365 Bales - Stephen Grossman

Creative Organisation: Artspace, New Haven

Cost: USD $3000

Location Details: “The Lot” was an abandoned urban lot on the corner of Chapel and Orange Streets, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.

Medium: sculpture/installation

Dimensions / Technical Specs: 13 ½' x 70 x 7 ½ feet; hay bales, string, cedar mulch

Project Delivery Team: Stephen Grossman, Helen Kauder, Marianne Bernstein

Funding Sources: Individual

Themes: Renewal & Regeneration

Duration: Temporary/Ephemeral

365 Bales was an environmental sculpture made with 365 bales of hay in a barren city lot. The work was sited at a busy commercial intersection in the one of the original but most neglected and economically struggling quadrants of the central city. The location is bounded on three sides by high masonry walls, with the fourth side of the Lot open to high volume street and sidewalk traffic. The sculpture created an intimate and quiet site of respite from an otherwise hostile and noisy urban street front. In its garden-like alleys and chambers, visitors experienced respite from the cacophony of urban life, while remaining at its center. The existing lot was devoid of nature or any amenities: soft and fragrant mulch underfoot, dense walls of hay, and the subtle presence of birds at the interior of the lot were a surprising and radical shift in one’s experience of this space and by extension of one’s relation to the city.

The sculpture consisted of thick walls of hay, rising seven and a half feet high, set parallel to each other and perpendicular to the street, creating a ‘filter’ for viewers to pass through from the street front to the rear (interior) of the Lot. At the most interior corner of the Lot one of the hay walls was L-shaped, thus defining a rectangular chamber that the viewer could enter after passing through the filter walls. The ground in the interior area was covered with cedar mulch; birds nested in crevices in the existing masonry walls. From this interior corner, one could not see out to the street; sound was muffled; the ground was soft and smelled sweet. In just a few steps, with only a few seconds having elapsed, one was in a wholly different environment.

This environment posed an alternative future for the space, and indeed in subsequent years the Lot becamea vibrant site for public art and urban renewal.



The project aimed primarily to engage the public, particularly those city-dwellers from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, in an inclusive space. Its other cultural goals were to create a structure that was striking in contrast to its immediate surroundings (e.g., a structure composed of organic matter surrounded by rubble and masonry walls), and evoke a rural landscape within an urban environment. The work also strove to create meaning within a space not normally used for art and enrich the existing street life.


A key goal of 365 Bales was to create an easily accessible space where people from the neighbourhood and all parts of the city could come together and engage with one another and with the work.


The project aimed to revitalize and regenerate the area, which at the time of the project’s construction was quite economically depressed, by attracting visitors and other artists.


The project sought to raise awareness of the environmental conditions of the surroundings—namely, the urban decay of the existing environment—and suggest an alternative way that the space and area could be developed. The work’s composition of natural, biodegradable materials underlines the project’s aim to encourage environmental awareness within the city context.



The project achieved Artspace’s goal of realizing a sculpture in the space of the Lot and providing opportunities for New Haven-based artists. However, due to public safety concerns (flammability), 365 Bales was not allowed to remain in place for its intended duration. During its brief existence there was a reasonable level of audience engagement. During construction of the sculpture there was much community interest, this being a relatively foreign activity in its location. The community interest during construction was as educational and impactful as the finished sculpture.


The project provided an opportunity for economically and environmentally disadvantaged people to engage with an environment outside of their normal experience. The project is located near a well-used bus stop, which provided for high visibility. The Lot has since been transformed into an urban park. In 2001, Artspace and the Greater New Haven Transit District received funding from Federal Transportation Authority 21 (Transit Enhancement funds). Artspace worked with landscape architects Bothwell Site Design, the City of New Haven, and other organizations to renovate the site and provide plants, benches, water, and better lighting. This park has been used on numerous occasions for temporary art projects funded by Artspace.


The project is located on a busy intersection in the formerly neglected ‘Ninth Square’ neighbourhood of downtown New Haven. This project, along with numerous other Artspace endeavours and urban revitalizations, has helped transform Ninth Square from a largely vacant and economically depressed area to a vibrant cultural one.


The project’s goal of raising awareness of environmental conditions is difficult to assess. The project did not set out to provide any long-term environmental benefits, but may have been instrumental in establishing a precedent for the park that has since been developed on the site.


The project came about after an earlier project was implemented on the site, following the destruction of a historic building dating from the 1880s. The demolition left an open pile of rubble on a busy pedestrian thoroughfare. The earlier project, “New Haven Labyrinth,” was a community-made maze that sparked the artist’s interest in this site. The artist desired to create an environment that addressed some of the hardships experienced by city dwellers and users of the bus stop that he observed. The artist presented the concept to Artspace. After the project was accepted, Artspace worked with the artist to facilitate the production of the project.

The most significant lesson learned related to management of issues surrounding perceptions of public safety. The artist and organization did not anticipate the level of concern raised by the fire marshal about flammability. The site, after all, consisted of earth and masonry walls; the artist felt that reasonable precautions had been taken to minimize risk. However, miscommunication with public officials led to the project’s abbreviated duration. The project was subsequently recreated in a rural field. While this limited the project’s community engagement and social impact, it did provide an opportunity for the artist to experiment with the material and create a sister sculpture to the original project. This was a highly satisfying experience for the artist and a small audience that visited the rural site.


The materials were selected for their qualities as biodegradable and environmentally low-impact. The materials were sourced from local farms and transported by truck. The project was a bare-bones, hands-on operation, with no machinery required. Its environmental footprint was very small, as planned.


Artspace. “The Lot.” Web archive. (accessed July 16, 2014).

Baker, Rebecca. “Sculpture Makes Hay Art Object,” New Haven Register, June 26, 2000.

Dew, Jack, “Fire Marshal Orders Hay Sculpture Removed.” New Haven Register, May 27, 2000.

Grossman, Stephen. Interviewed by Artspace staff, Artspace, June 2000.

Grossman, Stephen. Artist’s website (accessed January 7, 2015).

“Outdoor Art Exhibition Too Incendiary for New Haven Lot.” New York Times, July 2, 2000.{%222%22%3A%22RI%3A14%22} (Accessed January 7, 2015).

Wikipedia. “Artspace.” Last modified July 28, 2014. (accessed January 7, 2015).

This database is developed by the National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA) at COFA, UNSW in association with the City of Sydney and Carbon Arts as part of the Australian Research Council ARC linkage project Curating Cities.