Connecticut artists unite with public to create art with meaning

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For years, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman did what artists tend to do, create art.

Painters both, they expressed themselves through pigment and canvas. About 10 years ago, these longtime friends noticed their conversations were revolving around purpose and potential. Were they making art that mattered? Were they addressing issues that concerned them, and by extension, their communities? Were they connecting with the public in deep and meaningful ways? They had come to the proverbial quandary: What were they doing with their lives, and were they using their talents in a meaningful way?

“We started asking ourselves what are we passionate about and what issues are really important to us,” says Kalman, an architect who has lived in Stamford for more than 25 years. “We wanted a meaningful connection with the public and to create art that was attached to subjects that were important to people. We wanted to make something that was really useful, and brought about a more serious conversation about art and the human condition. That is how our collaboration in public art started.”

Public art defines itself by its very name — art intended for public consumption in a public place. It is often free, easily accessible and at times, inspired by the community or place in which it is to be exhibited. It can delve into socially conscious or historically relevant issues. All those elements were appealing to Kalman and Hoffman Fishman, who lives in West Hartford, but they wanted the public to be more than observers or consumers. The public are creators, which is why they call their projects interactive public arts projects.

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