BEVERLY — The city of Beverly has found another way to help it recover from the economic impact of the pandemic — and its name is Zooguu.
Zooguu is the husband-and-wife artist team of Jennifer and Brian Gubicza. They have been selected as Beverly’s first Artist in Residence, a new program designed to assist with the city’s COVID-19 recovery.
Zooguu has set up shop in the restaurant portion of Chianti, the longtime downtown restaurant on 285 Cabot St. that is temporarily closed. The “pop-up” storefront will be open on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Oct. 31.
Darlene Wynne, the city’s planning director and the project manager for the Artist in Residence program, said the idea of the program is to use arts and culture to bring people back to “enjoy downtown Beverly in a safe way.”
Zooguu makes what it describes as “high quality handmade decor for people who like to have fun.” That includes a lineup of “faux taxidermy” animals, made by Jennifer Gubicza from suede cloth, that can be hung on the wall — “a humorous take on the classic hunting trophy,” as Zooguu calls it.
Brian Gubicza’s specialty is art prints, using geometric shapes and bold lines “to capture adventure, mythology and pop culture.”
Zooguu’s residency in downtown Beverly includes an ongoing scavenger hunt in which people can track down Jennifer’s taxidermy animals that have been placed in local businesses. People can also go the the storefront and contribute designs to a community quilt designed by Brian and sewn by Jennifer in the geographic shape of Beverly. The completed quilt will be publicly displayed and auctioned off, with the proceeds going to Beverly Bootstraps. The couple’s work is also available for sale.
The artists are receiving a monthly stipend, funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and are using the studio space at Chianti at no cost. The city has partnered with several organizations to put together the pilot program — Beverly Main Streets, Montserrat College of Art, Creative Collective, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Beverly Cultural Council, and Richard Marino, the owner of Chianti. Beverly Main Streets, Montserrat College and the city teamed up in 2015 to established the Beverly Arts District, one of the state’s officially designated cultural districts.
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which is the regional planning agency serving 101 communities in the Greater Boston area, helped the city with its artist selection process and assisting in identifying funding sources to continue the program. Zooguu was selected from among 30 artists who applied.
Annis Sengupta, MAPC’s arts and cultural director, said in a press release that the program “demonstrates how artists can boost the work of economic recovery and community-building through joy and creativity.”
“At MAPC, we hope Beverly’s artist residency program inspires more communities to put artists to work as part of COVID-19 recovery,” Sengupta said.
Jennifer Gubicza said she and Brian, who live in Marblehead, travel around the country taking part in arts and crafts festivals. When they heard about the Beverly Artist in Residence program, she said, “It was a chance to stay local.”
The pop-up storefront opened on Sept. 10, and Gubicza said she was surprised by how many people had already stopped by.
“We’ve gotten to meet so many cool people in town just by sitting down and drawing with them,” she said, referring to the work on the community quilt.
On a recent day, two Montserrat College of Art students were in the studio using fabric markers to draw on a piece of the quilt.
“It’s sick,” freshman Finn Lewis said. “It’s a really nice space. It definitely feels very welcoming, and the art is very eye-catching. I really like the fact that you can interact with the art even if you don’t have money.”
Nev Fernandez, who is also a freshman, said she loved the opportunity to contribute to the quilt.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” she said. “You can sort of make your mark to be part of the community. I’m glad I stopped by.”
Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.