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Hartford Art School Alumna Plays a Large Role in Miniature Exhibit

Make Your Life a Masterpiece

Chelsea Norwich ’14 is standing tall in her job as prop fabricator and model maker at Gulliver’s Gate in New York City. But then again, everyone is tall at a miniature display. Gulliver’s Gate, located in Times Square, is a 49,000 square-foot interactive miniature display complete with world-famous landmarks, working traffic lights, moving cars, trains, boats, people, and even running water in some areas. It features meticulously detailed miniatures of Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia, New England, and of course New York City, all in area roughly the size of a football field.

Norwich’s signature piece in Gulliver’s Gate is the New York Stock Exchange building, which took her one month to assemble, paint, and detail. Among other structures she worked on are the Brooklyn Bridge, a heliport, and a skyscraper complete with scaffolding.

The painting major, who also minored in art history and printmaking, from Smithtown, N.Y., says her studies at Hartford Art School gave her not only the skills but also the confidence to do her job and she’s especially glad the faculty “forced” her to try new things.

“I never did anything like this, but Hartford Art School taught me to have the mentality to not be scared to try new things,” says Norwich.

“I studied sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, lots of painting classes, drawing, and color theory. All of these classes play a crucial role in what I’m doing today.”

Norwich first learned the basics of miniature modeling when she joined Brooklyn Model Works in Brooklyn, N.Y., and helped create the Christmas window displays for Saks Fifth Avenue. When Brooklyn Model Works was commissioned to build the 1,000-square foot Manhattan exhibit for Gulliver’s Gate in April 2016, Norwich began researching and acquiring the necessary materials for the year-long project. She was quickly immersed in designing and laser cutting Plexiglas, finishing 3D prints, assembling and building large-scale models, painting structures, doing carpentry and steel work, and installation.

In addition to acquiring new skills as a fabricator of miniatures, Norwich did scenic painting for Gulliver’s Gate as well. That experience has been beneficial to the commissioned fine art building façade paintings that she does on the side. “I’m incorporating my new scenic painting skills into my own paintings, and I’m using the color theory and painting skills I learned at Hartford Art School when working on the Gulliver’s Gate models.”   

Her artistic growth based on the Gulliver’s Gate experience doesn’t stop there. Now she’s beginning to design mini facades of the houses and buildings she’s commissioned to paint, which includes paintings she’s made of New Orleans architecture. “I’m going to learn how to design, laser cut, and assemble these buildings for myself and make them similar to what I’m painting. I want to make small dioramas and put them in mini frames. I don’t think I would ever have thought to do that without having worked on Gulliver’s Gate.”