Behind (and ahead of) the Revolution: Will public art bloom in downtown White River Junction?

The number of artworks on display behind Revolution in White River Junction has tripled.

The movie star adorning the brick wall behind Revolution clothing store in White River Junction has some company — two new works in a public art display that Simran Johnston hopes will be an ongoing effort — and a step toward making the downtown even more of a destination. 

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"The industrial landscape lends itself really well to public art," says Johnston, a 28-year-old ceramic artist and part-owner of Revolution. "White River really could have an incredible art scene and people would travel to see it. People would also be happy to live around it." 

The two new works are by Frankie Carino and Charlotte Patterson, two Los Angeles-based artists who work in photography and sculpture. They're also pals of Johnston who came east to spend a month working and living in her hometown of South Woodstock. 

Carino's image comes from a trip he took to Iceland. Attached to a sheet of plywood and screwed into the brick wall, it features cut-outs that allow a windowsill and a small iron pipe to jut out and become part of the image. 

Franki Carino artwork

The other image comes from a photo taken by Patterson at the Pogue, a spring-fed boggy pond day-hikers see when roaming Woodstock's Mount Tom. 

Charlotte Patterson art

The two artworks join a familiar work already on display: the image of a sassy Betty Grable by White River native Dave Larro.

Could Johnston be right that public art will start coming up like roses around the village? 

Perhaps, but first town officials will have to make some choices about how, how much and where. Johnston had to get official permission from the town Design Review Committee. While members gave her the green light at their July 26 meeting, records show that there was uncertainty about how to govern such initiatives. 

Committee member Denise Welch-May "asked if there were any specific rules or guidelines in Hartford for the display of public art," meeting minutes say. Town planning chief Lori Hirschfield "stated there were not. All agreed this should be researched." 

"There actually aren't any clear guidelines for public art in Hartford," agreed Johnston, who recently opened a small gallery beside the South Woodstock Country Store, which she runs, and hopes to launch a visiting artist program. 

The display behind Revolution is designed to shift every three or four months, with a changing lineup of local and visiting artists, she said. The price of admission: a stroll down the sidewalk. 

"Public art is so important," she says. "It's innately accessible to everyone." 

Charlotte Patterson and Frankie Carino, from the artists' website


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