Julie Chen designed this
Julie Chen designed this “Heartford” swing for the “Make a Thing” competition sponsored by Hartford Business Improvement District. (Courtesy Julie Chen)
AUG 04, 2020  10:44 AM

The Hartford Business Improvement District has chosen three Hartford-area artists to “Make A Thing” to add whimsy and creativity to the city landscape.

Julie Chen of West Hartford, Daniel Kuetemeyer of Hartford and Aaron Jarry of Farmington won the HBID’s “Make A Thing” placemaking competition, which sought out interactive artistic attractions that could be installed throughout Hartford. Chen, Kuetemeyer and Jarry were chosen from 75 applicants.

Chen’s project is a huge, red heart-shaped swing big enough for two adults. Kuetemeyer’s project is a enormous metal horn-like structure that will reverberate any sound that goes into it. Jarry’s project is a bench attached to an enclosed free library.

The pieces, which will be made in collaboration with Hartford’s MakerSpaceCT, are expected to be installed in as-yet-determined locations in the city in summer 2021, according to the district’s Chip McCabe.


Chen said she got her idea for her “Heartford” swing from the “Hart” in Hartford and from Alexander Calder’s massive Stegosaurus sculpture, which sits in the city’s Burr Mall.

“I wanted to make something that is big and bold and iconic, like Stegosaurus, which is iconic of the city. I thought of hearts, and of Calder red,” she said. “People coming from out of town will see it and say, whoa what is that, and people who are already in town will find it inviting.”

Chen, who studied architecture at Carnegie Mellon University and art at Massachusetts College and Art and Design, is an architecture instructor at University of Hartford’s College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture. She has done placemaking in the city before. In the 2016 Trashion Fashion show at City Hall, Chen designed the criss-crossed orange-and-pink streamers that framed the catwalk.

Daniel Kuetemeyer of Hartford designed
Daniel Kuetemeyer of Hartford designed “Say!” a giant horn outdoor sculpture, for the “Make a Thing” competition sponsored by Hartford Business Improvement District. (Courtesy Daniel Kuetemeyer)

Kuetemeyer, who lives in Hartford, said his creation, which is called “Hey!/¡Oye!,” is like a big horn.

“In the hole opening, you can make a sound, talk into it, whisper, yell, sing, whatever. The front part could be a bench to sit on, a listening area, to hear what the other person is saying,” Kuetemeyer said. “There is no right or wrong way to experience this object. My hope is that the sound it produces is interesting and cool.”

Kuetemeyer, a full-time artist, studied at the University of the Arts in his hometown of Philadelphia and worked for 20 years as the art director of an interactive design company. He also honed his skill with metalworking with a position as a sculpture artist at Sycast Foundry in Hartford.

Jarry is the owner of Jarry Rigged Designs, which makes custom chairs for the tattoo industry. During the coronavirus pandemic, that business slowed down because tattoo parlors were closed. So he got a part-time job at Stanley Black & Decker, as an engineer.

Jarry is designing a weatherproof bench that will be attached to an enclosed, weatherproof library, where people can leave a book, take a book or both. He got the idea from his wife, Marie Jarry, director of public services at Hartford Public Library.

“The bench will be … fairly industrial looking, mostly made of metal. I’d love to incorporate lighting as well, rechargeable solar lighting,” he said.

McCabe described “placemaking” as “activating spaces that are just kind of there, giving a reason for people to linger in an area longer than they normally would.

“We wanted to offer these unique ways to beautify downtown but also to do it in practical ways, things that have uses, seating, lighting, killing two birds with one stone,” McCabe said.

Each winner got a 13-month, full-access membership to MakerSpaceCT, valued at $1,800. MakerSpaceCT offers space for projects and instruction on how to make their projects happen. Each artist also will receive a stipend for materials.