Westport artist to ‘eradicate gun violence’ with sneaker auction

For 16 years, Linda Colletta painted large-scale backdrops – “set walls” – for concerts and TV events on MTV and VH1. She has worked on background set designs for shows like the Grammys and special star performances. If you’ve been to a Pearl Jam, Coldplay, Green Day, Pink, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Brittney Spears, Ozzie Osbourne, Jennifer Lopez or Dave Matthews concert, you’ve probably seen his work – without even thinking about it.

“It’s a very specific niche,” notes Colletta, a graduate of the Parson School of Design. It was fun and glamorous – but not conducive to a “normal schedule”. When her first child was born, she and her then-husband moved to Westport. He was a sailor; for her, the city was an ideal place to start creating her own works.

Although she no longer designs large sets, Colletta’s work is still large in scale. Working primarily in acrylics, but also with mixed media – now including fabric arts – she is an abstract expressionist. She will paint on canvas, tear her work into strips, then weave it. “It’s very textual,” she notes.

For several years Colletta exhibited at the Westport Festival of Fine Arts. It was a good way to meet other artists and buyers, and to discover your own style. She then found a studio in the American Fabric Arts Building in Bridgeport. She began exhibiting in mainstream galleries – and as far away as Basel, Switzerland. Today, the artist works with local interior designers. She sells directly to them and also has a strong presence on Instagram.

Before COVID, Colletta opened three pop-up studios in Westport. These were solo exhibitions in rented showcases and attracted a lot of attention.

This spring, she sought space for another pop-up. David Waldman – owner of many city center properties including Bedford Square – has offered her space until September in his new building on Elm Street, between Brooks Corner and Serena & Lily.

It was perfect for a concept she had had since living in New York: an “open studio.” Passers-by could stop, watch her make art, and learn about Abstract Expressionism from her.

Since its opening at the end of April, the concept of Colletta has worked well. Many people stopped by – including families with young children, who recently moved here from Manhattan and Brooklyn. They are used to studios like these and bring “a lot of energy”.

Although Colletta has always been interested in politics, issues such as reproductive rights have rarely been part of her art. However, recent gun violence in places like Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, Texas has prompted her to act. “I want to contribute something,” she said.

His contribution comes in an unusual way: his sneakers.

Her shoes have long been part of her artistic approach. They are covered in paint – and for some reason visitors to his studio often ask to buy them.

Until now, she has always said no.

But she realized she could help by mounting and enclosing her Vans sneakers in a plexiglass box, then auctioning them off. She will do this from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on July 7. The event is called “Stomp Out Gun Violence” – a reference not just to its purpose, but to the sneakers that can help stomp. Eleven Vans will be sold to the highest bidders, along with tote bags created from ripped jeans by Colletta. Guest speakers will add impact to the evening.

Colletta did a lot of research to find a suitable recipient of the funds. She chose Moms Demand Action. The grassroots movement is working to pass tougher gun laws and close the loopholes. It is community-based and includes business leaders. Founded by a mother of five the day after the Sandy Hook massacre, her online conversation now includes not just moms but also dads, college students and survivors of gun violence. He is part of Everytown for Gun Safety, the nation’s largest gun violence prevention group, with more than 8 million members.

Colletta defines herself as “just an ordinary person who cares about art and helps people. Two years ago, during Black Lives Matter, I asked myself: ‘What can I do?’ As a privileged white person, this is a difficult question to answer.

“I’ve learned that the answer is to educate myself, to take a stand where I can, and to teach my children to be good and righteous people.

“But it’s not about me. It’s a way to raise money for a great organization. They’re the experts. I’m just using my art to help as much as I can.

(Linda Colletta Art is at 33 Elm Street, Westport. Reservations are not required for the July 7 event, but RSVPs are requested to help with planning. Email [email protected] )

Dan Woog is a writer from Westport. His new “Calendar Close-up” column appears every Friday and dives into one of Westport’s upcoming community events. He can be contacted at [email protected] His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.

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