In primary school, Algerian-born Fethi Meghelli was already developing a love for art. Now, decades later, he has his own studio in New Haven.
Like Marc Chagall’s, his work is a colorful blend of childlike imagination and quiet insight. And Meghelli — who once met Chagall in a French museum — said he hopes his art strikes more than the viewer’s superficial fancy.
“My work, among other things, is about raising social issues,” Meghelli says.
One could remain in Meghelli’s studio all day — but his story is only one out of over 400.
Their studios temporarily tidied for company, the 420-plus artists participating in New Haven’s fifth annual City-Wide Open Studios, or CWOS, are ready for their close-ups. A program of Artspace, a nonprofit organization aiming to join artists and audiences, Open Studios offers the public a fresh look into the minds of local artists.
Open Studios first welcomed the public last weekend to the main exhibition at the Chamberlain Building at 50 Orange St., where each artist displayed one representative piece.
Hidden in a corner up against a window, one artist had placed four mason jars containing four placentas — one of which was her daughter’s. The other three were donated. On the top of each lid, scrawled in black marker, was the name of the placenta’s infant owner.
Across from the jars were paintings and lithographs.
Open Studios is the rare Elm City event that allows a gallery-goer to see two such extremely different pieces sponsored by the same program.
“Basically, CWOS creates a community of artists, and draws them together within this community to create a sustaining, meaningful dialogue with their audience,” said Cindy Gerber, the media coordinator for City-Wide Open Studios, in an e-mail. “CWOS transforms New Haven into a dynamic, cohesive center for contemporary art.”
Veteran and emerging artists alike make up this year’s program. While artists like John Arabolos and Eileen Eder already have lengthy resumes on hand, younger artists like Erich Davis are still developing their styles.
Davis’ studio presented a mix of sculpture, wire, and experiments of color. Most notably, there were several acrylics with inspirational slogans painted on them — from “Believe in you” to “Question (y)our existence.”
“The purpose behind this art is to present a clear message,” Davis said. “Art is for people to look at.”
In his first year participating in Open Studios, Davis joins the largest group of artists the program has ever gathered.
This year a visual arts grant from the National Endowment for the Arts has made possible a series of temporary installations in and around downtown New Haven. Open Studios also offers panel discussions with artists, a traveling exhibition of their books and magazines and bike tours around Greater New Haven.
While the artists’ media vary from paint and ink to glass and hair, many of the Open Studio artists share similar hopes for their work. By participating side-by-side in what organizers claim is the largest event of its type on the East Coast, the artists gain both a collective voice in the New Haven community and the opportunity to attract professional and amateur art lovers.
This weekend, the public can visit the Pirelli Building, where over 300 artists will set up temporary installations, turning the potential home of IKEA into a center of talent and innovation.
With such a range of art to choose from, City-Wide Open Studios will appeal to every taste and fancy.