Art teacher wins studio space

Ben Quesnel, left, and Sprouting Spaces founder Fernando Luis Alvarez, right, with one of Quesnel’s artworks. — Contributed photo
Ben Quesnel, left, and Sprouting Spaces founder Fernando Luis Alvarez, right, with one of Quesnel’s artworks. — Contributed photo

Ben Quesnel, a multimedia artist, Stamford resident and art teacher at Eastern Middle School in Greenwich, has been awarded a full year of free studio space in the Wilton River Park Shopping Center through the Clementina Arts Foundation’s Sprouting Spaces program.

Quesnel was named the winner of the 921-square-foot space next to Cactus Rose during a Sprouting Spaces launch party on Dec. 16.

Winning the space, Quesnel said, was “an amazing feeling.”

“To have an accessible space to create work is hard to come by around here,” he told The Bulletin.

“As artists and cultural producers, we often spend a lot of money and time to create our work, so to acquire a space like this and free of charge is a dream.”

Sprouting Spaces works to unite landlords with commercial vacancies with emerging artists seeking space to work. Studios are reserved for a minimum 12 months at a time, wherein an artist is allowed to create freely and achieve breakthroughs.

The first-ever Sprouting Spaces studio in Wilton was created in partnership with Kimco Realty, which owns the Wilton River Park Shopping Center.

The commercial space in the Wilton River Park Shopping Center where the studio will be. — Kendra Baker photo
The commercial space in the Wilton River Park Shopping Center where Quesnel’s studio will be. — Kendra Baker photo

The Clementina Arts Foundation put out a call in early November to emerging and mid-career artists living in Fairfield County. Submissions were reviewed by a panel of three curators, art advisers and program directors, who narrowed it down to seven finalists and ultimately one winner.

In a joint statement, the jurors said they “unanimously recommend” Quesnel, who “presented a coherent and well-conceived proposal for his yet-to-be realized installation Undelivered, which features a strong plan for community participation.”

Undelivered is an “immersive installation” Quesnel is working on that materialized when a friend of his discovered two abandoned mail trucks in the woods of his property in northern Connecticut.

In the trucks, Quesnel said, he and his friend found a box of mail dating back to 1982 — “pieces of undelivered messages that never made it to their final destination.”

Quesnel said he took an interest in the now-inoperable trucks, which once “served as a means for people to connect with one another” but were “left abandoned with pieces of mail that never reached their destination.”

“I wonder how many important messages never make it to their recipient. I not only consider unexpected occurrences disrupting the line of transportation, but I also think about the messages that we never send,” he said.

“How often have we wanted to say something to someone but did not?”

Using one of the abandoned trucks and the undelivered mail as the center of his installation, Quesnel said, he “will provide an interactive space where people will have the opportunity to engage with the project and create letters and messages of their own.”

Prior to working with “found and created objects,” Quesnel said, he did “a lot of painting” and was contracted as an illustrator for children’s books.

A graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City’s master of fine arts program, Quesnel has performed public and private installations throughout the tri-state area. His work was recently exhibited at the Governors Island Art Fair in New York, Satellite Art Fair in Miami and The Hollows in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Images of Quesnel’s recent works and news about where his pieces are showing are available at BenQuesnelArt.com.

“Once I begin Undelivered,” said Quesnel, “I will be creating a page on my site dedicated to the project and its evolution throughout the year.”

Quesnel said he’s already started moving his tools and books into his new studio space, which will have an “open door policy” — “meaning visitors are welcome to come in and say hi, ask questions and get involved.”

To learn more about the Clementina Arts Foundation, visit clementinaarts.org.

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