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Gene Davis' painted parking lot appeared at Artpark in the 1970s. (Photo courtesy of Artpark)
Gene Davis' painted parking lot appeared at Artpark in the 1970s. (Photo courtesy of Artpark)

Artpark looks to go '70s retro

Sat, Feb 11th 2017 07:00 am

New Kickstarter campaign seeks return of painted parking lot

By Terry Duffy


Like to take a trip back to the '70s?

In this era of class reunions, of looking back into the past and the like, Artpark, that favorite mecca of many on the lower Niagara, is looking at going retro.

As in "remember the painted parking lot?"

Tanis Winslow, director of art programs at Artpark, announced this week that Artpark & Company officials are seeking to return that now drab-looking parking area adjacent to the Mainstage Theater complex and below the outdoor amphitheater to its late '70s flavor, complete with multicolors.


Winslow reported Artpark launched a Kickstarter campaign to make that eye-catching painted parking lot of days gone by a reality.

"Artpark is launching a campaign for the summer of 2017 to bring back 'Niagara 1979,' " Winslow said in a video as she recalled the efforts of the late artist Gene Davis in creating the outdoor masterpiece.

Throughout the summer of 1979, Davis spent weeks hand-rolling 60, 2-foot-wide-by-364-foot-long lines in nine different colors, Winslow said. "This artwork was widely covered by the media and everyone in the community came out to experience it. At over 43,000 square feet, The Guinness Book of World Records hailed it as the largest painting in the world at the time.

"We came to know it as the painted parking lot ... it was incredible," Winslow said.

She went on to explain, at Artpark, "Our mission is to take the finest in performing and visual art and make them accessible to everybody."

Winslow noted Artpark's objective has been and remains to establish and keep that connection with the arts makers and the general public.

"Since its inception, (Artpark) has served as a truly active prototype for public art," she added.

Recalling all that once was Artpark way back then -- the popular community art experiences on the lower river, the work shops at the Art-El, the Artpark Repertory Theater and the storytelling place experiences enjoyed by many -- Winslow said that, for the summer of 2017, Artpark is seeking a return to its past.

It has sought and received permission from the Smithsonian Institution, holder of the late artist Davis' estate, to re-create the parking lot area, using Davis' original design.

To make it a reality, Winslow reports Artpark launched the kickstarter.com fundraiser. It seeks to raise $20,000 by April 9 to make the project a reality.

"Artpark has been working with Sherwin and Williams and will use the same industrial paints found on the runways at airports, in specially formulated colors, to make this project come to fruition," Winslow said. "Armed with 18-inch paint rollers and miles of masking tape, Artpark Adventure staff and a group of volunteer professional painters will spend the month of May 2017 hand-rolling lines just as Gene Davis did."

Michael Beam, who serves as curator of the Castellani Museum, spoke highly of Artpark's new attempt on a return to this truly unique feature.

"What makes this artwork so amazing is that it's created in a non-traditional space, a parking lot, which offers viewers an opportunity to experience art in a completely different perspective," he said.

Lewiston business owner Michael Broderick of the Orange Cat Coffee Co. recalled visits to Artpark as child. He has already pledged his assistance to help make it reality.

"Seeing the painted parking lot was the first spark of excitement, the first and last memory of the day," Broderick said of his visits with his mother and local kids to the park. "I am so excited to hear that Artpark is trying to bring back this project!"

As of Friday, 29 backers have signed on to support the Artpark painted parking lot campaign on kickstarter.com. A total of $2,446 has been pledged, with 57 days remaining to reach the $20,000 goal.

"We need you, the community, to help us bring a truly incredible piece of artwork to you," Winslow said, as she welcomed all to become part of the unique venture. "Please join us!"

For more information on Artpark's painted parking lot project, or to contribute, visit www.kickstarter.com (direct link) or contact Winslow at 716-754-9000, ext. 105.

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