When the Alexandria Commission for the Arts made an open call for a public art project, Linda Hesh’s proposal stood out for many reasons—not least of which was its potential to get people talking.
“It’s a totally different kind of art than people are used to, and that’s exciting,” said Pat Miller, chair of the commission “It’s not a statue or something like that. It’s something that can create a buzz.”
The project, entitled “Art is…” and to be installed this week in coordination with the Aug. 2 First Thursday street festival, is to hang 3,000 white card stock doorknob hangers on homes and businesses across 100 blocks in the Del Ray and Potomac West neighborhoods.
The hangers, which measure 4.25 inches by 11 inches, will display one of four phrases: “Art is to See,” “Art is to Feel,” “Art is to Do” and “Art is to Know.”
“I wanted to do something just about art,” said Hesh, who has a studio at her home in the Hollin Hills neighborhood just south of the city. Her husband, Eric Margry, is a jeweler and hand engraver who keeps a studio at . “I tend to just use a few words. I think it’s very dramatic and can be seen from a distance. And it can tell almost a story in a poetic way.”
Residents who find one of Hesh's hangers on their door is invited to photograph it where they like and upload the image to an online website maintained by the Alexandria Commission for the Arts. The back of the doorknob hanger will contain a web address and QR code to encourage people to make Hesh's art into their own work of art.
Hesh did a similar project with doorknob hangers in New York City in 2010, placing them along 14th Street between 10th Avenue and Avenue C in Manhattan as part of the Art in Odd Places festival. The theme of the event was chance, and Hesh’s hangers touched on chance meetings between people and used phrases like “Is it really you?” and “Give me a call.” The project won an award from the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network.
Hesh’s artwork is included in collections at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Library of Congress. An upcoming project includes a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, for a temporary public art festival.
Beginning Tuesday and running up to Thursday’s night’s street festival, Hesh and some volunteers will begin installing the doorknob hangers around town during the day. Hesh said she’d like people to find them when they come home from work.
“It’s nice that everyone gets to keep a piece of art,” Hesh said. “I am hoping everyone keeps it on their door for a few days. … Not everyone wants to go to a museum or gallery. In other cultures, art is more into people lives. I think it’s a really interesting way for art to be all about them.”
If you’re interested in helping Hesh install the project, email her at email@example.com.