The life-sized images covering the windows and walls of the building that houses the Island Moving Company are effortless in their look. Lithesome dancers leap into the air, their movements accentuated by white powder (flour in this case) flying in all directions. The images are dramatic, beautiful portraits of the eight principal dancers at the company, along with some of the children (sans flour) who attend ballet classes here.
“What I was interested in doing was creating an image that would explode off the page,” says Clint Clemens, the photographer who, along with his wife, Kelly, came up with the idea for the installation. Their goal? To help put this boutique ballet company on the map for Newport residents and a broader audience at large.
Despite their ethereal appeal, an incredible amount of effort went into organizing, executing, editing, printing, and finally installing these images meant to highlight this small, yet talented dance troupe, which rehearses near Washington Square in Newport. The neighborhood itself is quickly becoming the city’s arts district thanks to the historic Jane Pickens Theater, ongoing renovation of the Opera House Theater, and opening of several galleries. Now, this remarkable installation – with it’s stunning, black-and-white photos that span massive upper-story windows – brings the story of the Island Moving Company, along with the neighborhood, immediately into view.
“Clint’s art is experiential,” says Miki Ohlsen, who has been artistic director of the IMC since it was founded in 1982, of the photographer’s stylistic, emotive work. “To me, a piece of art has to give you a visceral feeling. That’s the only way to be drawn in.” During discussions with Clint and Kelly, says Miki, it became clear that the oversized photos would both draw attention to the IMC building and tell the company’s story. All parties agreed that the project should not only bring attention to the company, but also give the dancers themselves a sense of pride in being part of this unique company. “We want them to walk through the doors and say ‘I belong here,’” says Kelly.
As a professional photographer, Clint has created ad campaigns for the likes of Jaguar and Porsche, while Kelly is a creative director and producer. The husband-and-wife team became involved with IMC when they played characters in the company’s 2015 Nutcracker performance. Kelly, a ballroom dancer, took Clint to a rehearsal, which is when he realized that the building could use a bit of a facelift. Enthusiastic about the organization’s talent and potential, the couple began brainstorming ways to expand its presence, and offered to help create a marketing campaign that would both enlighten its viewers and attract potential donors.
With help from benefactors and volunteers, Clint started shooting last spring, and installation began this past month. By the end of January 2017, about 25 photographs will cover the studio’s various windows and walls. Vivacious and stunning, the dancers spring off the walls in Washington Square with enough spirit to make viewers wonder what’s going on inside. Equally important, though perhaps less obvious to passers-by, is the statement about commitment to community that’s part of the IMC mission. That dedication was an essential part of getting this project off the ground, as was the spirit of collaboration – it was one art form helping another. After all, says Clint, “Isn’t that what it’s all about?”
All photos courtesy of Clint Clemens, except where noted.