ALISON COFRANCESCO ’18
This fall, a new resource has been made available to art lovers, history lovers, and those who take an interest in their surroundings. Arthartford.org is a website created by Trinity Professor Alden Gordon, with research and input from Trinity students. According to Professor Gordon, Arthartford is “a responsive website that aims to acquaint users with the most significant works of public art, architecture, and landscape design in the 27 towns of the Greater Hartford area.”
The website consists of catalogs of local artwork, including the history behind each piece and biographies of the artists. The site helps users explore their area, with interactive maps and themed walking and driving tours. It incorporates the most up to date technology in presenting artwork. Along with a feature that identifies art near the viewer, the site uses images from drones to capture difficult-to-see facades and sculptures. Along with the information on the site, this should provide a more comprehensive experience for art viewers.
The website focuses on the importance of providing users with context. In order to discuss artistic choices, it is incredibly important to view artwork from other eras as a well-informed viewer. Knowing the intentions of the artist, the common ideas in the artistic world at their time, and the cultural and political atmospheres that they worked under all help viewers to better understand public artwork as a product of its time. Professor Gordon hopes that the site will provide future generations with the opportunity to understand past ideologies through art. As he says, “I prefer to preserve benignly commissioned artwork with suitable contextual (teaching) explanations so that subsequent generations are able to experience it from the perspective of their own era. I don’t believe one generation should deny future generations of the opportunity to learn from older works of art as relics of eclipsed values.” The site provides these teaching opportunities, and acts as tool for viewers trying to form opinions about the values of past generations.
The website will facilitate important conversation and debate about treatment of artwork and history in the modern world. Art has always been a victim during changing regimes and ideologies. According to Gordon, “We can and should critique and contextualize that past art, but we should not be so fearful of it that we descend to iconoclasm. With the current controversy over the subject matter of some public monuments it is more important than ever that we not punish works of art for the associations that they have in a contemporary context that was not intrinsic to the sculpture when it was first made.” The issue of iconoclasm has always been a problem for art historians. Whether it is the destruction or relocation of controversial public art, it is important that the action taken towards works of art is the result of informed responsible discourse, rather than authoritative censorship.
With recent issues of defunding of the arts, it is incredibly important that art historians have a platform that can continue to exist, debate, and adapt with the changing times. This website has the benefit of being flexible enough to stay active for years to come. It also consolidates information, in order prevent anything being lost to history. According to Gordon the site is unique, since “it is not siloed to a single city or to a single owner as are most other websites in Connecticut. Arthartford will cover all of the towns of Greater Hartford and will show visitors things to search out and see of similar subject or style that are physically scattered and known now only to experts.”
Whether or not we are always conscious of it, art and architecture play an important role in everyday life. As Gordon says, “Architecture, urban planning, and public spaces with art give character to any built environment. The greater the density and quality of public art, the more the inhabitants feel a sense of well-being and pride. The secret uplifting effect comes from the architecture that lines those streets and the landscape and sculpture in those public places.”
Artistry brings greater significance to the world around us, whether or not we always acknowledge it. With this website, users will be able to better acknowledge and respect the layers of history that surround them”: Arthartford is currently available for public use. Trinity students should take this resource to explore their city, and learn about the interesting history of the college itself.