August 19, 2020

“Art for the Streets” to Fill Empty Storefronts

By Anne Levin

As anyone who strolls through Princeton’s central business district or Princeton Shopping Center can attest, there are several empty storefronts in town. These vacancies have prompted a program to enliven these blank spaces with representations of works from the Princeton University Art Museum.

“Art for the Streets” was introduced last Thursday, August 13, at a virtual meeting of the Princeton Merchants Association. Stephen Kim, the museum’s associate director for communications and information, said the idea is to fill the empty windows by making use of the museum’s diverse collection. The first round is being funded by the museum.

“I don’t think there are a lot of museums that are doing something like this,” said Mayor Liz Lempert. “We are really appreciative and excited about this project.”

The initiative is not limited to the downtown or shopping center, and will include vacant storefronts in any other areas of town. “We’ll use a diverse set of images, some with local connections,” Kim said. “They’ll have different orientations and different media. If folks want to provide a storefront window for us, we’re eager to go.”

Lori Rabon, vice president at Palmer Square Management, expressed enthusiasm after hearing Kim’s presentation. “We are really excited. We will be reaching out shortly,” she said.

The museum will work with landlords to identify vacant stores, and select images to fit particular storefronts. Speaking about the project this week, Kim said there has been a positive response from local businesses. “We’re working with Palmer Square folks right out of the blocks, and I have others in my email in the queue,” he said.

The idea for “Art in the Streets” has actually been in the works for some time. “There have been some ongoing conversations about how to create a more positive experience for visitors,” Kim said. “And with what we have in our collection, it seemed like an obvious, natural fit.”

The plan is for storefronts to display a rotation of artworks from the museum. Asked for examples, Kim mentioned paintings by Claude Monet, photographs by Gordon Parks, iconic images from Life Magazine, ancient works of art, and a recent painting by artist Mario Moore.

“We want to represent the strengths of Princeton,” said Kim. “Some of the artworks have local connections. The diversity, and what makes this town such a special place, are all part of this.

One of the benefits of having an encyclopedic collection is that you have this great variety. It’s here, and we want to take advantage of it.”