Marc Boudreaux

The New Haven–based nonprofit Artspace will bring the 20th iteration of its annual City-Wide Open Studios to a vacant building on West Campus next to the School of Nursing this year. The event, whose goal is to present different spaces and methods for making art and typically features the work of more than 350 artists and draws 10,000 visitors, will be held in October 2018.

The City-Wide Open Studios take place for four consecutive weekends at venues around New Haven. The new space at 410 West Campus Drive joins the brutalist Pirelli building — designed in 1969 by famed modernist Marcel Breuer — and the old New Haven Register building, now Jordan’s Furniture, as venues for the “Alternative Space” weekend. On Feb. 22 and March 3, West Campus opened its doors to prospective artists to tour the School of Nursing and the exhibition space.

Artists on the March 3 tour expressed their enthusiasm for about the theme of the upcoming event — “well-being” — and voiced ideas for the works that will be displayed on campus in October.

kHyal, a visual artist, journalist and marketer, plans to run a workshop titled “Dressed (not) to Kill,” where she will offer participants the chance to make dresses out of laminated cards held together by safety pins. The cards will feature different motifs to stand in for issues that are pervasive and polarizing in American society, like abortion and gun rights.

“I want it to go out of the bounds that most people are comfortable with but make the symbols friendly,” kHyal said.

Michael Bond, who works as an informatics specialist with Cigna Health Insurance in addition to his artistic practice, is designing a multimedia spectacle with a co-worker, Andy Duncan. The pair wish to address the dual effect of social media on well-being, given that it is a tool that can provoke both incredible joy as well as thoughts of self-harm. Touring the facility, Bond said, was useful in formulating concepts for their City-Wide Open Studios project. In particular, he said he is looking to repurpose medical tubing as “something that ties us all together.”

This year, City-Wide Open Studios will not be the first time the School of Nursing welcomes artists to its campus. Seventy-five percent of the participants in the Graduate Entry Prespecialty in Nursing program, which gives college graduates nursing degrees, come from backgrounds in the arts, according to Linda Honan, a professor in the program.

For the past four years, Artspace has held the “Alternative Space” weekend at the Goffe Street Armory, a masonry building that occupies half a city block in New Haven’s Dixwell neighborhood.

However, the deterioration of the building made in the 1930s proved difficult to work with: Artspace volunteers would begin cleaning the space three months before the event to make it suitable for the large crowds. Even then, the structure could not offer temperature control, bathrooms or access for people with physical handicaps. When the roof began to leak, the city of New Haven promised the organization a renovation of the building by 2019, precipitating the search for a new venue.

The collaboration between Artspace and West Campus was generated by Helen Kauder, Artspace’s executive director, and two of the organization’s board members who serve in various roles in the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing. Artspace fostered a partnership with Ann Kurth, dean of the Nursing School, based on their mutual “belief in the power of visual culture,” as Kauder put it, and settled on the empty building as a fitting location for the event.

With the West Campus location, the organization will enjoy a level of comfort lacking at the armory — though at a distance from the community it hopes to reach. Among the organization’s chief concerns at the moment is generating access to the campus, according to Sarah Fritchey, curator and gallery director at Artspace. The organization is pursuing partnerships with both the local government and Yale to run a bus service between the Elm City and Orange during the “Alternative Space” weekend.

Fritchey emphasized that the temporary relocation does not mean Artspace is breaking with its longstanding commitment to community building in urban New Haven.

“In no way, shape or form do we want to abandon the work we’ve been doing [at the armory],” Fritchey said. “We’re all invested in that space, and we see its potential.”

Brianna Wu |