Newton Community Pride launched a summerlong art show called “Newton Out Doors” to take advantage of the warm weather and loosened restrictions, bring the community together, and encourage people to visit village centers.
A diverse group of artists painted 25 recycled doors, said Meryl Kessler, a board member of Newton Community Pride and the chair of the art show, which is based on a New York project where artists painted doors placed on local bike trails.
Kessler said Newton Community Pride wanted to put its own spin on the project.
“We had a fairly diverse group of artists participating with many different rich, ethnic and racial backgrounds,” she said. “A lot of the artists drew on their family histories, or their countries of origin, for inspiration in their artwork.”
After obtaining 25 recycled doors, placing a call for art across multiple platforms, and working with the Department of Public Works to put the doors on city property, Newton Out Doors is finally here.
“I think it surprised a lot of people to see this art popping up, and I particularly think after kind of a long hard 14 months that we’ve just gone through,” Kessler said. “The response has been great.”
Gloria Gavris, chair of the Board of Directors of Newton Community Pride, said the main goals of the project are to bring art to Newton residents and visitors while also encouraging people to shop and dine in village centers.
“We wanted to do something more in a visual arts segment, and so we thought if we did a public art initiative that would be more engaging for our residents as well as help out our small businesses at a time when things were challenging for our restaurants and small businesses in our village centers,” Gavris said.
Jerry Reilly, who has lived in Newton for 12 years, said the art show is extra special after this past year.
“I particularly love this because it’s stuff for people to physically see in the real world and cross paths with people,” Reilly said.
Reilly said he first discovered the doors when his wife came home asking about something called a “Fig Newton Festival.” She had seen a painting of a ticket to the Fig event on artist Harun Zankel’s door. There is no fig festival in Newton, but Reilly ended up connecting with the community about how much they enjoy the doors through a blog post on Village14.
The project features 25 artists who started painting the doors after Newton Community Pride put out a call earlier this year. Danielle Moriarty, the city’s associate director of cultural development who was part of the team that went through the submissions, said the project features a “diverse range of applicants and different styles of art.”
“We’re really excited about the artists that were chosen for the project, " Moriarty said.
Artist Amanda Beard Garcia’s door is a portrait of her grandmother who she said passed away a few years ago. It is titled “Por Por” which she said is the Cantonese word for “grandmother.”
She said her grandmother was born in China and came to the United States when she was a teenager, spending most of her life in Brookline. With Brookline being so close to Newton, she said, “it just made sense to me to want to do a portrait of my grandmother.”
“I’m doing a lot of like deep diving into my identity as a Chinese American woman, and I feel like a lot of it kind of stems from my grandmother,” Beard Garcia said. “She was our anchor in a way.”
On the front side of the door is a portrait of her late grandmother from a photo she found of them together. On the back side are Chinese characters in gold leaf, a material Beard Garcia said she recently started working with.
“My grandmother loved gold. Gold and red like all over her house. It’s just big in the culture, and I thought it’s something that she would have appreciated,” she said.
While it was an “emotional” and “heavy” experience painting her late grandmother, she said it also gave her the opportunity to learn about her family and heritage.
Beard Garcia said the response from the community has been great so far, and she said she even got a phone call from someone who lives near where her door was placed.
“He just left me a really kind voicemail complimenting my work and you know kind of saying like you don’t have to call me back, but I just wanted to let you know how I felt,” she said. “So that has been really wonderful.”
Eric Funk is another of the artists featured in Newton Out Doors. His is a Sci-Fi themed door called “Contact” with a tentacle coming from above and below.
“It’s not what you expect, and I just thought it’d be fun for adults and kids alike to see if they can make their own story of what it is,” Funk said.
He said he has been wanting to expand his art and do more murals and this was “one more step toward that and just working in a larger format.”
Another artist, Kate Holloway, said her door is inspired by nature and how in the past year, being outdoors was how people could connect safely. Her work is titled “Peace State.”
“I took the idea of how a door is an opening, and used that metaphor to sort of create what I call that peace state,” she said. “Basically that feeling that you have when you can be in community and outdoors, and surrounded by nature.”
Holloway said she had a wonderful experience with this project, from the challenge of painting on an uneven surface to being able to see it publicly displayed.
“I love the idea that like people are just walking by it every day in their life and interacting with it and enjoying it,” Holloway said. “Not just like living on a wall in someone’s house, it’s out there for everybody to see.”
Emily Pauls can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.