Artists open studio doors

Over the next three weeks, hundreds of local and regional artists will open the doors to their studios.

Artspace, a non-profit arts organization located on Orange Street, is hosting its 14th annual City-Wide Open Studios festival, an event that spans three weekends from Oct. 14-30. The event aims to give community members a chance to immerse themselves in the city’s visual arts culture and meet the participating artists, organizers said.

The venue for the open studios will change each weekend — from a complex already housing artists’ studios to vacant storefronts repurposed for the event. This weekend, over 100 artists will welcome visitors into their studios at Erector Square, New Haven’s largest studio complex and the former Erector Set factory building. The following weekend — dubbed “passport weekend” by Artspace — will feature guided bike tours to personal studios throughout greater New Haven, where visitors will be able to collect stamps for “passports” they are given at the beginning of the tour. In the final set of studio tours, artists will set up temporary installations in vacant office spaces and storefronts near College and Crown Streets.

While the program’s three-weekend format has been the same since 2003, Artspace cofounder Helen Kauder said that this year will see an expansion in the weekend of bike tours. Giving participants a passport to stamp at each location is a new idea, encouraging the public to visit all the studios by allowing visitors to enter a lottery with a completed passport.

The bike tours will also be integrated into Roammeo, a smartphone app created by Yale students that plots local events geographically, Kauder said. She added that there will be an increased focus on artist demonstrations and performances.

The opening reception and bike tours have been especially popular with Yale students in years past, Kauder added. Star said that when she was a freshman at Yale, the Erector Square and bike tour weekends left a strong impression on her.

Not only are the open studios a chance for students to explore a new side of the Elm City art scene — Star said hosting visitors also gives artists the unique opportunity to show their work before a wide audience.

“I’ll take any chance I have to exhibit my works,” printmaker Susan Nichols said. “For me, it’s not so much about the finished product as interacting with people and showing them something I love to do.”

In 1998, a group of artists affiliated with Artspace launched City-Wide Open Studios in the interest of finding a more intimate way to connect with their audiences and each other, Kauder said.

Organizing the open studio sessions encourages artists to show works in progress and allows them to receive feedback from the public, Artspace volunteer coordinator Elisabeth Star ’10 said. The public in turn gets the chance to see artists’ tools and studios, and learn about their inspirations, techniques and approaches to the creative process.

“When artists meet people at the opening of a gallery, there’s such a tired feeling,” Kauder said. “[The artists] want to have a more nourishing and warm experience.”

Painter Deirdre Schiffer said that opening up her studio to the public for the last six years has broadened her opportunities to develop new relationships and find new buyers.

In addition to artists, New Haven real estate brokers for the empty storefronts used as gallery space in the final weekend also benefit from the open studio events, Kauder said. Rarely do brokers have the chance to show thousands of visitors to their spaces in one weekend, she said.

In 2002, the City-Wide Open Studios attracted its highest-ever turnout with over 10,000 visitors.

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