During the hottest weeks of summer, with Yalies gone, New Haven simmers and the city empties to the coast. The city, that is, minus those working around campus in air-conditioned art galleries, dusty practice rooms and empty concert halls. Instead of fleeing, they are buffing floors and polishing chords in anticipation of the waves of students returning in September. And so with the beginning of school, buildings are ready for the arts and the fall.
The Yale University Art Gallery this fall is offering more to students in the way of classic Americana than just housing Professor John Gaddis in its auditorium, and the upcoming exhibits are certainly more accessible to the majority of Yale students than his coveted lectures. The completely redone, bright and shiny Galleries of American Art opened last spring after a complete reconstruction and refurbishing project. Museum curators worked with building and lighting designers from New York and Colorado producing a squeaky clean, vaulted-ceiling gallery filled with Yale’s renowned collections of American art. The new room does the old collection justice.
According to museum literature, the new, loftier, brighter third-floor gallery originally designed by Egerton Swartwout provides space for a more balanced exhibition of the immense collection, paying equal weight to 17th-century art as to 20th-century. Any Yalie enthralled by organized flatware should be sure to stop in and see the Mabel Brady Garvan Collection of decorative arts in the peripheral rooms, with thousands of examples of silverware arranged chronologically. For everyone else, stick to the Hoppers, the American impressionism and the Civil War paintings in the main and Trumbull galleries; it’s enough for an hour or two visit.
As for special exhibitions at the University Art Gallery, curators this year have moved in the direction of user-friendly curation. In line with tercentennial fever and University-wide self-reverence, the gallery has put together a collection of famous works of art and poems Yale grads have written in response to them, called “A Gallery of Poems.” Organized by English professor John Hollander and curated by Joanna Weber, assistant curator of European and contemporary art, the installation displays 22 poem-image parings, some gathered together, some spread around the museum. To be expected are lofty literary references, good old-fashioned bulldog pride and a line coming out the backdoor of non-history majors trying to get a look at Gaddis.
When it comes to local galleries, there really aren’t very many around town, let alone ones with special fall exhibits. Worthy of a look, though, is the new show at Untitled (space), a small gallery at 220 College St., between Tibwin Grill and Cafe Adulis. It is a product of Sol LeWitt, a conceptual artist who employed 12 local students to color 10,000 lines on each of three walls in the small, underground room. The fourth wall has arcs. The project, which included stipends for the apprentices, is part of a program financed by the City of New Haven Cultural Affairs Office, the Andy Warhol Foundation and other donors.
At the Yale Center for British Art, two new exhibits will be opening Sept. 27 and running through the end of the semester. The first, entitled “Great British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney,” promises an account of both the history of painting in Britain from the 16th century to the present and an insight into the habits of American collectors of British art. The two principle collections to be displayed will be those of the Yale Center for British Art and the Huntington Art Collections in San Marino, Calif., and each will contribute about 10 paintings. The exhibition will also feature paintings from the Detroit Institute of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
The second exhibit, entitled “Wilde Americk” and subtitled “Discovery and Exploration of the New World 1500-1850,” will display over 100 maps, atlases, prints and travel accounts documenting the awareness of the New World in European minds. It’ll be vintage Rand McNally and a must see for combined history and geology and geophysics majors.
To be expected at the Yale Center for British Art’s two upcoming exhibitions are homesick Yale-in-London students, confused portrayals of Native Americans and the almost complete overlooking of Canada.
Yale’s musical performance comes to life this fall with residential college orchestras, The Bach Society and the Yale Symphony Orchestra. Though tryouts have yet to begin for most classical orchestras, nearly all have fall performances planned already.
As part of the tercentennial celebration, the YSO will be giving a concert Oct. 5, the program of which has yet to be announced. Later this fall they will be playing Beethoven, Schoenberg, Shostakovich and Mahler, in concerts with the Tokyo String Quartet and the Yale Glee Club. To be expected are friends trying to sell you season passes, a rebuilding year since the graduation of concertmaster Miho Segusa and a Halloween show to be reckoned with — though probably without President Richard Levin delivering the Dr. Evil monologue.
Also coming up this semester are performances from Yale’s newer musical groups, including the Yale Undergraduate Chamber Music Organization and the Yale Composer’s Group.
September also marks the golden month for Yale a cappella, and rush — the process by which prospective singers try out for singing groups — officially begins tonight in Dwight Hall. It is perhaps the only time all year the entire a cappella community rallies together, and it will most likely be filled with ambitious freshmen and obligated friends. To be expected are barely concealed rivalries, plenty of physical comedy and lots of singing without instruments.
After Dwight Hall comes a month of singing deserts, chances to hear the best examples of the kind of a cappella for which Yale is trademark. These deserts have small crowds because most are invitation-only, and guest lists are confined to rushees and friends. With tremendous pomp and operating budgets, singing deserts are like secular bar mitzvahs in a place where a cappella is religion.
Rush ends the week of the 23rd with tap night, like a big drunken musical game of capture the flag; freshmen go back to eating meals with their friends and a cappella devotees are left to a world of musical accompaniment, hungering for next semester and jam season.
In addition to a cappella, improvisational comedy groups are kicking off their rush season this month, which means more scattered, mostly free performances to stock up on before groups start charging in the spring.
When it comes to music not made by Yalies, the few New Haven concert venues around the Yale campus are bringing a number of noteworthy bands to town. Toad’s will welcome bands ranging from Buju Banton & Shiloh to Oysterhead to the Tom Tom Club.