Burlington's Old North End has many distinctive features, but examples of public artwork in the neighborhood are rare. That lack will be mitigated with the installation of a sculpture in front of an apartment building soon to rise on North Winooski Avenue.
Redstone, the firm developing the site of the former QTee's, is offering up to $4,500 for creation of a work to be chosen by a panel of five local residents. Burlington City Arts is processing proposals and has set an April 21 deadline for submissions. The choice is scheduled to be made by early May; installation will probably take place in about a year, upon the building's completion.
The 28-unit, mixed-income project, which will include commercial space on the ground floor, will be one of the first new residential structures to be built in the ONE in the past 50 years.
The addition of a piece of public art is part of the developer's effort to build a positive relationship with locals, some of whom see this project — and a similar one now under construction across the street — as embodiments of gentrification. Skeptics worry that the upscaling of the area will undermine its identity and inflate housing costs.
Beautification can be a positive outcome of redevelopment — and that's what the art project's sponsors say they hope to achieve, without dictating its aesthetics. The only stipulation is that the work be three-dimensional. "A mural isn't going to work," says BCA assistant director Sara Katz, who's handling the logistics of the selection process. "The developer didn't see a place in the design where a mural would effectively be made public."
Construction of a new building affords an ideal opportunity to introduce an outdoor artwork, Katz notes. "There's not a lot of public art in the Old North End, even though it's a neighborhood with such a rich history," she says. "This is a chance to start building an outdoor collection."
Everyone involved in the initiative hopes the proposed pieces reflect the character of the neighborhood, Katz adds. But it will be up to the panel of nearby residents to decide what will be placed on the site. "They're the ones who have to live with it," Katz observes.
BCA is in the initial stages of planning another public artwork in the ONE. It would be situated in Dewey Park, the small triangular plot in front of the Integrated Arts Academy on Archibald Street. Whatever takes shape there will emerge from collaboration with the school's pupils, Katz says.