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Globe West Arts

Windows into art in Waltham

Judy Thomas evokes a childhood vision of a construction site in her contribution to the Waltham Art Windows exhibition downtown. Judy Thomas evokes a childhood vision of a construction site in her contribution to the Waltham Art Windows exhibition downtown.
By Nancy Shohet West
Globe Correspondent / June 16, 2011

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Artists are always looking to expand their audience. And downtown districts tend to want to entice a crowd, especially in today’s economy. So the Waltham Art Windows event strikes organizer Kelley Harwood as the perfect synthesis of the two needs.

For the third year in a row, Waltham-based artists were invited to submit their work to a jury; the judges chose seven of them to display an installation in one of nine downtown storefronts near the intersection of Moody and Crescent streets. The other two windows were given to the Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School, and the winning design for the nearby Embassy Park project.

“Since Waltham has a very vibrant artists’ community, this is a wonderful way to enliven the downtown and draw attention to local artists,’’ Harwood said.

Compared with the first event in 2009, there are fewer empty storefronts along Moody Street now, which is a good thing from an economic perspective. But even store owners who are using the window space themselves were willing to give it up for eight weeks to feature the work of a local painter or sculptor.

The installations were unveiled last weekend as part of the Waltham Riverfest; they will be on display until July 29.

The downtown intersection where Moody, Crescent and Pine streets cross is ideal for drawing onlookers, Harwood said.

The property owners have agreed to provide evening lighting for the installations, and one of the challenges to the artists was to create something that will be interesting both in natural daylight and artificial nighttime light.

Artist Sue Post, who ordinarily does oil paintings, gave the use of light considerable thought as she designed two sculptures for her street-level installation.

“One of my pieces is called ‘Learning Curve,’ ’’ she said. “It’s made out of fluorescent light fixtures. I had a lot of fun with it because it required me to learn to do wiring, and I enjoy being handy and solving problems so that was a good opportunity. Using fluorescent lights made me think about how it would look both during the day when the bulbs were off, and at night when they were on.

“My other piece is also related to the play of light during the day and at night,’’ Post said. “It involves four stacked pieces of plexiglass, each with a silhouette of a hill against the horizon.’’

According to Harwood, some of the artists who submitted work designed it with a specific window in mind; in other cases, it doesn’t matter.

For artist Judy Thomas, the space she was awarded almost defined the project: It is the former site of the children’s toy store Construction Site. The building is slated for demolition in the near future, so Thomas designed a childlike construction site.

“I am an artist who primarily does site-specific sculptural installation,’’ Thomas said. “I think about the environment that it’s going to be in, the architecture, the type of people who will be looking at the space or will be inside that space, and the history of the space, and in this case its future also.

“For as long as I’ve lived in Waltham, I’ve had my eye on this space. I’ve always said I wished I could use it for a project. This site was once a fantastic toy store for children. In my installation, I thought of this as being a giant construction zone, a matrix where I would be childlike and construct something within that space. I used a lot of primary colors,’’ she said.

Cynthia Ludlam, chairwoman of the art department at the private Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School on Beaver Street, used the window awarded to her program to exhibit four years’ worth of work by her students. The project, called “Sewing for Peace One Stitch at a Time,’’ began in an art history class Ludlam teaches in which study of particular artists is combined with hands-on practice.

“We were studying artists who effect peaceful social change, and discussing the issue of whether artists have the responsibility and the clout to bring about change when they witness social injustice,’’ Ludlam said. “Each student in the class over the past four years has embroidered or sewn an item incorporating the word ‘peace’ and intended to show what peace means to them. For this exhibit, we also included work by faculty and a professional artist.’’

Waltham Art Windows is organized by the Downtown Waltham Partnership and supported by the city’s Cultural Council and Watertown Savings Bank. Details about the locations are available through a link at www.walthamriverfest.com.

CHILDREN ON STAGE: The Watertown Children’s Theatre performs “Damn Yankees,’’ featuring a cast of fifth- through ninth-graders, at the Charles Mosesian Theater at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown, tomorrow at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12. For more information, call 617-926-ARTS or go to www.watertownchildrenstheatre.org.

The Alexander Children’s Theatre School presents “ The Secret Garden’’ at the Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts, 40 Stow St., Concord. Performances are tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $17 to $20, or $15 to $18 for students and seniors. For tickets or more information, call 781-899-4467 or go to www.acts1.org.

A LITTLE MORE NUNSENSE: “Nunset Boulevard: The Hollywood Bowl Musical’’ will be presented in Waltham by the Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston on Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

The show puts the singing and dancing nuns from “Nunsense’’ in a cabaret lounge at the Hollywood Bowl-a-Rama.

Tickets cost $35 to $57, with discounts for youths and seniors, and are available online at www.reaglemusictheatre.org, by calling 781-891-5600, or at the Robinson Theatre box office, 617 Lexington St. in Waltham, where the hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and performance days 9 a.m. till curtain.

Send ideas for the Arts column to westarts@globe.com.