Meghan Quinn earned her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Southern California in 2002, before starting a career in residential and commercial architecture, working in both Los Angeles and Austin. Her work explores interstitial spaces in the urban environment, questioning their psychology and program. By intervening with everyday objects she creates temporary conversions of space into place.
West Town Street Lab seeks to enliven vacant storefronts, empty lots and blank walls along West Chicago Avenue with exciting local art and activity. The initiative brings art and culture to our everyday experience while creating a catalyst for social dialogue through our common interests.
Street Lab is about placemaking, promoting happiness and well being, and inspiring people to take pride in and ownership of their community.
There are currently around 25 empty storefronts along the three-quarter mile stretch of West Chicago Avenue between Noble Street and Damen Avenue in West Town. Many of the facades and interiors are in dire need of upkeep, from a window washing to a more involved improvement. Cleaning up and temporarily repurposing these vacant spaces, while bringing the hidden creativity of community members into plain sight, will be empowering and inspiring. Furthermore, the project’s community-centric nature will foster the building of new relationships and create new places for residents to learn and interact with one another.
The inaugural West Town Street Lab pop-up exhibition, entitled Cross Sections, opened on June 1st, 2012 at 1363 West Chicago Avenue in a vacant 1600 square foot space that is currently for lease. Two local artists, Veronica Bruce and Brooke Barnett, were chosen for the inaugural show. Both utilize everyday materials in unusual ways and their work is raw and unpolished, reminiscent of the temporary and unfinished nature of the vacant space it inhabits.
The opening reception on the evening of Friday, June 1st from 5:30-8:00pm was well attended, and the artwork will remain on view from the street as well as during open hours throughout the next month. With the successful opening of Cross Sections, West Town Street Lab is gaining momentum and aims to transform more vacant commercial spaces on West Chicago Avenue into temporary venues for local art in the near future.
Two additional West Town Street Lab public art projects are in various stages and will be realized this summer with the support of Alderman Moreno of the 1st Ward, the West Town Chamber of Commerce and East Village Association. As with all Street Lab projects, community involvement is the key to their success. The first will be an interactive chalk mural at the corner of West Chicago and Wolcott that will pose critical questions about the neighborhood, giving citizens an outlet to voice their thoughts and have some fun in the process. Casual community meet-ups will provide the platform to come up with questions or prompts to be presented on the mural, creating a constantly transforming and useful element of the streetscape.
The second project, known as Tessellation, will bring beauty to a 300-foot long stretch of chain link fence surrounding an empty lot in the middle of our neighborhood, though it could be installed on any chain link partition. The grid of colorful, singular acrylic pieces come together to form a larger image or text, creating an intriguing and ever changing view of the fence from different angles and distances. Community members will be engaged in brainstorming ideas for the message and/or image to be conveyed, as well as help to install the piece by simply attaching the acrylic squares to the fence using wire. As the sun moves in the sky throughout the day, the light shining through the transparent and translucent squares will create shadows that transform the surrounding environment. The temporary nature of the installation allows it to be constantly morphing, extending or shrinking along West Chicago Avenue. This also makes Tessellation easy to remove when the lot eventually becomes developed, but allows it to add creativity to our everyday experience of the streetscape in the mean time.
(Master of Fine Arts in Studio, Interior Architecture)