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Vacant Storefronts In Downtown White Plains Revived With Art, Poetry

The White Plains BID and SUNY Purchase partnered up to fill vacant storefronts in the city's downtown with visual poetry. SUNY design students interpreted on-site poems created using the real experiences of city residents, workers, and shoppers.
The White Plains BID and SUNY Purchase partnered up to fill vacant storefronts in the city's downtown with visual poetry. SUNY design students interpreted on-site poems created using the real experiences of city residents, workers, and shoppers. Photo Credit: Provided
The White Plains BID and SUNY Purchase partnered up to fill vacant storefronts in the city's downtown with visual poetry. SUNY design students interpreted on-site poems created using the real experiences of city residents, workers, and shoppers.
The White Plains BID and SUNY Purchase partnered up to fill vacant storefronts in the city's downtown with visual poetry. SUNY design students interpreted on-site poems created using the real experiences of city residents, workers, and shoppers. Photo Credit: Provided

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Design students at SUNY Purchase and business leaders in White Plains have partnered on something they hope will brighten up the city's streetscape for those who work, live, and shop downtown.

A number of empty storefronts are now populated with visual poetry thanks to “Art in Vacant Spaces,” a project birthed by the city’s Business Improvement District and SUNY’s Ravi S. Rajan, dean of its arts school.

Rajan was responsible for rounding up students in Prof. Warren Lehrer’s Community Design class who work on pro-bono projects for non-profit organizations and the Purchase College community.

“To be successful, the project had to be something more than co-locating student work into vacant spaces,” Rajan said. “The solution had to include all involved: the community in White Plains, the BID and businesses downtown, and the students and faculty of the college. This kind of collaborative work is core to our mission at the college”

The art school hired poet Judith Sloan to research and interview people in White Plains and to write site-specific poems, which, in turn, were interpreted by the student designers.

There are now nine such works offering inspiration and a visual break downtown. Sites include storefronts on: Court Street, Martine Avenue, East Post Road, Mamaroneck Avenue, and Main Street.

The sites previously held shops and restaurants such as Legal Seafood, Applebee’s, and Atlanta Bread.

Student designers include: William Pineda, Courtney Brown, Alexa Dragonetti, Erica Zhang, Tessa Goode, Elise Assenza, and Emily Richard.

The art will be on view for approximately three months, or until the individual stores are rented.

White Plains Mayor Tom Roach said the city welcomed the creative use of its space.

“Art connects us with each other and with the world,” Roach said. “It broadens our experience and understanding.”

The project brings thousands of people into contact with art in unexpected places, Roach said.

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