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Cultural Events

‘Doors Of The Future’ Pop Up At Fairfield Hills



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NOTE (Tuesday, October 6, 2020): This article has been updated with the correct spelling of Julia Sikes-Provey's surname.

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A glimpse of color now catches one’s eye as visitors to Fairfield Hills enter Washington Square. For those who drive or walk farther into the square, the journey continues with the viewing of eight large, colorful panels that were installed this week.

Four buildings that were once residential duplexes at Fairfield Hills State Hospital, long emptied and now falling into disrepair, became the frames for art installations put into place last Monday morning.

The fifth building on Washington Square is Newtown Parent Connection, which fully renovated the building on the northeast corner of the square and moved into that location four years ago.

“Doors of the Future” was installed on September 28, when eight large wood panels were put in front doors on four buildings that surround the square. Underwritten by Newtown Cultural Arts Commission, “Doors of the Future” is a pop-up art show, according to NCAC Chair Laura Lerman. It features the work of Paula Brinkman, who coordinated the artists; along with Dave Brooker, Kristine Humber, and Julia Sikes-Provey.

“The eight doors reflect modern design, bright stripes, nighttime dreams, and fairy tale/mystical gardens,” Lerman said in a press release this week. The project grew out of the canceled Labor Day Parade, and the float the local arts commission usually creates.

“Paula often works on the float for the Labor Day Parade,” Lerman told The Newtown Bee, September 29.

“We didn’t have an arts festival this year, and we didn’t have a Labor Day Parade,” Lerman added, noting two of the many events that have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We don’t even have our art gallery right now,” she added.

NCAC usually presents exhibitions in the main corridor of Newtown Municipal Center. With indoors crowds being kept to a minimum, even that ongoing offering has been put on hold until COVID-19 clears.

Brinkman, according to Lerman, approached the arts commission with a proposal for the project.

“She had the artists lined up, and she had the doors in mind that she wanted to do,” Lerman said.

Ring’s End donated the wood and paint for the project, according to Brinkman.

“It’s all good quality stuff,” she said recently. Putting some of the final touches on one of her two panels on September 22, Brinkman said the local vendor provided Benjamin Moore paints for the project.

The artists worked independently of each other, and each was responsible for two panels. Small signs also installed on Monday in front of the four buildings let visitors know who did the panels on each building.

“I don’t think they had much guidance,” Lerman said this week. “And that really shows in the finished project. They’re so, so different.”

DNR Laboratories and Don Gamsjager loaned a truck to pick up the panels and transport them to Fairfield Hills on Monday. That morning, two Newtown Public Works employees installed the panels onto the buildings. It took less than 30 minutes to put everything into place, Lerman said.

The panels were cut to purposely be larger than the doors. Visitors to Fairfield Hills will note that the new panels not only cover the antique doors, but also fill some of the surrounding frame. That was by design.

“Paula realized they’ve probably settled, and are not plumb,” Lerman said. “So we covered everything with the panels. That way we weren’t going crazy, trying to fit things at right angles that didn’t exist.”

The result is a burst of new color and art surrounded by the antique peeling paint on the door frames, thresholds, and casings of the aging brick building.

The individual panels have not been named, according to Lerman.

“We focused on the collection as a whole, not the pieces,” she said.

The name of the full collection, however, does have meaning: It refers to the nearly 200-acre campus hosting the exhibition.

“It’s time that we talk about the future of Fairfield Hills,” Brooker reportedly told NCAC in relation to the project’s name. “We are always talking about its past.”

The collection does not have a closing date, the arts commission chair said this week.

“As far as we know, it’s open ended,” Lerman said. “We’ll see what happens with the weather and what it does to the panels, or if people want to see something different there.”

Lerman calls the finished installation “the perfect kind of project for what we have going on right now.

“You can go see it at any time, you don’t have to pay anything,” she said, “and if there’s no one else around when you’re there, you don’t even have to wear a mask.”

A woman walks with her dog past one of four former duplexes on Washington Square Tuesday morning, the day after four buildings became part of a pop-up art exhibition. Newtown Cultural Arts Commission has underwritten the installation of “Doors to the Future.” The outdoor exhibition features work by four Newtown artists. —Bee Photos, Hicks
One of two door panels painted by Kristine Humber.
One of two door panels painted by Julia Sikes-Provey.
One of two “Doors to the Future” panels painted by Dave Brooker.
Paula Brinkman, who created and organized “Doors to the Future,” puts some of the final touches on one of two panels she painted for the installation at Fairfield Hills.
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