NORWALK – Norwalk 2.0, a community and economic development organization is starting work on a project aimed at bringing people back to heart of Norwalk’s downtown. Linking the past with the future, the project received funding support from the Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts which also receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency (DECD Office of the Arts) as part of the Arts Catalyze Placemaking (ACP-3) Arts Leadership Implementation grant program. The grant amount was $65k.
The project, FACES of Norwalk, a mural arts trail, involves creating pop up art, cultural exhibits and events in vacant storefronts in addition to partnering with businesses in the area. Partners in the project include, Artists Duvian Montoya, Jahmane, the City of Norwalk, the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, the Norwalk Public Library, the Norwalk Preservation Trust, the Norwalk Historical Society, the Norwalk Arts Commission and the Greater Norwalk Arts Council.
The project goal is to create a series of arts events and street exhibits that speak to the historic economic vibrancy of downtown Norwalk and catalyze an artistic hub within the district. Through an inaugural year of programming in addition to site specific history engagement, Norwalk 2.0 plans to include a series of pop-up arts and retail experiences that place creative expression into the heart of the district and help forge ties from the new businesses located in the retail area with the larger community and its historical roots.
For the past two years Norwalk 2.0 has laid the groundwork for the initiative by building a strong alliance between the Norwalk Preservation Trust, the Norwalk Historical Society and the Norwalk Historical Commission, the City of Norwalk and the property owners so that the story of Norwalk’s historic downtown industries and businesses are represented within context of a historic district. In 2009, the State of Connecticut formally recognized the area as a historic district.
Building on data compiled from the 2011 Norwalk Listens City-Wide Survey, Norwalk 2.0 identified a community desire to have more activities in the Norwalk Center area. The Norwalk Redevelopment Agency has been working with local developers to build new housing in the area, but for much of the past decade, various projects have been stalled.
“We see this an opportunity,” said co-founder Maribeth Becker, “to work with what we have and tap into the creative community in order to help create demand.”
Becker and co-founder Jackie Lightfield have created pop-up events and exhibits in South Norwalk to great acclaim.
“We had great success creating pop-up spaces in SoNo in partnership with great property owners” said Lightfield. “The Wall Street area is our historic downtown, and bringing our program to this area will help restore that vibrant downtown center.”
Norwalk 2.0 is part of a growing national movement that leverages technology to increase social
engagement in and participation in communities. Gov 2.0, Code for America and Startup America all focus
on delivering tech tools to local organizations and communities to enable better and more efficient ways
of making communities better.
Becker and Lightfield founded Norwalk 2.0 in the summer of 2010 to address needs in Norwalk after
extensive work as civic leaders.
Norwalk 2.0’s mission is to engage residents, businesses and community organizations to work together
and create an authentic, creative, economically diverse and sustainable future.