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Haitian Paintings, River Sunsets Share Pop Up Space on Main Street

The old R.W. Camp boasts a colorful display of artwork created by Common Councilman David Bauer and Painter Pierre Sylvain that's uniquely Middletown.

Middletown Common Councilman David Bauer's Connecticut River sunsets fill the display case at 412 Main Street.
Middletown Common Councilman David Bauer's Connecticut River sunsets fill the display case at 412 Main Street.

Vibrant artwork has popped up in the R.W. Camp building on Main Street where stunning photographs of the bend of the Connecticut River at Middletown and brilliantly colored Caribbean paintings share a display case.

These are the work of two Middletown talents who paired up this summer at Wesleyan University's Zilka Gallery in an Art for Haiti exhibit — Common Councilman David Bauer and Painter Pierre Sylvain.

"I have wanted for a long time to do pop-up art in one of those empty storefronts on Main Street," says Sylvain, a native of Haiti.

The building at 412 Main Street most recently home to Us Restaurant, Titanium Nightclub and Firehouse Steakhouse and Halligan Taproom, beckoned to Sylvain, who asked his friend, building owner David Kania, for permission to fill the space with art. 

He'd been trying to fill an empty storefront with public art for two years. Kania was more than receptive to the idea and both men say they're indebted to him for allowing them to transform the glass cases.

Sylvain says his and Bauer's work gelled perfectly for the concept. "It's all from the Connecticut River during the winter," he says of the photographer's work, "when it's so, so cold and with the different colored sunsets, they give you that warm feeling."

He's an advocate of Middletown arts, and encourages people he meets who see artwork they enjoy to post a photo of it on Facebook to spread the word about local talent. "I just feel we can really make something happen here," Sylvain says of the city. His colorfully painted 55-gallon oil drums turned recycling containers have been a part of Middletown's east side of Main Street for several years.

Bauer, who was a council member of the Middletown Commission on the Arts, also sees the value of public art. 

"I hope this instance of pop-up art serves as a 'proof of concept for its positive effect for all involved." He's made a project of photographing the Connecticut River, visually representing the myriad changes the warmest year on record has had on the region. He turned to the transformative power of sunset, exploring the remarkable variations of Middletown's riverfront.

Stephan Allison, coordinator of the city arts office, is thrilled to see such public displays. "If it does as intended — and I take that to be visual stimulation for pedestrians and stopped traffic — then it promotes the arts while it enhances the vibrancy of our city. It also leaves one with an impression of that old "Yankee spirit" that wants to turn a negative situation (vacant space) into a positive situation (human engagement). 

"And, taking it further, because it is a positive for the city and the business community along Main Street, shouldn't there be some reward for the artists in the form of sales and/or remuneration from the property owner? I'd like to think so. Get to know your local artists, support their work if it enriches you."

Joyce Kirkpatrick, founding member of the city's art commission in 1972 and its extensive art collection on all three floors of city hall, says the display case is a wonderful addition to the downtown. 

"How exciting to have a new place to view the art of some of Middletown's most active and exciting artists right in the heart of this wonderful city! The vivid color and new ways of looking at ourselves and our community are truly a magic holiday gift to city residents and visitors alike.  

"My hat is off to these energetic artists and to those who have made the display possible and added this value to to our Middletown. Bravo!" 

All the work is for sale. For prices, contact Sylvain at pierresylvain@comcast.net or Anne-Marie Cannata at the Buttonwood Tree for queries about Bauer's sunsets at thebuttonwoodtree@gmail.com.

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