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Public art opens doors to creativity in Newton

A door featured in The Umbrella Arts Center’s “Go Out Doors” campaign.
A door featured in The Umbrella Arts Center’s “Go Out Doors” campaign.PHOTO BY RON MANN

Finding inspiration for Newton Community Pride’s latest public art initiative was as simple as riding a bike.

Organizers discovered painted, recycled doors in the grass and woods along bike trails in West Concord, Lexington and Arlington. The Umbrella Arts Center had installed the doors as part of their “Go Out Doors” campaign.

Newton Community Pride Board Chair Gloria Gavris said they decided to launch a similar project in Newton to bring art into the community and increase foot traffic in business areas.

“COVID has certainly taken a hit to both the art community as well as the small business community,” Gavris said. “If you’re walking around the village centers, you’re going to grab a slice of pizza or grab lunch.”

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The nonprofit began planning their version of the initiative — Newton Out Doors — last fall and put out a call for art in January, according to board member Meryl Kessler.

Artists must submit their design proposals by Feb. 28 to be considered. Then, a judging committee will choose approximately 20 artists to execute their design, and organizers will notify them by March 30.

Newton high school students will paint four of the doors, Kessler said. Remote learning has been challenging for students, she said, and the group wanted to give them the opportunity to express themselves through art.

Selected artists will receive a $425 stipend, and the exhibition will last from May to November, according to their website.

The doors will be placed in approximately six to eight of Newton’s villages. The group has partnered with the city to identify art locations near village centers, Kessler said.

Newton Community Pride will auction off the doors after the exhibition, and proceeds will go toward the group’s future initiatives.

Kessler said she hopes to continue the project in future years expanding to more locations and allowing more artists to showcase their creativity.

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Kessler said the call for art was broad, but she hopes the designs inspire feelings of “joy” and “curiosity.”

Artist Harun Zankel said his submissions center on finding “bright spots” during this time of isolation. Much of his work during the pandemic, he said, has shifted from political to more positive messaging.

“It gives people a little bit of hope during this challenging time, just because I think people can really use that,” Zankel said. “Especially if it’s delivered in an art form, it can definitely help uplift people’s spirits.”

Using doors as a canvas, Zankel said, holds a symbolic significance because doors connect people and places. He said this project has the potential to do the same.

Submitted doors must have designs on both sides, which Zankel said makes them more “interactive.”

Artist Sophy Tuttle, who participated in the Umbrella Arts Center’s event and submitted a design for Newton Out Doors, said she drew inspiration from nature while creating her designs.

“That’s been kind of a nice silver lining, but I just want to keep encouraging people to get outside and connect with nature,” Tuttle said. “It’s such an integral part of humanity and who we are and how we can actually work toward preserving the planet.”

The door’s unique size, Tuttle said, allowed her to experiment with new ideas because there is less commitment than with a large mural.

“A door is obviously about the same size of the person,” Tuttle said. “As I was painting, I kind of felt like I wasn’t alone in quarantine, which was really nice.”

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Allison Pirog can be reached at newtonreport@globe.com.