JRC Organizes Displays, Artwork For Downtown Windows

The Chautauqua Sign Company employees working to improve the look of downtown windows prior to the grand opening of the National Comedy Center. Submitted photo

The downtown Jamestown community has once again shown what can be done with a little hardwork and a creative idea.

If you’ve driven through or walked the streets of downtown Jamestown this week, you’ve probably noticed new photos and artwork covering windows of businesses and vacant buildings. The idea and organizers for this sprucing up of downtown storefronts came from employees at the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation.

Lisa Hatch, JRC executive director, said JRC staff had attended the Main Street Now Conference in Kansas City to learn more about how to apply new ideas to enhance the look of downtown Jamestown. When the JRC staff returned home they were about to outsource the project, but Sarah Gilbert, JRC grant writer, said it should be created by someone local.

“Sarah said if an outside company does this, it’s not going to be Jamestown,” Hatch said.

Gilbert said she created the concept to use postcards like the ones artist Gary Peters Jr. drew that state “Greetings From Jamestown NY.” Now with the idea to tie the window art together, the JRC staff contacted business owners and artist to help create the photos and paintings.

A photo taken by Jeremiah, a Persell Middle School student, of the Lucille Ball Little Theatre displayed at the Geraci & Co. Accountants along Third Street. Several downtown windows were decorated with similar art to enhance the look of downtown Jamestown. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

“We pulled together a group of people to help us do the windows to make them look wonderful, spectacular and beautiful,” Hatch said.

The project focused primarily on Second and Third streets between Spring and Washington streets. Gilbert said 33 windows were covered with Jamestown photographs with photos taken by three middle school students, Jon Elder and herself. Other designs were created by Zach Agett, JRC marketing and events manager, with printing and installation done by Chautauqua Sign Co.

“This includes the parking ramp on Spring, vacant buildings and underutilized windows, also historic photos of Lucy taken at Hotel Jamestown were installed at Hotel Jamestown,” Gilbert said. “Three local artists produced new art for the installations — Ashley Ordines, Susan Gutierrez and Gary Peters Jr. Other installations were done by Fenton History Center, Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Jamestown Public Market, GROW Jamestown, Northwest Arena, Jamestown Jackals, with help from the Sports Hall of Fame.”

Gilbert said in addition to the window art, they also organized the cleaning of windows and buildings. She said Brian Taylor was hired to wash 15 buildings. Also, the JRC and Northwest Arena staffs washed nine buildings. Another project included volunteers from Cummins who painted Wood Park, which is also known as Potters Terrace.

“You can really tell the difference,” Hatch said.

The door to the former U.S. News decorated with renderings of Saturday Night Live characters, which represented the visit to Jamestown for the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival by former members and writers Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman and Alan Zweibel. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

Before any of the art could be installed or any of the windows and buildings washed, the JRC staff had to go door-to-door to get permission. Not only did they receive the approvals they needed, but they also saw that other building and business owners were starting to implement their own projects to improve the look of downtown Jamestown.

“It was a real grassroots effort. Everyone rolled up their sleeves,” Gilbert said, with Hatch adding, “This is a time when all of the residents of Jamestown are showing a lot of pride.”

Hatch and Gilbert said because of limited resources, they had to cap the number of projects they could create. However, they said more downtown business and building owners also want to be included so the project will be refreshed about every three months at new facilities.

“This has been my favorite project I have worked on with the JRC,” Gilbert said. “It was a great experience working with the people who did the displays and the overwhelming support from the building owners. I’m excited to show my friends and family this project because it was fun and creative.”

The vacant buildings that have been enhanced with new artwork in the windows are gaining attention, Gilbert said. Since the project has started, JRC officials have been contacted by potential business developers about leasing some of the vacant buildings.

“We anticipate a purchase or buildings being rented while the displays are up,” she said. “When selling your home you stage it, which gives the buyer a look at how nice it could be. One of the ideas from the conference is you have to stage buildings to generate excitement. Since staging the windows, we’ve received interest for several of the buildings that have been vacant for a long time.”