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Newton Community Pride brings art to empty storefront windows

Some of the banners in WindowART’s first installation, displayed in the Trio development in Newton.
Some of the banners in WindowART’s first installation, displayed in the Trio development in Newton.Gloria Gavris

The pandemic has left some of the city’s storefronts vacant — but Newton Community Pride is working to fill the empty windows with local art.

Gloria Gavris, chair of the board of directors for Newton Community Pride, said the nonprofit’s WindowART program aims to work with businesses to reinvigorate village centers that have been hurting due to the pandemic.

“A lot of our small businesses have shut down, some of our village centers have a lot of vacancies,” Gavris said. “And Newton Community Pride thought that instead of looking at brown paper and ‘For Lease’ signs, it would be great to look at pieces of artwork.”

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Gavris described in a statement how the goal of the new program is to enable businesses, as well as the public, to experience high-quality art “where they least expect it.”

“A lot of the small businesses, a lot of restaurants in our village centers have been hurting and challenged by COVID and the lack of visitors,” Gavris said. “So, with a few vacancies in the different village centers, we thought this would be a great idea to repurpose these FenceART banners and re-rename them into WindowART.”

The program is reusing banners from Newton Community Pride’s FenceART program, an initiative to display banners displayed on fences throughout Newton on a rotating basis for one year. After a previous year’s banners are retired, they are occasionally used for other public art initiatives such as WindowART.

“FenceART is a juried, curated, call for art yearly for artists to create 3-by-4-foot vinyl banners of their artwork that we install on fences throughout the city, so as an extension of that, we have several banners from past years,” Gavris said. “And Pride thought what a great idea it would be to take those beautiful artistic pieces and put them in our villages.”

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Ellen Fisher, director of the FenceART program, said public art initiatives such as FenceART and WindowART are important to expose the public to a variety of art.

“FenceART is great because we’re giving the artists the opportunity to to put quality art just kind of out in people’s way,” Fisher said.

Fisher said every year a jury selects only 20 local art pieces to reproduce on the banners, and those pieces include a variety of media that can vary from paintings and photographs to sculptures and quilts.

In order for retired FenceART pieces to become part of WindowART, the local artists must give permission for their work to be displayed again as part of the new program. Fisher said most of the artists have been “really, really happy” to let their art remain a “part of public life” and serve the community again in Newton’s vacant storefronts.

“Community Pride decided to work with the community businesses that have empty storefronts right now,” Fisher said. “Repurposing those windows as something that gives back to the community.”

Daniel Korff, an asset manager for the Trio development on Washington Street in Newton, said he worked with Newton Community Pride to put up their first WindowART installation in the windows of Trio’s vacant retail space.

“Due to this pandemic and just the retail leasing world we are in right now, everything’s been delayed, so we have a lot of vacant storefront there,” Korff said. “We saw this as a perfect opportunity to activate the plaza while also helping out another group.”

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As of April 21, Newton Community Pride had installed 10 banners at two locations in Newton, and they hope to be able to put up more in the near future. Businesses wishing to participate in the initiative can fill out a form on Newton Community Pride’s website.

“We’re really just at the beginning,” Fisher said.

Elyse Genrich can be reached at newtonreport@globe.com.