Sunday, June 23, 2024

Stephanie Nelson of the Art Institute of Boston’s Sherrill Library puts together an art installation Thursday in Porter Square.

Could Cambridge be getting the longest open-air gallery in the world? From Sunday through Oct. 13 the city is promised 50 artists displayed in 22 storefront windows between Porter and Harvard Squares, perfect for perusal during a stroll down Massachusetts Avenue.

The Massachusetts Avenue Storefront Art Project is a project of Cambridge-based Lesley University as it celebrates the centennial of its Art Institute of Boston.The exhibit goes past the institute’s future home, in fact, in the 165-year-old former North Prospect Church at 1801 Massachusetts Ave.

“As plans move forward to bring the energy of AIB to Cambridge — the students, faculty and year-round programming — we thought it fitting to begin celebrating 100 years of art making in the community where we’ll learn, experience and make art for the next 100 years,” said Stan Trecker, dean of the institute.

Participating stores include Tags Hardware, Abodeon, Clothware, Coccinelle, Floyd’s 99 Barbershop, Irish Imports, Joie de Vivre, Nomad, Raspberry Beret, Sudo Shoes, Susanna, WardMaps, as well as Lesley’s University Hall, Harvard properties and Gravestar, the owners of Porter Square Shopping Center. Walk past and you’ll see art ranging from paintings and mixed-media to full-fledged installations.

Stephanie Nelson and Jaime Wimmer was building one Thursday as university staff — a window at the Porter Square CVS filled with elaborately stacked hardbound volumes from Sherrill Library, where they curate collections and help institute students with non-art research and reading. The construction of “Vita de Libro” included several nooks with miniature representations of works of literature from throughout history, including the Bay Psalm Book, a 1640 volume printed in Cambridge (and, in fact, considered the first book printed in British North America). Peering into those spaces gave a sense of the lifespan of the book itself, from the Gutenberg Bible to the Internet’s Project Gutenberg.

“We’re trying to show the beauty of print,” Nelson said.

The library staff’s contribution — posted as a collaboration between Alexandria Lowther and Raye Yankauskas — and the dozens of others were juried and coordinated with the participating local businesses, with jury overseer Denise Driscoll saying she was “excited to see the synergies between artwork and location” such as the site-specific work of the library staff. As the official who coordinated with participating businesses, she found them “generous” and welcoming.

The entire project is supported in part by Tags Hardware in Porter Square and the Massachusetts Cultural Council and in collaboration with the Cambridge Arts Council.

“We’re proud to play a role in creating a walkable exhibit for those that live or shop along Massachusetts Avenue,” said Simon Shapiro, owner of Tags. “Porter square has a great tradition of supporting the arts, and this is a terrific way to introduce people to the artists of AIB. We’re looking forward to their being an active member of the community.”

Artists and storefronts include:

Abodeon, 1831 Massachusetts Ave.: Kate Castelli (window), Percy Fortini-Wright and 2012 Pre-College Mural Painting class (outer wall)

Clothware, 1773 Massachusetts Ave.: Danielle Kelly

Coccinelle, 1886 Massachusetts Ave.: Betti Pettinati-Longinotti

Floyd’s 99 Barbershop, 1672 Massachusetts Ave.: Linda King

Irish Imports, 1737 Massachusetts Ave.: Sarah Luchini

Joie de Vivre, 1792 Massachusetts Ave.: Leah Miller

Nomad, 1741 Massachusetts Ave.: Julie Angela Theresa

Raspberry Beret, 1704 Massachusetts Ave.: Nancy Grace Horton

Sudo Shoes, 1771 Massachusetts Ave.: Peter O. Zierlein

Susanna, 1776 Massachusetts Ave.: Savannah Jade Renaud

Tags Hardware, 29 White Street: Shaun MacDavid

WardMaps, 1735 Massachusetts Ave.: Kristin Weber

Porter Square Shopping Center community Windows (Gravestar): Alexandria Lowther, Raye Yankauskas (collaboration), and Daniela Montemayor

Harvard University: 1613 Mass. Ave.: Adelaide Tyrol, 1609 Mass. Ave: Mary Mayer, 1607 Mass. Ave. Joan Ryan (left) and Julia Kirchmer (right)

University Hall, front window, Glovebox (an AIB alumni collaboration); left entrance window, Susan Emmerson; right entrance window, Cynthia Hauk