space right away. A group of young men were doing some kind of spoken word thing on the sidewalk and I was really enjoying it. They told me what the name of the style was, but I didn't quite catch it. Anyway, when I asked if they were getting a kick out of an "old lady" hanging around to listen to them, they invited me to join them. I didn't, but I got into a great conversation with Lindsey Parker, another of the great visual artists at unchARTed, as they spell it. :-)

I'd arrived knowing only that Mike (whom I know from Brew'd Awakening) was doing something with video and music on Merrimack Street and left knowing there's a great group of artists exploring uncharted territory in an innovative city. As the city seal of Lowell proclaims: Art is the Handmaid of Human Good.

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