Here is a long story from The New York Observer about artists moving in to do a “project” amid the abandoned homes of a former summer beach colony in Stratford, Connecticut. TPL has been working for years to help transfer this land and its important wildlife habitat to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“We don’t have a lot of this habitat left,” said Sharon Marino, project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southern New England-New York Bight Coastal Program . . . . “It’s an opportunity to take a barrier beach that was developed and bring it back to the way it was.”
Located on a narrow peninsula, the beach colony was long linked to the mainland by a single bridge, which burned in 1996. The subsequent history of abandonment is well detailed in the Observer story. Suffice it to say that transfer to the Fish and Wildlife Service would bring down the curtain on a long drama in which the conservation project is only the last act. The remaining homes on the peninsula are in ruin and now being demolished and removed using federal economic stimulus funds.
But in the month before the backhoes and bulldozers arrived to scrape the peninsula clean and restore it to its natural state, a group of Brooklyn artists, seeing an opportunity for creation amid the dilapidation, took up residence on the peninsula in a transient artists’ commune and repurposed the detritus to their own ends: large-scale sculptures, massive murals and collages, elaborate installations of found objects. . .
They would go up for three-to-seven-day stints, camping amid the post-apocalyptic beachscape, sleeping in the sand, cooking in pots scavenged from the homes and working in the fresh air, the million-dollar views all their own. Much of the work had a clear street-art pedigree, massive spray-painted murals and large paper works pasted to walls. All of it responded in some way to the place.
It should be noted that this guerilla occupation was illegal, perhaps dangerous, and a headache for Stratford police. Opinions vary on the value of the public art and the reasons behind it. But from the artists’ point of view, it sounds like the doing was more important than the result.
A worthwhile read for those interested in guerilla art, the environment, or both.