Four public “artlet” installations were unveiled Tuesday evening in the city of Spartanburg’s Northside neighborhood.
The project, under the leadership of Spartanburg artist Eli Blasko, community organizer Janet Kagan and the Chapman Cultural Center, involved building four wooden gazebo-like structures in the Northside for residents to enjoy.'Blasko said before the project began last year, Northside residents shared with him various stories and history about growing up in the neighborhood.
“The biggest honor working on this project was having people share those personal recollections. I’ve learned a lot about the people, the place and myself,” Blasko said. “The challenge was then to use other people’s memories as the sculptural material.”
The artlets are located at 159 W. Pearl St., 225 Milan St., 297 Farley St. and the corner of Farley and Brawley streets. The structures were built with the idea that they can be relocated if and when necessary, Blasko said.
To build the artlets, a group of Northside residents helped Blasko reclaim pieces of wood from vacant, blighted houses being torn down in the neighborhood.
The structures are scaled to support up to 10 people at a time, and are meant to be used as public spaces where residents can make music, draw, read, talk, connect and share ideas.
“Even though the project is done, it’s really just the beginning of people using the artlets,” Blasko said. “I’m eager to see how the community will use them and interact with them.”
Jennifer Evins, president and CEO of Chapman Cultural Center, said the idea of the artlets came out of a master planning process in the Northside a few years ago. At the time, Northside residents said they didn’t want to live in a community without art, she said.
“This is extremely meaningful in our relationship with building community through the arts,” Evins said. “The artlets are prototypes and we hope that Eli Blasko and other artists can create the same concept in other neighborhoods or other cities.”
The artlets project has helped four Northside residents gain valuable job training. The residents served as apprentices under artist Eli Blasko through a partnership with Spartanburg Community College.
“The longtime impact of this project isn’t just the creative component and these beautiful artlets, but also providing four residents with full-time employment in construction,” Evins said.