Wherever you go in New Haven over the next two weeks, you’ll see the work of local artists — even in buses.
The City-Wide Open Studios, or CWOS, project, designed to promote art throughout New Haven, will open officially Friday. In addition to a main exhibition at 50 Orange St., CWOS includes tours of local artists’ studios and installations in a variety of unconventional locations.
CWOS, now in its fifth year, encompasses more than 30 sites in and around New Haven. Directed by Artspace, the main events will be held over the next two weekends. This Saturday and Sunday, guided tours of the studios will be led throughout the city, while the following weekend will feature the opening of an exhibition at the Pirelli Building off Interstate 95.
In the main exhibition, currently open for a preview week, more than 400 works are on display. The pieces range from conventional watercolors to more experimental works like Jeff Benjamin’s “Dreamy Note Pads,” which features such imaginative books as “notebook to be burned” and “note pad of flawless memory.”
Helen Kauder, executive director of Artspace, said New Haven artists have begun to view CWOS as one of the focal points of the Elm City art scene. In particular, Kauder said artists have begun to creatively tailor their work to the limited space — 18 inches by 18 inches by 18 inches — provided in the main exhibition.
“The size restriction is a challenge, but also an opportunity,” Kauder said.
Kauder said Artspace has introduced new programs this year designed to further involve the New Haven community. In a series of “transit projects,” seven artists’ works have been paired with poems by writers like e.e. cummings and Langston Hughes and displayed in public buses.
For the first time, Artspace is also sponsoring “CWOS Jr.” a program that allows high school students to exhibit their work in the Marlin Building. The students were selected to serve as apprentices to local artists.
Several works of temporary public art have been installed throughout downtown New Haven, including Sandra Lee’s imaginary advertising campaign for defunct New Haven businesses, “From Here to Ghost — You Are Here,” and Cindy Tower’s “Fertility Hut” made from old window fans and hosiery.
Before a small audience at the New Haven Free Public Library Wednesday night, Anna Audette, Constance LaPalombara, and Tony Falcone — all featured in the bus displays — discussed the major influences on their work and the process of creating art in the Elm City.
LaPalombara, who spent many years painting landscapes and still lifes in Italy, said New Haven provides a challenging yet rich subject for an artist.
“What looks at first as something really drab is really full of color and form,” she said.
A self-taught artist and one-time New Haven fireman, Falcone discussed his experiences of learning to paint by creating large public murals in the city.
“I love painting New Haven,” Falcone said. “I really got started painting its cityscapes.”
James Welbourne, city librarian for New Haven, said Mayor John DeStefano Jr. supports CWOS because it features “local artists treating local New Haven themes.” In addition to sponsoring three roundtables, the library’s Municipal Art Collection — established by the mayor last year — features the seven works displayed in the transit projects.
“[The project] uses art as a way to learn more about the people making New Haven alive,” Welbourne said.