After years in operation, ArtSPACE settles in at last

ArtSPACE has settled down in the Ninth Square District after five years of migrant operation and seven or eight locations over the last decade and a half. With its new home on College St., ArtSPACE will finally able to serve as an anchor to the rich New Haven art scene. Their new establishment gives ArtSPACE organizers a permanent space for art installations. It will also allow them to expand their City-Wide Open Space program, an annual October event attended by over 15,000 people that features more than 400 artists.

ArtSPACE opened its (first) doors on Audubon St. in 1987. Financial difficulties in 1998 turned it into a nomadic organization that set up art displays in unoccupied storefronts wherever managers were willing to donate space. The gallery routinely cleaned up spaces, staying until they were leased to new tenants. Their last space before the current one, which opened in 2001, was under Cafe Adulis on College Street. Operating from a basement without windows did not stop the gallery from connecting to regional artists and attracting the attention of the Andy Warhol Foundation, which allotted them the resources to expand.

When the ArtSPACE staff felt ready for a permanent home, they bid in an auction for an old firehouse on Crown Street. They were outbid by a Yale student who turned the firehouse into a music studio, but their efforts earned them the support of the city. The city arranged a subsidized location for them at a Civil War-era furniture factory on College Street. Attempts had been made to redevelop the factory; one of the previous tenants had unsuccessfully tried to turn it into a brewery. The factory may have been yeast-resistant, but it was certainly not art-resistant; it’s now filled with the work of both local and international artists. This final move has fulfilled what Denise Markonish, gallery director and curator, calls a “vision to bring in more international artists and create a dialogue with community artists.”

At the moment, this artistic “dialogue” includes a sculptural installation with hundreds of miniature balconies, which are replicas of balconies around New Haven. The display also includes an array of what Helen Kauder, the executive director of ArtSPACE, calls “corpuscular rays coming down from the ceiling onto the floor that come down in the shape of New Haven lakes–[It is] a 3-D installation that you can walk through.” This sunlight and balcony extravaganza, called “The View From Here,” is the brainchild of Lee Boroson, a faculty member at the Rhode Island School of Design. Fifteen local high school students executed his vision in a Summer Apprenticeship Program, and their collaborative effort will be on display until Sept. 20.

Beyond the local scope, ArtSPACE has displayed works that were also featured in the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, an annual summer art festival in New Haven. These works were united under the theme of “Mythical Nation.”

“Mythical Nation brought together a lot of Asian-American artists who were looking at issues of identity and debunking this notion that there is a unified Asian America. Using sculpture to video to painting, [the artists] linked up with the thematic direction — which was broadly about faultlines in a divided world,” Kauder explained.

In November, the gallery will also bring in more established artists like Michael Dominick, a New Yorker whose work consists of wax-coated sculptures made from salvaged radiators. After plugging in the radiator sculptures, the display’s denouement consists of a melted wax puddle. Dominick’s “fresh and exciting contemporary work” is exactly what ArtSPACE curator Denise Markonish and the Visual Arts Committee jury — who together select artists to show at the space — look for, Kauder said.

Displaying the work of hundreds of artists, ArtSPACE embraces and cultivates art in both a local and international context for artists and audiences of all ages. This fall, ArtSPACE is also expanding beyond painting and sculpture into musical performances. ArtSPACE Soundworks, a series of concerts, will continue tonight with a guest musician, Mixashawn, at 7 p.m.


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