By MIKE CHAIKEN
It’s time for art to go Pop! in New Britain.
It’s all for a good cause. And everyone is invited.
Bristol artists Josh Blumenthal and Nick Foreman, who are both former Paris in Plantsville compadres, are co-curating an art exhibition dubbed “…Make It Pop,” which will open Aug. 3 at Community Central, a space at 117 West Main St., New Britain.
The exhibition will give local artists the opportunity to offer up a contemporary take on Pop Art.
The open call exhibition is a charity event. Entry fees and all commissions from the sale of an artwork on exhibition will be donated to New Britain Public Schools to enrich their art programs.
Blumenthal said, “The idea came to mind with my experiences while I was enrolled as an art education student at (Central Connecticut State University).”
“Before I started student teaching my final semester: I spent countless observation hours in various schools,” explained Blumenthal. “It really saddened me when I visited some urban schools, seeing art programs that had such a big heart but a small if not non-existent budget. The art teachers in those areas are some of the most empathetic – determined people I’ve met… It really hits home seeing these people do such extraordinary things with close to no resources.”
“So,” said Blumenthal, “I started brainstorming ideas for an event that, number one, advocates for the local urban community, number two, is open to all demographics, and is a multi-cultural/ multi-generational idea, and, number three generates money to help fund the art programs in New Britain. It just so happened that Nick and I were talking for a while about putting together a show and it all fell into place from there.”
Foreman explained, “I came up with the idea while working at Paris In Plantsville and helping facilitate their annual summer open call exhibition ‘We The People.’ It was open call/ juried but there was no limit to what type of art or how many submissions you could enter. It ended up being this crazy anything goes sort of vibe, which was awesome, but I thought the concept for the show would be better serviced with a more honed in, ‘genre specific’ exhibition. Pop Art just happens to be one of my favorite kinds of fine art and I know Josh shares that sentiment so it just made sense to make it pop (no pun intended).”
The show will benefit New Britain but Blumenthal said that should not preclude residents from Bristol, Southington, and Plainville participating.
“We may be helping ‘only’ New Britain, but New Britain is part of a much larger national, if not global, community,” said Blumenthal. “I grew up around individuals who taught me that if one of your family members or friends is in need of help, if you’re capable, do what you can do to help them out. So bridging that analogy to reality, we see New Britain is in need of help..”
“Bristol, Southington, and Plainville all have budding arts communities,” added Foreman. “The arts, while neglected to a certain extent, are generally supported by our public schools systems so that kids can begin learning about art from ages as early as 5 or 6. I’m from Bristol and I remember art class at Greene-Hills Elementary school being one of my favorite classes because the teachers are usually very excitable, passionate, positive and they are constantly working with you, not teaching at you.”.
“But,” Foreman said, “that’s our public schools. Bristol, Southington, and Plainville may not be the wealthiest areas of the state but we’re hardly impoverished. Students in our public schools are lucky to have the resources and opportunities they do. But just a few miles up the road, the children aren’t as fortunate.”
“New Britain Public Schools have virtually no funding for their students,” said Foreman. “I believe the figures are something like $10 per student, per year in New Britain while most school systems have in the upwards of $1,000 per student annually. That alone is absolutely deplorable.”
“Everybody should be standing up for New Britain just because it’s the right thing to do,” said Foreman.
Foreman added, “Our exhibition is not going to solve New Britain’s problems overnight financially, but our hope is that it will raise 10 times in awareness what it can raise financially.”
As for why the exhibit should appeal to artists in general, Blumenthal said, “It gets your work out there to a different venue. When I had a residency in Plantsville – I found it easy to trap myself in just one community that really only caters to a specific aesthetic.”
“For artists trying to get the work seen by a diverse crowd – get it to New Britain,” said Josh. “New Britain, if you don’t already know, is a cultural hub. Artists looking for feedback shouldn’t just rely on one group of people ‘telling’ you what is good or bad art. My work could do poorly in Hamden but make me a bundle in New York; you never know. It’s a risk and chance for artists to step outside their comfort zone.”
As for what the show means by Pop Art, Blumenthal said, “When I refer to Pop Art, I refer to what it meant contextually during its time in the ‘50s. It’s art that challenges what was defined ‘fine art’ of its time in terms of its imagery. It was imagery of popular culture: celebrities, political figures, advertisements, etc.”
“In my opinion,” said Foreman. “Pop Art is an incredibly broad term and always has been. While it has meant soup cans and corporate logos, it can also mean something entirely different. Pop Art isn’t always just a direct reference to pop culture, it can also be a representation of pop culture as it is in 2013. You don’t necessarily need logos and celebrities to contribute to Pop Art, you just need to represent popular culture, which is an aspect of the genre that I think a lot of people ignore.”
“I find it very hard to articulate what makes Pop Art ‘pop,’” said Foreman. “I guess for me it’s just kind of an intuitive gut feeling. You just know when something is pop art.”
The show asks artists to offer up a contemporary take on Pop Art. “Making the idea contemporary is going to be up to the artists who want to participate. If they do some research, and think of the idea in terms of what defines today’s pop culture, they have free range to tell a story, express social issue concerns, or flat out just be absurd.”
“The theme is the only criteria,” said Blumenthal. “We are accepting paintings, photography, printmaking, sculpture, installation, ceramics, fiber arts, – anything under the sun is welcome.”
As for any limitations on what can be submitted in terms of subject matter, Foreman said, “As long as it fits Josh’s and my collaborative idea of ‘Pop Art,’ for the most part anything goes. If it’s vulgar for the sake of being vulgar and there’s no artistic merit, than it will be declined. We’re also encouraging artists to keep in mind that this is as much a fund raiser for the public school system of New Britain as it is an open call Pop Art exhibition, so this is not the place to be making a spectacle out of yourself with all kinds of controversial statements. We’re promoting positivity first and foremost.”
“…Make It Pop” is a juried exhibition with a grand prize of a $100 gift card to Dick Blick, which also is a sponsor. Ron Crowcroft is the juror.
Submissions are $5 for one to three pieces and $10 for four to five. There is a 25 percent commission on all works sold. Proceeds go to the New Britain Public School.
Art can be dropped off at the Community Central, a space at 117 West Main St., New Britain from July 18 to 23.
The show will be up Aug. 3 to Sept. 3.
By MIKE CHAIKEN