What Artspace Executive Director Helen Kauder called, “One of the best parties in New Haven,” promises to get even better next year.
Her organization, which is dedicated to the revitalization of the New Haven visual arts scene, particularly in the Ninth Square, was awarded a $25,000 grant last month from the National Endowment of the Arts. Artspace was the only organization in Connecticut dedicated to the visual arts to receive the grant.
“It’s very difficult to receive federal funding,” Kauder said. “So we’re especially proud of this.”
The “party” she referred to is the annual opening of the City-Wide Open Studios program, for which the grant was given.
The festival, which enters its fifth year this fall, features local artists displaying one of their works in the main exhibition at the Chamberlain building, which is at the corner of Crown and Orange Streets. In addition, the artists open their studios to the public during the two-week festival.
Though the organization has been around since 1984, it has become increasingly prominent in recent years with the advent of the Open Studios festival and the creation of the Untitled (Space) Gallery on College Street.
Programs exist in other cities in which local artists open their studios to the public, but the Artspace program is unique in that artists–even amateurs–are given the opportunity to display their works in vacant buildings.
“Most venues [for displaying art] are local craft shows,” said Jamie Visie, a potter from Bethlehem, Conn., who has participated in Open Studios for the past two years. “[The festival] is self-selecting so that anybody who wants to do it, can. I think it’s an opportunity that’s really needed.”
The grant will allow Artspace to commission professional artists to build site-specific installations as part of the Open Studios exhibits.
“These funds allow artists to be more ambitious,” Kauder said, referring to installations that are planned for spaces around the Green.
As evidenced by the grant, which was obtained with help from state Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, the two-week festival has quickly gained national recognition. The over 300 artists who displayed work last fall made Open Studios the third-largest festival of its kind nationwide, in terms of artist participation.
In addition, half of the vacant and underutilized spaces that were turned into galleries for last year’s festival have found new tenants. Large abandoned buildings such as the building that now houses Gotham Citi and the old Strouse, Adler building have found tenants after being used for Open Studios in past years.
Yale artists have become involved with Artspace, showing and storing their works at the College Street gallery. But gallery Director Karen Dow MFA ’98, a painter and former participant in Open Studios, said she would like to see more participation from Yale students.
“There’s room for growth there,” she said.
Kauder and Dow said the reaction to the growth of Artspace has been positive in the community.
“I think its been extremely positive,” Kauder said. “The goal is to energize the arts scene. Frankly, that will make [Yale and other college students] feel like they want to stay in New Haven after they graduate.”