Under any other circumstances, what happened at 760 Chapel St. on Sunday might be called a heist: Between the hours of 7 and 9 p.m., dozens of pieces of art were taken from the offices of the Odonnell Company, a full-service local advertising agency, leaving its white walls unabashedly bare.
Fortunately, the incident was not theft but part of an exhibit and fundraising event sponsored by the Arts Council of Greater New Haven — a local non-profit organization whose mission is to connect artists and audiences through opportunities for creators and appreciators alike.
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The display, appropriately titled “Somewhat Off the Wall,” gave visitors the chance to leave the gallery with a piece of their choosing from among more than 150 original works by 50 local artists. Guests had to pay a $100 fee for a premium ticket, which allowed them to enter into a random drawing. Viewing tickets cost $50 for those who did not participate in the drawing. All proceeds went to the Arts Council to support New Haven arts.
David Brensilver, director of communications at the Arts Council, placed particular emphasis on the “think-local” aspect of the event.
“The exhibit’s purpose is to build a network of artists and their enthusiasts through a kind of reception or meet-and-greet,” he said. “I would even call it ‘democratic.’ This venue is very much a microcosm for art life in this city and, by extension, the greater New Haven community.”
All artists, professional or amateur, could register in advance to show their art at Sunday’s event. Soonil Chun, director of finance at the Arts Council, said online publicity for “Somewhat Off the Wall” allowed the council to reach out to a broader audience.
“We had an old exhibition a few years ago, but with fewer artists and pieces,” she said. “This time, because of the Internet, we were able to reach out to more people. More artists means more media, and now, we even have sculptures, pottery and jewelry on display.”
Though dominated by photography and paintings, the event showcased three-dimensional objects as well. One piece, designed by Val Kropiwnick, evoked a warped metal iron through a combination of mechanical and organic shapes, while “Cicada Pin” was a sterling silver, 18k gold and amethyst brooch by metalsmith G. Scott Tabar.
Several surrealist works by Paris Wells played with the viewer’s perception of geometric shapes, while Kevin van Aeist’s photographs, through his use of multiple frames, explored the idea of an image within an image.
Art Johnson, a fittingly-named photographer, showcased black-and-white photos of semi-nude women that he said illustrated the relationship between beauty and nature. Donning a floral-print shirt with a glass of red wine in one hand and a brie-topped cracker in the other, Johnson talked at length about what he wanted to take home from “Somewhat Off the Wall.”
“I made a list of 15 different pieces I saw, but they’ll probably be gotten by somebody else,” he said. “I’m really hoping for Nudes Nos. 1, 2 and 3!”
Asked what he thought about art life in New Haven, Johnson responded: “I love it here. I bring my camera everywhere I go!
“It’s such a wonderful community that most people don’t know about, but they obviously should,” he added.