Private space made for public art
There’s an open space located just off to the side on Spring Street that has been populated by some unique art for the past six or seven years. First, there were some wind sculptures. Then there was “Blocky,” a clam digger standing there with a rake and a bucket. The most recent inhabitants are a couple of highly stylized blue herons. In between are objects of a more abstract design; they could be anything your mind wants them to be.
This unique project started about 2006, according to Derek van Lent, who has let a small patch of his property be taken over by artists looking for a public place to display their work.
It started simply enough. Van Lent had two pieces of outdoor art, metal wireframe cubes painted red, sitting out in his field. These were seen, he said, by artist Eric von Arx, whose family has a house on the island. Von Arx makes his art out of found objects and van Lent was asked if he could put some pieces in the field. “I said sure,” van Lent said.
Von Arx then started a website called suburbanartists.com, and recruited other artists to exhibit their art in the space.
“We have the right of refusal and a say on placement, but with those two caveats we opened the door,” said van Lent, who owns DVL Landscape Architecture. The little outdoor sculpture garden has proved popular enough to be included in the Block Island taxi tours of the island.
Ken MacDonald, an artist based out of North Kingstown, R.I., was the creator of Blocky, the clam digger. Over time, MacDonald said, Blocky was adorned with “beads and bangles on it. It was fun, and that started me thinking.”
MacDonald, who has been coming to the island on and off for the past three decades, said that he felt the pieces he wanted to bring over to the island should be “a little whimsical. The idea is not to be too serious.”
He called van Lent a “very welcoming guy,” and added that the sculptures in the space are for sale, “but you don’t want to be too commercial with something like this.”
Van Lent said that artists are welcome to submit their pieces at any time. A couple of local artists have said they were going to place benches in the area so that people could rest there, but they haven’t shown up yet. But no matter. Others will decide to join this “whimsical” group.
“We’d like to keep it going,” said van Lent. Anyone interested in showing their art can call van Lent at 466-2081.
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