TORRINGTON — The sounds of guitar and singing filled the air when Art Life Culture Gallery opened, introducing busking to the downtown community by performer Adelaide Punkin.
“We want to be part of this community and what’s happening down here,” said the singer’s dad and gallery owner Alex Datzek. “Busking is part of what we do. We also promote art for everyone, all kinds of art and creative work.”
The gallery, tucked into a Main Street space next door to Sasso Wood Fired Pizza, is also a retail store, art studio and music promotion venue. The music side of the business is overseen by daughter Adelaide, a 13-year-old Har-Bur Middle School student and a budding singer-songwriter and musician. Her stage name is Adelaide Punkin, and she has already gained a following on Facebook and performs live concerts. Most recently, she was invited to perform at the upcoming iHeartRadio music festival in September.
One of the singer’s favorite performance venues is the street — she’s a busker, and wants to bring more live music to the city.
Busking, or street performing, is a way for musicians to promote themselves in public places for tips.
The Datzek family has performed in Saratoga Springs, Newport, R.I., Great Barrington, Mass., and Lake George, N.Y., as well as many locations in the northwest corner. Now, the gallery plans to join the revitalization effort in downtown Torrington by bringing live music to the streets, using venues such as Franklin Plaza, Coe Memorial Park and other locations, giving musicians places to entertain.
“Newport, Rhode Island is a free-for-all for busking, unless there’s a sign that says ‘no standing’ and it’s pretty amazing when you see it,” Alex Datzek said. “We want to be a centralized location for busking in Torrington.”
Based in Burlington, Art Life Culture was founded by Datzek and his wife Veronica in 2010. The company was providing studio spaces for artists with traumatic or acquired brain injuries, and promoting their work. A year ago, a truck drove through their building, and the entire venture was stopped in its tracks.
Art Life Culture, Alex Datzek said, is based on the idea that local art can be promoted globally through new media.
“We started out as an advocacy and outreach group to work with other organizations to provide support to artists,” Datzek said. “We’ve worked with at-risk youth and people with autism. When we lost our building, we decided it was an opportunity to (move) and get set up here.”
The gallery features paintings created by working artists, with two studio spaces in the rear of the space. In front is a collection soaps, candles, a line of designer clothing, CBD products, CDs and T-shirts from local vendors. By the display window, Adelaide Punkin’s “Rock Yer Block Busk Stop,” is ready for a show.
Adelaide’s interest in playing for charity started when she was a child, her father said. “In 2014, Adelaide was 8 at the time, and she was watching FarmAid and asked how she could help people with music,” Datzek said. “We planned a concert and she invited her friends, and made mock tickets. Instead of gifts, she asked each one to donate $5 to charity. She had a blast and so did her friends.”
The following year, the family held another concert, Rock Yer Block, to raise awareness and funds for artists with acquired or traumatic brain injuries, at Har-Bur Middle School. The year after that, a larger concert was held in a local community hall, and another in a local greenhouse, all featuring Adelaide Punkin and other performers.
“Rock Yer Block is her fledgling nonprofit, and her busking project is now under way with other performers — not just music, but sword swallowers, fire-breathers, dancers … We are working with the Parks and Recreation Department in Torrington, the Farmers Market at Franklin Plaza and the mayor to have a busking day,” Datzek said. “Adelaide runs the show. These are all her ideas.”
When they approached Mayor Elinor Carbone with their outdoor performance ideas, she was very supportive, Datzek said.
“She was amazing,” he said. “She was really receptive. I was really surprised.”
Carbone and the City Council and Economic Development Department have put a number of initiatives in place to promote the downtown area, with new businesses renting vacant spaces on Main and Water streets, the farmer’s market led by yoga studio owner Heather Korwin, and event planning by Tim Moore, owner of Blue Haus Group, a marketing and real estate company. For Datzek, Art Life Culture Gallery is a perfect fit for what’s happening in Torrington.
He has already made plans to expand 42 Main St. into the vacant space next door for art exhibitions and working studios for artists, who can rent spaces by the month, then show and sell their work.
‘”The idea is to have a reflexible studio space for artists, a cafe for musicians, live music,” he said. “We’re looking for help from businesses to be sponsors. We’ll see how it works.”
To learn more about Art Life Culture Gallery, visit www.facebook.com/ArtLifeCulture/.