During Saturday night’s gallery party, Clementine Arts Foundation (CAF) announced that Stamford artist Ben Quesnel was the lucky artist chosen out of six applicants by judges, and awarded a year of free studio space in Wilton. Quesnel will occupy CAF’s first-ever Sprouting Space in a storefront at Kimco Realty’s Wilton River Park Shopping Center, immediately next to Cactus Rose Restaurant.

In the gallery, Quesnel will not only have space to create but will also produce programming for the community, all in accordance with CAF’s mission to build community through the arts.

Ben is currently an art teacher in the Greenwich school system and

Quesnel is a multimedia artist and art educator, currently working as an art teacher in the Greenwich School District. His work of deconstructed chairs “Standing Room Only” was featured at the Sprouting Spaces opening. Works from his Master’s exhibition were recently exhibited at Satellite Art Fair in Miami, Governors Island Art Fair in New York and The Hollows in Brooklyn. Quesnel is a graduate of the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts in NYC.

Quesnel was selected unanimously by a prestigious panel of three jurors:  Eileen Doyle, the Marsted Curatorial Fellow for Contemporary Art at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art; Alexandra Porter, independent art advisor; and Marisa Caichiolo, founder and curator of Building Bridges International Art Foundation in Los Angeles.

“We unanimously recommend Ben Quesnel,” the jurors wrote in a joint statement. “Mr. Quesnel presented a coherent and well-conceived proposal for his yet-to-be realized installation Undelivered, which features a strong plan for community participation. His previous artwork is very strong, both visually and conceptually, and he is able to articulate his goals and intentions extremely well, making him an outstanding choice for this opportunity. We believe his experience as an educator will serve him well in the workshops he intends to do. But his professional approach also bodes well for his year-long representation of the Clementina Arts Foundation.”

Sprouting Spaces was originally created by CAF founder and director Fernando Luis Alvarez in 2011 as a way to unite landlords that have long-vacant commercial spaces with emerging and mid-career artists needing studio space. As a gallerist of his eponymous gallery in Stamford, CT, Alvarez funded the program for six years. Past Sprouting Spaces studios hosted events attended by collectors, curators, critics and senators. Now, after opening his foundation (which is currently in the process of obtaining its 501c3 status) the program will be able to grow into a national concept.

Alvarez says the concept solves a problem that most emerging artists face:  being able to pursue their dreams as well as provide for themselves. An Artfinder study released in November 2017 found that 75% of US artists make less than $10,000 a year. Nearly half of that make less than $5,000 (source). By providing a stable platform and granting rent-free studio space, Sprouting Spaces alleviates an artist’s most expensive proposition.

“The most challenging issue emerging and mid-career artists face universally is being able to afford space to create,” Alvarez says. “With space, you will see an artist grow in both the creativity and intelligence of their work. It’s like the effect a fishbowl has on the growth of a goldfish–they grow to the size of the bowl you keep them in.  Similarly, an artist can only grow modestly if they have modest creative space to work in. The more space they have, the bigger they can grow.”

Alvarez was grateful to find a willing commercial real estate partner in Kimco.

“Collaborations that are synergistic for communities wouldn’t have been possible without a proactive and willing landlord such as Kimco,” Alvarez continues. “Its team quickly saw the importance culture and the arts bring to a community, and the quality of experience within their complexes that it creates.”

Members of the public will  be able to visit Quesnel in his studio at the Wilton River Park Shopping Center at 5 River Park Rd. through December 2018. For studio hours and artist updates, please follow the Sprouting Spaces Facebook page.