The economic impacts of COVID-19 are still reflected in the many empty storefronts in Beverly Hills. A city program known as Visions of the Future hopes to revitalize those spaces with bold art installations. Organizers of the program told the Courier the next big step is to get more property owners to participate.
“We thought, ‘why not put something beautiful to fill these windows throughout our city, instead of facing these empty windows and kind of reminding us of the tragedy which was COVID,'” Noelle Freeman told the Courier. She is the Next Beverly Hills Committee Chair and a Human Relations Commission member. “So, we came together with this idea of placing beautiful art [in those spaces].”
The program started in July and is now gearing up for its second installation which was approved by the Beverly Hills City Council during the Nov. 2 regular meeting. This second installation will be located at 445 Canon Drive and will feature about seven pieces from visual artist Kevin HEES.
HEES is an American abstract artist who began to gain notoriety in 2019. His work is noted for its vibrant colors and use of primary shapes, particularly circles and lines. The work that will be featured in the Canon Drive installation explores music and diversity.
“We’re excited to have Kevin, who’s installation really represents diversity and inclusion with LGBTQ and freedom of speech,” said Freeman. “It’s wrapped all in music, so his artwork is really beautiful, and it speaks to our missions. The idea is really just to have bright and bold work in the window.”
The first installation of the program featured art by James Goldcrown at the same location. Installations are in place for a month with the option to extend. Extensions would be determined case-by- case. The installations could also potentially be removed early if a business needs to move into the space they occupy. The goal is to fill every vacant storefront in the city with art.
“In Beverly Hills, we want to be known as an arts and culture hub,” said Freeman. “And something like this introduces new works of art and keeps the happy hopeful spirit which I think we all struggled with during this unprecedented time.”
The Visions of the Future program is a collaboration between the city’s Arts and Culture Commission, Human Relations Commission and the Next Beverly Hills Committee. Arts and Culture Commission Chair Deborah Frank brought the concept to the city in 2019 after seeing a similar program while traveling in Montreal, Canada.
“It just gobsmacked me,” Frank told the Courier. “It was just so stunning to see something like that. It just added an extra element of sophistication.”
When the city started seeing more empty storefronts due to the pandemic, the idea took on new life.
“It’s good because it adds vitality to the city, it gives energy to people and hope,” Frank said. She added that the goal for now is to get more art in more windows. “Wouldn’t that illuminate our city and make it really vibrant and positive to have art in all those places?” asked Frank. “Right now, due to COVID, it’s only in the storefront windows. Ideally, if there wasn’t COVID we could create a real popup.”
Frank said city staff are working to create a system so the program can grow. She said she would like to eventually see the Visions of the Future become a popup art show series and include projects beyond the storefronts when the pandemic is behind us. But for now, the challenge is getting space in the vacant shops to showcase the art.
“We’d really like for the owners in Beverly Hills who have these vacant stores to be amenable to letting us use it even if it’s just for a short term,” said Frank. “Having the art isn’t the issue. It’s just getting the spaces and setting up the system.”