CLINTON — Local abstract artist Gabi Torres has received a $5,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which she is using to create an outdoor installation called “The Grove.”
The grant is part of ongoing efforts to provide relief to Iowa artists and cultural organizations impacted by challenges caused by the COVID pandemic. Using it to fund “The Grove,” Torres wants to take action to bring about positive change within the community.
When Torres acquired her studio at 83 Main Ave., Clinton, in December 2020, she had wanted it to be more open to the public as a gallery showcasing the work of local artists and a place where she could offer classes. of art. Studio space limitations, however, made it difficult to accommodate social distancing recommendations. Torres was able to secure grants that allowed him to make his art available to the public in other ways.
Torres wants to create more of an arts culture in Clinton and help make it a place that people from other cities will want to visit as an arts destination.
Also, she wants to change the narrative of the city.
“I feel like sometimes people tell each other certain stories about a place where they live, maybe focusing on things that aren’t as positive.” Torres says, “We can start to change the story that we tell ourselves about where we are and where we live, but to help everyone be able to see that, you know, you have to do things to make people realize that this is not the case, or to change their point of view.
To achieve these ambitions, Torres creates his first outdoor installation as a magical forest consisting of 12 paintings of varying sizes, each suspended by eyelets and springs in wooden frames made by Tim Fuller and Charlie Woods of Retired with Wood, and located this summer in Pocket Park in the 100 block of South Fourth Avenue.
The urban aspect of this place contributes to the contrast created by the juxtaposition of something improbable found between two buildings in the city. If consistent with the style that Torres’ other current works have evolved to represent, the pieces included in “The Grove” will be gestural, energetic and lyrical abstract works of art.
Making “The Grove” was not without its challenges. Initially, funding for the project was questioned. The relief grant was originally $10,000. In order to distribute the funds over several projects, this amount has been divided.
“When I saw that, I was like, well, I can’t — I don’t want to do this project for $5,000,” Torres says. “It only really works if it’s at the $10,000 mark.”
The generosity of local businesses and organizations, as well as some very kind people, she said, enabled Torres to make up the amount she wanted to see the project completed to its full potential. Some of those she appreciates for their support, financial or otherwise, include the Iowa Arts Council, Clinton National Bank, Citizens First Bank, Brocolo, Kersh Digital, Clinton Convention and Visitors Bureau, Downtown Clinton Alliance, Josh Eggers of Clinton Parks and Rec, and Brian Lemke, director of public works for Clinton.
Another hurdle early on in creating “The Grove” was what material she was going to paint on.
“The canvas I paint on is not meant to be outdoors – far from it,” she says.
Needing a material that could withstand the outdoor elements, she envisioned a type of canvas used for boat sails. In the end, with the help of Connie Vulich, Torres’ project and event coordinator, and Steve Pearson, owner of Upholstery Unlimited at 1814 N. Second St., Torres settled on the canvas normally used for the soft tops of convertible cars.
“I wouldn’t be able to complete this project without his help,” Torres says of Vulich. “It’s a huge project. It’s a huge undertaking.
So far, Torres and his team of Vulich, Fuller, and Woods have collectively invested hundreds of hours into making “The Grove,” and there’s still a long way to go. At this point, the rest of the frames are being built by Fuller and Woods. Once these are completed, they will measure to find the sizes of the canvases and the quantities of other materials that Torres will need to order before beginning the labor-intensive painting.
Although creating “The Grove” has been a stressful and scary process at times, Torres isn’t going through it alone.
“I have a great team that I work with,” she says. “So one of the reasons why this project is right, for me, as important to me personally as it is, is because of all the different people I work with.”
Learn more about Gabi Torres and her art online at https://gabriella-torres.com.