Residents, representatives of local manufacturing companies, artists, and politicians gathered Saturday evening at Artspace for the opening of “Factory Direct: New Haven,” an exhibition that U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro dubbed “the forging of the bond between industry and the arts.”
The exhibition features the work of 10 artists who each took residence at different local manufacturing companies in order to “collaborate and share ideas that are at the heart of both businesses,” curator Denise Markonish said in a written statement.
DeLauro said the exhibition highlights a very important part of New Haven’s culture — the immigrant experience of working at manufacturing plants.
“Visual artists have recreated this and have engaged with the new immigrants who are part of this new community,” she said.
The artists, who were given a stipend funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, spent three weeks at companies such as Vespoli USA, The Bilco Company and Sargent Manufacturing Company. Artspace worked with the New Haven Manufacturers Association and the Chamber of Commerce to identify companies that wanted to participate in the project.
While at his or her designated company, each artist was “immersed in the day-to-day activities of the factory, talking to employees — and finding inspiration in their surroundings,” Markonish said.
The ideas formulated by the artists while on site were then translated into many different mediums, including photography and painting, as well as more unconventional art, such as documentaries and even a vinyl couch.
The opening also featured remarks from a variety of speakers, including Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who said he believes the art exhibit successfully captures the spirit of New Haven.
“To me what this really represents is how the arts permeate all around us,” DeStefano said. “This city, the people in it, are incredible.”
DeStefano also emphasized Artspace’s broader contribution to the New Haven community and the downtown area in particular. Executive Director Helen Kauder said Artspace, part of the Ninth Square district, has played an important role in the ongoing redevelopment of the area.
“[The district] was hollowed out when all the retail stores moved out to the suburbs in the 1960s and 70s — The area was redeveloped as affordable housing in the early 1990s,” Kauder said.
While apartments in the area were leased quickly, much of the retail spaces remained unoccupied, Kauder said.
“Artspace was one of the first major tenants of the area — and is helping draw other tenants to lease the space,” she said.
The idea for the Factory Direct exhibit came from an art gallery in Troy, N.Y., which held a show based on the same premise, Markonish said.
Artists for the project were chosen in two different ways. Markonish said she was familiar beforehand with some of the artists’ work and invited them to participate, selecting the other artists from various proposals as part of an open call. Markonish said she thought that at least half of the artists exhibited are local.
Artspace, located on the corner of Crown and Orange streets, displays five different exhibitions each year. Factory Direct will be exhibited until April 2.