Artist pop-ups will be part of the scene at West Hartford’s GastroPark, with a line-up that includes two artists at a time on weekends from May through October.
By Ronni Newton
GastroPark opened in West Hartford in October 2020, and steadily grew in popularity throughout the winter months despite the lingering pandemic and being an outdoor-only venue, and as the weather has warmed up an ever-increasing and diverse line-up of food trucks has been attracting the community to gather and and graze in a vibrant environment.
The goal of owner Tate Norden, however, has always been for the area’s first food truck park to be much more than a place to dine.
In his plans to transform a former auto repair shop into GastroPark, Norden stated: “We’re trying to take a dilapidated, underused venue and breathe new life into it so we can showcase the state’s food trucks, delicious beer scene, wine, and a variety of different types of entertainment in the form of music, art, and other cultural gatherings that will bring people together.”
With the arrival of “Art at the GastroPark” pop-ups beginning May 1, one more of Norden’s goals will be achieved while providing an ideal venue for area artists.
“One of my biggest goals has been to get our local artists seen more by our community and statewide,” said Stefanie Marco of KiNDSPiN DESiGN, one of the founders of WEHA Artists Emporium.
“Julie Phillipps and I work so hard behind the scenes at the WEHA Artists Emporium to provide an easy platform for local Connecticut artists to be found by their supporters, sell their art, and to network with other artists – as well as to provide live art opportunities,” Marco said.
The WEHA Artists Emporium has had to get creative on the business side, since the pandemic has been particularly hard for artists due to cancellation of many art shows and other related activities. Their annual Holiday Art Market was unable to take place last December, so instead the organization held what turned into a very successful – and COVID-safe – Art Trail. Plans are being finalized for a second Art Trail to take place the weekend of June 5-6, when Celebrate! West Hartford would have provided a venue for many of the artists to exhibit and sell their work.
While virtual Facebook Live art sales also proved a success, and Sally & Bob’s Eatery in West Hartford Center also hosts a curated exhibit of local art, with each participating artist having their work displayed on a two-month show rotation, more opportunities are needed.
Nothing can really substitute for the ability to see art live, and there don’t appear to be many upcoming summer art shows this summer either. “Art is not the same being seen on a screen, as it is when you experience it in person,” said Marco. “People like to look at all the angles, see reflections, get a feel for what it would look like in their home, which you can’t always do on your computer or your phone.”
Artist pop-ups are an ideal complement to the scene at GastroPark, where the community has already been able to gather safely with friends and sample a wide variety of fun-to-try cuisines.
“Tate connected with me a few months back and we came up with a plan,” said Marco. “From May through October, we’ll bring two art pop-ups a month with two artists each time featured at the GastroPark. I curated a wide variety of really fantastic artists, all with something truly unique to offer!”
“We are thrilled to be able to bring the community together around the celebration of food and art … in a variety of forms while supporting local small businesses,” Norden said.
“We are really excited to connect art, food, and community together in a fun atmosphere. … Be sure to stop by and enjoy,” she said.
GastoPark is currently open Wednesday through Saturday from noon-8 p.m., and Sundays from noon-6 p.m., and is located at 637 New Park Ave., West Hartford. More details, and a schedule of food trucks that is updated weekly, can be found on Facebook, their website, and Instagram (@thegastropark).
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