Aakshi Chaba

Upon entering one of the hundreds of artist studios at Erector’s Square in Fair Haven last weekend, visitors were greeted by a strange sign next to a range of ceramic utensils. “Please touch the pottery,” it read.

A change from the usual rigid rules at art galleries, the sign summed up the immersive experience most of the artists participating in the month-long City-Wide Open Studios series hoped their audience would have at Erector’s Square. Held on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the event was organized by Artspace, a local nonprofit dedicated to sharing art with the community.

Erector Square is a refurbished factory that now houses hundreds of small studios. Although the outside of the building consists of an unassuming red brick, the inside comprises eight buildings with long hallways, each door leading to a colorful studio showcasing a diverse form of art.

As visitors walked through the halls, both the audience and the artists had a chance to interact and learn. Kevin Chapin, the owner of an instrument-making studio at the end of one such hallway, mentioned that besides giving him a chance to get to know new clients, Open Studios has allowed him to introduce the art of instrument-making to a new audience.

“It surprises me how surprised people are that people still make musical instruments,” Chapin said. “I like showing them that,”

Just a few doors down from Chapin’s space was the studio of Jeff Mueller, a local artist specializing in the art of printing. Given the almost empty bowl of chips and salsa, as well as the lines of people looking at his art, it was clear that the studio was a busy one. Mueller added that he too enjoyed the event, saying it was nice to have a chance to talk to the community, as he was often alone in his studio.

“I love that there are just people in this place.” he said, joking that it took him three or four hours to get used to talking to people again.

The community members in attendance shared his enthusiasm, with Eunice Mahler, a resident of Branford, saying she had an “incredible time” watching the play and meandering through the buildings on Saturday afternoon.

“There’s nothing better than being able to see the studio where the art comes from rather than seeing it in a sterile gallery,” said New Haven resident Mike LaTorraca while sitting and chatting with other visitors.

This year marked the 20th anniversary of Artspace’s City-Wide Open Studios initiative.

Aakshi Chaba | aakshi.chaba@yale.edu