Purchase College has teamed up with the White Plains Business Improvement District for the third straight year to bring some life to vacant storefronts in the city through public art.
Titled “Arts in Vacant Spaces,” the collaboration between the SUNY school and the downtown nonprofit started in 2015. This year, the project targeted three vacant storefronts on Mamaroneck Avenue, and included second floor windows for the first time.
Purchase College professor Warren Lehrer worked with his community design class to create visual poetry for the storefronts. The School of the Arts has hired poet Judith Sloan for each round of the project to research and interview people in White Plains, then write site-specific poems for the project that represent the “hopes, desires, memories and soul of people working and or living in White Plains,” as described in a press release from Purchase. The students in Lehrer’s class then visualize the poems, using variations of typography, images and color.
Sloan said in the press release that she wanted this year’s poems to “reveal the things that are holding communities together, including ideas around what it takes to create a community and maintain a community.”
For the poem “Recipe for a Loving Community,” student Madeline Friedman designed silhouetted scenes for each of nine sets of second floor windows at 131 Mamaroneck Ave., “inviting the public to engage their imagination and enter the world of the inhabitants.”
The project is now an award winner. Lehrer received a 2017 Design Educators Award for the White Plains storefront project from Design Incubation, a national organization focused on design teaching and research.