An ordinary walking tour of New Haven does not entail going into nondescript buildings on Orange, Church or Court streets, climbing up dark, rickety staircases covered with dusty carpets or peering through storefronts in search of art.
But City-Wide Open Studios, presented by Artspace last weekend, offered New Haven residents the opportunity to take a studio-to-studio tour of the city, meeting hundreds of artists and art lovers while admiring displayed works of art. In its 11th year, CWOS is Connecticut’s leading visual-art festival and one of the largest Open Studios organizations in the country. Over 580 Connecticut artists participated in the festival this year, with exhibitions in local studios, retail stores, coffee shops and galleries in downtown New Haven, as well as in Westville, Fair Haven, Hamden and West Haven.
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Artspace Gallery Assistant Anida Kulla ’11 said the festival aims to increase awareness of local art and artists.
“We want to enrich the community through art, using public spaces to achieve the greatest exposure,” she said.
All artists, professional or amateur, can register to display their art, although for the first time this year, Artspace implemented a juried selection process. Jo Kremer, an artist who participated in CWOS, said this new feature made the festival less inclusive.
Another change was the condensation of the festival from three consecutive weekends in the past to one single weekend with extended visiting hours. While this change allowed for a more intense experience for viewers, with bus tours, bike tours and guided walking tours offered all weekend, it was also more taxing for the artists.
Although galleries regularly display artwork, meeting the artists in their own studios is a rare opportunity. In a large, high-ceilinged Church Street studio above the nightclub Gotham City, Gerald Saladyga sat at a table laden with food amid his paintings of landscapes. But the label “landscape” is perhaps misleading, since his paintings are very different from those associated with the 19th century. They do not depict scenery but are made of an almost garish array of color that reminds the viewer of a topographic global warming map.
“I try to depict landscape from an altitude, zooming in on the earth and moving back out again,” Saladyga said.
He emphasized that nuclear threat, environmental degradation, war and isolation are important elements of his paintings.
On the floor below, Silas Finch showed visitors around a very different kind of studio. Unlike Saladyga’s, where color permeated the entire space, Finch’s studio was somewhere between an antique shop and a junk yard full of objects and materials that he uses to create sculptures. Finch said he acquired his materials from flea markets around the city as well as from scavenging New Haven dumpsters. Pieces of metal, wood, glass, straw, wicker, wires and raccoon bones were some of the materials that had accumulated in his studio.
Food and music often accompanied the studio-hopping experience, to the delight of visitors. While artists interviewed said they were content with the overall turnout, most added that they were disappointed by the absence of Yale students as artists and viewers.