Art meets charity in Korydallos installations

On a daily basis, residents of Korydallos, a suburb of Piraeus, are making their own additions to a number of makeshift hangers that have been erected since the end of March in various public spaces around the area.

They hang an item of clothing, a toy or a bag of groceries, or put down a few books at the base of the hanger, items that they think can help someone in need. These “offerings” are soon snapped up to be replaced by others, a kind of perpetual game of swaps and a reminder that the concepts of solidarity and reciprocity are not yet lost on society.

This social art project is the brainchild of art historian and artist Eleni Polychronatou, and it is so simple, ingenious and effective that we can only wonder why no one thought of it earlier. Polychronatou got 10 artists to design 12 original works made out of wood, metal or recyclable materials along the lines of a basic model designed by herself: a 1.80-meter-tall structure shaped like the frame of a tepee with an adjustable shelf-like part.

These structures, dubbed “public hangers,” have been placed in public squares and other heavily frequented locations around Korydallos and, best of all, cost almost nothing. Their aim, according to Polychronatou, is to create a sense of community and a means through which people who need one of the items on the hangers can take it without feeling that they are the subjects of charity, and people who want to donate things they no longer need can do so in a very simple way.

Polychronatou, whose doctoral thesis was about large-scale artworks, sees the hangers as “eternity symbols,” tangible proof that art must serve the public and not be the privilege of an elite few.

The artist checks the hangers every night and makes a record of how they’re being used. She notes that the items that are donated often depend on the location of the hanger. For example, one near the entrance to a school mostly receives children’s clothing.

The Municipality of Korydallos, meanwhile, is firmly behind the initiative and not only helped Polychronatou select the best locations for the hangers, but also distributed leaflets to residents explaining their function.

Every Wednesday, the municipality also hands out free food at the locations of the hangers.

Other than the 11 hangers at Korydallos, there is one more in central Athens, inside the garden of the Association of Greek Archaeologists at Thiseio, though there are plans to spread the idea across Attica, with the aim that every neighborhood in the region will have at least one hanger by the end of June.

According to Polychronatou, several municipalities both in and beyond Attica have already expressed interest in the scheme, as have numerous artists who want to participate by creating their own structures.