Open studios give local artists visibility

cwos
Photo by Yuval Ben-David.


Most consumers of art wonder how the pieces they admire in galleries develop over time but do not get the opportunity to witness the process for themselves. Every October, New Haven artists open up their studios and allow the city’s residents this chance.

The grand opening for the annual City-Wide Open Studios festival will take place today at Artspace, a local art gallery, which coordinates the showcase over three consecutive weekends. Now in its 15th year, the event features about 280 artists from the New Haven area in their own studios. And while several other Open Studios festivals take place around the country each year, New Haven’s is the largest on the East Coast, surpassing even that of Brooklyn, said Shannon Connors ’12, the outreach coordinator of Artspace.

The scope of the event has helped the show attract sponsors year after year, Connors said. In honor of the festival’s anniversary, Artspace Executive Director Helen Kauder said she set up a “host committee” of around 15 members responsible both for attracting people to the event and pitching in anywhere from $400 to $7,500. While Open Studios brings in different sponsors every year, Yale has been a “faithful, sustaining sponsor” since the second year of the showcase, she added.

Connors said that at first some artists have been reluctant to participate in Open Studios, explaining that veterans of the festival hold workshops to quell first-timers’ fears and “walk them through” the do’s and don’ts of Open Studios.

“Some artists feel like [open studio] derails them in their quiet zone and their space where they work solo and independently,” Kauder said.

An artist’s desire to preserve the sanctity of his or her own creative workspace can explain why an event called “Alternative Space” is a popular choice for artists, Kauder said. For this event, Artspace found abandoned buildings or warehouses around the city — this year, the event is being held in the former New Haven Register building — and set up temporary studios there to revitalize the neighborhood.

But, Kauder admitted, nothing compares with visiting an artist’s permanent studio, whether it’s “in a minaret … or a garage.”

Connors explained that artists who have already participated in the event often tell their mentees to lay bare the entire creative process.

“Having things in various stages of completion is something that the public really responds well to … artists enjoy letting people see their process,” Connors said. “It’s not just you talking about your work, but also you talking about materials, your creative thinking, how you brainstorm.”

Kauder said the gallery serves as a starting point for visitors planning which studios to visit. Artspace centralizes the event without commanding it, she said, minimizing its mediation in interactions between artists and the public, she added. J.P. Culligan, curator of the Alternative Space event and a featured artist at the festival, said that the gallery directors did not limit how many artists could hold an open studio — any Connecticut resident who self-identifies as an artist can participate.

City-Wide Open Studios will take place during the coming three weekends. The first will feature private studios; the second, studios in New Haven’s Erector Square; and the third, the Alternative Space event in the Register building.

Correction: Oct. 5

A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Shannon Connors ’12.

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