TV, movies, music, and painting are all viewed as forms of art. How about advertising? Today ads are online everywhere, but in the past businesses would paint logos on the sides of buildings to showcase what they offer.
Unlike our phones and TVs, paint fades over time. But one local artist was commissioned to bring these faded logos back to life on a Worthington Street building in Springfield. Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan visited the former Bloom’s Camera Center to meet with chief artist John Simpson and his team as they revived these “ghost images”.
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Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Some people may not think of advertising as public art, but there was a time when businesses would paint logos on the sides of buildings to showcase their wares. Those images can be hard to come by these days as paint fades over time. But one local artist was commissioned to bring them back to life on a Worthington Street building in Springfield.
Connecting Points. Brian Sullivan visited the former Blooms Camera Center to meet with chief artist John Simpson and his team as they revived these ghost images from a bygone era.
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: In downtown Springfield, there’s no shortage of wall art and murals. Quite often there’s a social message attached to it – as depicted here on Gridiron Street. Sometimes it’s abstract, while others are a touch of surreal and fantasy with powerful symbolic imagery. It may be an instance where art imitates life, or is it the other way around? Others honor their subjects by showcasing their historical context. But back in the day, much of the art was just advertising. And with so many brick structures in this area between four and six stories high, there was a seemingly endless supply of canvases throughout the city.
While much of that paint has either faded or disappeared over time, they’ve decided to reverse that aging process on one street in particular. Anyone who’s ever traveled down Worthington Street has probably seen the imprints of these old advertisements on the side of this historic building. Now, it used to just be faint ghosts of images that were here long before many here in this town were even born – have been brought back to life thanks to this project.
John Simpson, Chief Artist: This was the wall of photography signs for the store called Blum’s five floors of photo supplies and their hand-painted signs on the wall, which have been weathered over the years – and they call them ghost signs.
All around the world, people admire ghost signs. But this wall had gotten to the point where they’d becoming invisible and you couldn’t read them anymore. So I felt like since they wanted me to do something on this wall, it’d be nice to restore all those old ads and bring them back from the beyond.
Brian Sullivan: Five stories of scaffolding may not seem like a lot to those of us for whom heights aren’t a big deal. It’s tight quarters with nothing but wooden planks to stand on. And for John Simpson, it’s just another day at the office. Of course, not everyone loves the heights.
Luckily, this is a two tiered project, meaning that everything above the second floor consists of the original commercial signs that are now being brought back to life. While the lower deck, the first and second floors – where artist Megan Crowley can be found toiling away, will be all brand new artwork. In this case, the combination of something old and something new creates some fluidity to the action on the walls.
John Simpson: It’s a restoration – but it’s also a new creation because the bottom of the wall was very deteriorated with these these glass mosaics on here. But the rest of the wall was kind of dark and had it. So we’re bringing the feeling of the signs above to the lower area and so to the point where it becomes a unified image.
Brian Sullivan: Most times artists have some kind of blueprint or smaller sketch to go off of before they commit it to whatever type of canvas they’re working on. This situation is a bit different. Here they’re trying to find something that used to be on these walls. Doing so can require going into an almost meditative state to locate the images.
John Simpson: And sometimes it might be boring for somebody watching us trying to figure things out because you’re basically standing there puzzling and having to relax your mind until these ghost images appear. And if you’re kind of agitated, you don’t see anything. But when you start to calm down, it starts presenting little clues and each thing you do adds to the next clue. So it’s like a chain reaction.
Brian Sullivan: Born in Holyoke, raised in Agawam, West Springfield and Springfield, this artistic undertaking is more than just some commissioned job for John Simpson. Getting it done right is a point of pride, and not just for himself, but for all the locals who make their way through historic Stearns Square.
John Simpson: It means so much to make people like proud of their city and the history here and realize it’s a city to really rejoice in and to give back to and to live and have fun here.