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PAINTING THE TOWN
(How downtown Glen Rock storefronts got a makeover)
(How downtown Glen Rock storefronts got a makeover)
Stacey Gilmartin is a computer artist and owns Love Handles, LLC, a business spun off from her efforts at Grad Ball 2011. She lives in Glen Rock with husband, John. They have four adult children and one delicious granddaughter.
“Window Art” certainly isn't a new idea, but to Glen Rock it’s a recent phenomenon in terms of refreshing vacated storefronts with original designs from local artists.
It started at an Arts Council board meeting last October. The economic impact of COVID was apparent in 2021, with too many storefronts empty. Our small town needed some love. To attract shoppers and potential businesses, a downtown refresh was in order. Small Business Saturday became the pre-December holiday shopping goal for the GR Chamber of Commerce and the Glen Rock for the Holidays Committee, a volunteer group. As part of the Saturday activities, I was chair of the Holiday Hoopla Craft Fair for local artists and makers.
At our October Arts Council meeting, I explained Hoopla (similar to our Arts Fest event) and mentioned Chamber President Felicia Halpert’s concern that the craft fair did not fairly represent brick and mortar Chamber members. The challenge: What else could be done to drive business downtown? My idea: Window painting.
Window art would brighten up shuttered storefronts, attract viewers and be simple to do. Trustees Libby Deely and John Blackman embraced the idea – both recalled how they had painted windows in their youth in their hometowns. With $400 in funding from Glen Rock’s Parks and Recreation Department, Glen Rock for the Holidays was authorized to paint storefront windows – now they needed artists.
That’s where we came in. Under the tutelage of artist (and member) Soo Kim, the Arts Council offered its assistance and created “Winter Windows” on six participating unoccupied storefronts – 18 windows that featured the work of 10 student artists as well as Libby, John, and fellow Arts Council board member Michele Keller – who transformed Rock Road into a Winter Wonderland.
The feedback about togetherness and talent was so heartwarming that it inspired the group to formally become the Arts Council “Window Painting Committee” and we decided to do it again on May 14 with a Spring theme. We wanted to spruce up the windows, thinking there might be a Street Fair in May.
But we had our challenges for the Spring event. First, we had to remove the Winter Windows (in the cold weather). Originally, I thought the art would be removed by end of January, but with buildings still empty, we left it. When local kids started getting creative, sketching X-rated “art” into the paint, we knew by March it was time to take it down. Thanks to Josh Keller (Michele’s husband) and the committee, Winter Windows melted like the sidewalk snow.
Lack of time was the ultimate challenge for our team, all with demanding jobs and some with school-age kids. I don’t have paint-and-brush experience, so I managed the real estate portion.
The real estate portion required a lot of communication, but this time it was easier since I had the contacts. And this time we asked occupied, thriving businesses to participate. It would be fabulous if we could paint the WHOLE TOWN, but realistically, many stores have beautiful displays they don’t want obscured and many landlords provide window washing services. In a few circumstances, a language-disconnect hindered discussion.
Then there were my nightmares – either too many paintbrush-wielding “Rockers” expecting to paint (visualize Beauty and the Beast villagers storming the castle…) and not enough windows, or more storefronts than artists, given that artist registration was not as robust as anticipated.
The morning of the Big Paint, my husband John and I were walking our dog through town and saw nothing on the old SWEAT windows! The Tunnel poem (that spanned six windows and two doors) and the new canvas we painted just two days ago – was gone, erased, washed away! Libby heard there was a gym coming into that space.
Dee, the owner of the Grow-Cery, had given us permission to paint a window, but I never followed up. Now she was away on vacation, so I called Gary Stevens, her husband, to confirm that we had permission. Thank you, Gary. And there I was that morning, prepping and rolling white latex paint on the window to create a blank canvas – an inspired idea for all the art from John B.
As a side issue, April was Poetry Month – wouldn’t it be fantastic to support the Arts Council’s April poetry video event with verse on windows in town? Lettering artists Jac Dill and Heidi S Ryan were enlisted to assist Libby and Michele and cooperatively they created eight windows that displayed verse, with the idea of adding supporting art on PAINT DAY.
On May 14, about 30 residents met at the alcove in downtown Glen Rock with their sketches and materials to Paint the Town Spring.
Our artists showed a broad span of styles and approaches — from [style 1 description] to [style 2 description]. (Click on each image for a larger view.)
By day's end, 12 storefronts (18 windows) along Rock Road were ablaze in colorful original and inspired designs; the culmination of many dedicated hours by our Window Painting Committee.
At some point, the art will be removed – and we will prepare for Halloween-themed windows. We're hoping for a commitment from the Girl Scouts and/or Boy Scouts and to set a date. More news to follow for anyone interested in participating or sponsoring.
And with your support, we will bring back Winter Windows.
This is in motion… and we have a plan! 🎨