Amidst colorful paintings, knit and metal works and a variety of ceramic pieces, a bird and button covered hat is on display at Creative Arts Workshop, a nonprofit community art school on Audubon Street. The hat — one of about 20 that will be auctioned off in May — is awaiting its runway debut.
Creative Arts Workshop will host its second Hats Off charity auction May 14, with proceeds supporting CAW’s mission to give people of all ages and talents a space to learn and create. During the auction, hats designed and decorated by Connecticut artists will be modeled by drag queens before being sold to the highest bidders. Attendees, who must purchase a $50 admission ticket, are encouraged to make their own hats, wear them to the auction and sell them, with proceeds also going towards CAW. The first Hats Off event was held five years ago, but the art school decided to bring it back this year, with the hopes of making it an annual event.
“Artists are hermits a lot, it is nice for them to be with other people when they work,” New Haven artist Liz Pagano said, explaining why she is eager to support CAW.
Pagano, who planned the first Hats Off event, conceived the idea six years ago after observing how much fun attendees had at a friend’s hat-themed birthday party.
She said the levels of both imagination and excitement were high at the first Hats Off, adding that patrons were “laughing the whole time.”
“It was so much fun and it had such a good buzz afterwards,” Pagano said.
Pagano’s relationship with CAW began when she started taking classes as an emerging artist in the early 1980s. She now teaches printmaking classes and workshops and has created a hat for this year’s show.
Ruth Sack, a New Haven-based artist who lives in Cheshire and teaches at CAW, is responsible for the bird and button hat’s creation. A multidisciplinary artist, she explained she created the hat using a variety of trinkets she found at flea markets and in her studio. Most of the objects are vintage, she said, adding that she expects to set the starting price at close to $100.
She said that she feels CAW gave her a place to connect with other artists and that her children have enjoyed taking classes there.
CAW’s efforts to expand its artistic community do not begin and end with the auction.
Jan Daddona, CAW development manager, said the organization provides financial aid to people from low-income backgrounds who could not otherwise afford to pay CAW’s tuition, which ranges between under $20 to more than $600 for various art classes and workshops. But Daddona said the tuition CAW’s students pay only covers about 45 percent of the nonprofit’s costs.
“We tend to cut things to the bare bone,” said Daddona. “It’s hard to monetize what you do to make it available to your constituency.”
Earlier this month, New Haven artist Sam Shevelkin held a fundraiser for CAW in conjunction with Ordinary, a bar on Chapel Street. In an email to the News, he explained CAW has been an important part of his life and art since he started volunteering there when he was 16. He said there is no other place in southern Connecticut that provides the same quality of art facilities to the community.
Creative Arts Workshop was established in 1961.