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City Offering Grants For Downtown Public Art Projects

James Kitchen with his pipe wrench sculpture

For the second year in a row, the city of Springfield, Massachusetts is offering grants to create public art displays in its downtown cultural district.

The city is accepting bids from artists to create Springfield-themed works that are “positive and inspirational.”   The program will consider all types of artistic media including paint, sculpture, visual, projection, and audio.

 Multiple awards in the range of $1,000 - $10,000 will be made. The total budget for the program is $25,000.  The funds come from the federal Community Development Block Grant program.

Brian Connors, the city’s deputy director of economic development, said the program was developed to help grow the creative economy.

"Art is so important to a city's health and vitality," said Connors. "With the number of tourists coming to Springfield we want to create a vibrant experience and public art is part of that and we absolutely believe artists should be paid for their work."

Last year, the city paid $10,000 for two public art installations.

Kim Carlino created a mural on the side of a downtown building that paid homage to the board games created by the Milton Bradley Co. that was founded in Springfield.  James Kitchen fashioned a collection of more than 400 adjustable wrenches into a sculpture that celebrates the invention of the wrench in Springfield in 1842.   The sculpture sits in front of the MassMutual Center.

Kitchen, who has done dozens of public art projects throughout western Massachusetts, said it creates a sense of community.

"One of the interesting things is after I move a piece after a year or so that is when people realize how important it is" said Kitchen.  " When there is just a plot of grass left that is when people appreciate public art."

 Evan Plotkin, a founding board member of the Springfield Central Cultural District, called the city’s decision to invest in public art “a huge step forward.”

"Public art changes the face of a downtown," said Plotkin.

    The deadline for submitting bids for the latest round of funding for public art is July 31 at 2 p.m.  Bid packages are available from the city’s Office of Procurement in City Hall.

A committee made up art professionals, and members of the downtown cultural district will review the proposals and forward recommendations to Mayor Domenic Sarno.

     According to the mayor’s office, the grant awards will be announced later this summer with the installation of the art works to begin in the fall.

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