Near and Wide

T wo days before the launch of this year’s City-Wide Open Studios festival, the Orange Street headquarters of organizer Artspace was awhirl with color and activity. The walls were gridded with an astonishing array of art along with yellow Post-it notes signaling work still to come. A hammer banged as work was hung. Two staffers sat at a folding table, signing in artists and giving instructions. Artspace executive director Helen Kauder snagged a knife and sliced open a box of programs exuding that hot-off-the-press smell.

The sensory barrage was a preview of the vitality of CWOS: Thousands of artworks. Hundreds of artists. Dozens of locations and neighborhoods. 13 special commissions. Three weekends. And possibly one you.

sponsored by

The Knights of Columbus Museum

You can start tonight at Artspace, where an opening reception from 5 to 8 pings this year’s theme of “Wellbeing.” There are mini yoga classes, massage chairs, sustainable cocktails (and mocktails) and a heart-healthy dance floor courtesy of D.J. Dooley-O, plus live sketching, a premiere of one of the festival’s commissions and, in a happy coincidence, Noodles On9, with local restaurants popping up to serve noodle dishes from around the world.

But the main course—for your eyes, anyway—is the aforementioned expanse of art inside Artspace, where art lovers can sample one small work from each of the artists participating in this year’s monthlong event. The idea, Kauder says, is to grab a program and wander the gallery, circling the artists whose work you find appealing so you can follow up with a visit to the larger collection of works they’re displaying at some point during the festival.

This year, CWOS is setting up shop in venues both familiar (such as Erector Square) and new, most notably Yale West Campus in Orange. The theme of “Wellbeing” is especially well suited to the latter, Kauder says. “We really wanted to pursue the question of care and how we care for each other, how we might care for each other in a utopian sense, and because the Yale School of Nursing is in the building that’s adjacent, we thought: how do we make connections between artists and people on the front lines of providing care?” Adding another dimension or three is the fact that West Campus is a former Bayer Pharmaceutical corporate campus.

CWOS devotees will want to dig into the full 52-page festival guide, but here’s a primer:

Billed as “New Haven’s largest studio complex,” Erector Square, the location and star of Erector Square Weekend, is the place to be this Saturday and Sunday, when, from noon to 6 p.m., 83 creators of digital art, photography, ceramics, paintings, mixed media works, sculpture, prints and more will open their personal studios in order to show and talk about their work. In addition, WPKN will be broadcasting live from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. out of the historic upstairs office of New Haven inventor and “early adopter of radio” A. C. Gilbert, and Music Haven will perform live chamber music on the first floor at 2 and 4:30. A Sunday talk and demo is also planned to honor Indigenous Peoples Day.

A week later, it’s Private Studios Weekend, with Westville artists front and center from noon to 6 on Saturday, October 13, including six in popup studios made from POD storage containers on Central Avenue. Visitors will be able to visit 14 additional studios, many of them clustered within walking distance along or near Whalley Avenue. Some—like West River Arts and Kehler Liddell Gallery—are home to multiple artists. In addition, there’s a Flair Fair from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., where “independent artists and designers [sell] affordable, unique items for your wardrobe and home”; a Literary Happy Hour from 5 to 7, with three featured artists and an open mic; and finally, a block party and beer garden from 6:30 to 9 serving up “the salsa, merengue and bachata of Carlos Y Su Monemento Musical.”

Non-Westville studios take their turn in the spotlight on the 14th, also from noon to 6, attracting viewers to downtown, East Rock and other New Haven neighborhoods as well as West Haven, Hamden and North Haven. In keeping with the Wellbeing theme, Sunday will bring a 10 a.m. fitness walk, family fun at Foote School from noon to 4, an afternoon-long bike tour starting at 12:15 and “Urban Art & Wellness, a Talk Back with Artists of Color” at 6:15.

After a break—though the torch will be carried by an October 17 edition of Pecha Kucha with that same Wellbeing theme—Alternative Space Weekend will try out the digs at Yale West Campus on October 26, 27 and 28 from noon to 6, featuring more than 200 individual artists from throughout Connecticut, a record-breaking number. “It’s a very beautiful, clean, mid-century, serene space, and there are artists who stepped forward who felt like their work would work in that [space],” Kauder says. Here Wellbeing is writ large with the 13 artist commissions, each of which is an opportunity, Kauder says, “for artists to create more ambitious works.” A Friday afternoon preview will kick things off, followed by weekend workshops to create and mail postcards on environmental issues to politicians, an interactive “bad yoga” photography project, a 4 p.m. poetry slam tour and, of course, lots of great art.

City-Wide Open Studios: “Wellbeing”
Various locations and times, October 5-28, 2018
Website | Festival Guide

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is a writer and communications pro whose perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the Green and a coffee milkshake. She posts twice-weekly content for book clubs in her Substack newsletter, Better Book Clubs.

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