The Practice of Placemaking with Groundwork Bridgeport by Annabel Dupont

This summer I am working remotely for Groundwork Bridgeport, a non-profit organization based out of Bridgeport, Connecticut. The organization is broadly focused on revitalizing the city of Bridgeport through education, sustainable development and community empowerment. At the core of much of their work is the notion of “placemaking” or the creation of beautiful spaces with community-oriented planning and design. Whether through tree planting or mural painting, I really appreciate how Groundwork Bridgeport works to incorporate art and design as integral facets of the city’s growth. 

Participating in this internship has helped me connect with the thriving artistic community in the city. One such opportunity came when my supervisor connected me to a public arts contest held by another local organization, Colorful Bridgeport. They were seeking submissions for designs to be painted onto oil drums which would then be used as planters in a public walkway. Not only would the planters beautify the public space, but the use of open submissions allowed the project to be completed by a diverse community of artists with connections to the city. 

It was super exciting to have my design be selected for the project, although admittedly it has been a challenge to carry out the project while working remotely and residing over a thousand miles away. Because of this, the execution of this project has become a hybrid and collaborative effort, which is in many ways indicative of the flexibility that we have all had to practice in the past year. I am currently working to collaborate with in-person volunteers at the organization to paint the background of the design onto the oil drum. Meanwhile, I have been designing vinyl stickers that can be mailed and adhered to the drum in Connecticut. Despite the challenges of virtual work, it has been very gratifying to create art for a large public audience and I have loved receiving updates and photos from my fellow team members in Connecticut throughout the completion of the project. 

Public art is a truly special tool for engaging communities and bringing new life to spaces. Because many people lack access to art museums or other private artistic institutions in their communities, it is really important to find ways to make art accessible for everyone. I love thinking about all of the people who will be able to have their day brightened by the colorful planters and walkway whether they are on their way to work, school or just exploring the city. This project has also forged connections between all of the volunteers who worked hard to paint the space and will now be able to admire the product of their efforts on a regular basis. While the walkway received lots of foot traffic previously, after its development as a public art space, visitors will hopefully take the time to stop and truly appreciate it, not as a transient passage between places, but as a significant destination in its own right.