Over a huddled line of cold New Haveners waiting for a bus, a majestic line of giant white seagulls hangs frozen in the midst of flight. An abandoned lot in the business district of New Haven may seem like an odd place for an art exhibit, but on Chapel Street between Orange and Church streets, ArtSpace has created just that.
“The city has its own facade improvement program targeted in that area,” ArtSpace director Helen Kauder said. “This is our artistic form of facade improvement.”
ArtSpace is a community non-profit arts organization that has three parts. It runs the CityWide Open Studios, exhibiting art from any artist in the New Haven area who wishes to submit, and it runs “Untitled Space,” a gallery at 220 College St. that gives emerging artists and curators a chance to experience gallery work. The lot, ArtSpace’s third project, is the organization’s attempt to create art that is fully accessible to the public.
“It is catching the accidental audience,” Kauder said. “The lot redefines spaces where art happens.”
Located behind a bus stop in a busy section of New Haven, the lot is eye-catching. The current exhibit is called “Line Project,” and the artists involved with the exhibit have created artwork that experiments with the concept of line. The most striking element of the project is suspended in the air. Cindy Tower’s “laundry line” of colorful detergent bottles spills into a giant cluster over the lot, and Lucile Bertrand’s line of stylized seagulls slashes across the space. Lower to the ground, Jean Shin’s mass of tied neckties flanks the street, and Colleen Coleman’s pickup lines are inscribed in chalk along the brick walls. All 17 participating artists work out of New Haven.
The lot used to be the site of the Phoenix Building, the old home of the Phoenix Poetry Series and the Phoenix Photography Collective. The building fell into disrepair and the city tore it down two years ago.
“Part of what is being done there is a statement,” New Haven Arts Council Director Bitsie Clarke said. “Art existed in the space and art will continue to exist in the space.”
The city rented the lot to ArtSpace as part of the Livable City Initiative, the city anti-blight program.
“We have a pretty good track record of rehabilitating spaces with the visual arts,” Kauder said. “So the city will usually lease to us.”
The Line Project
An ongoing art show located at the corner of Chapel and Orange streets