Many years ago, Connecticut cities began offering substantial grants for Public Art projects in an attempt to enliven the desolate, inner-city wastelands created by Urban Renewal. I decided to apply for one in New Haven and came up with the idea of creating activity on the street in the form of metal cutouts of people waiting on the corner for a bus. I have a friend, Steve Rosenberg, a well- known “metalsmith” who lives near me and owns a giant laser that easily cuts through half-inch sheets of steel. I planned to paint a series of life-sized people on the metal plates, have Steve cut them out, mount them on giant industrial springs and install them on downtown New Haven street corners. I thought it would make for a rather interesting amalgam of life and art.
In order to prepare a maquette to submit to the jury, I made sketches of a dozen or so “real” people in my usual satirical style; people of all races, ages and classes. I then glued them onto cardboard, cut them out and placed them in shoebox-sized dioramas with photocopies of urban street scenes. (This was before the days when one could PhotoShop drawings into actual places). In any event, I never submitted my proposal, having gotten engrossed in creating miniature worlds inside supermarket boxes. I used my large collection of photos of pre-urban renewal Stamford as background and created a cast of urban characters to occupy the scenes.
Before I knew it, I had completed close to one hundred boxes, all sizes and shapes. The settings recreating the lost Stamford downtown in which over 500 buildings were demolished. You can see a dozen of them installed as a unit on the second floor of the Tully Center on Strawberry Hill Avenue in Stamford where they occupy a wall in the main waiting room. The consultant who chose them wanted “something distracting to take people’s minds off their upcoming tests.” She loves coming into the room and seeing the chairs turned around to face the settings with their whimsical cast of characters. The figures may not have made it to a real bus stop, but you never know; they still might.