Artspace, a local arts organization, kicked off its 21st annual Citywide Open Studios event in Fair Haven this past weekend.

With over 420 participating artists, Citywide Open Studios showcases work from local artists over the course of a monthlong festival in venues across the Elm City and the surrounding towns of Orange and West Haven.

“[Citywide] is an opportunity to come out as an artist to friends and colleagues who may not know about that side of a person,” Executive Producer of Citywide Open Studios Elinor Slomba said.

The event was held at Erector Square — a factory complex turned studio space that is centered around promoting wellness. The refurbished building also includes a gym, along with spaces for yoga, dance and martial arts.

Citywide allows artists to showcase their work to New Haven residents who are not artists themselves. Slomba said that the event exposes attendees to the “interdisciplinary light that artists shed.” She described New Haven as the creative capital of Connecticut, noting that the event draws people from all over the state.

Helen Kauder, Executive Director of Artspace, said that the new Artspace facilities allow for more spaces for expression in the New Haven community. 144 new artists presented in this year’s festivities, according to Kauder.

“In these anxious times … it is more important to ensure that artists have forums and platforms to develop their honest appraisals of our culture,” Kauder said.

Local artist Mary Lesser, who has participated in Citywide since its beginning 21 years ago, said the event has given her a “whole community.” She said the community “feed[s]” each other in terms of “inspiration and appreciation.”

Even state and local officials praised the studio.

In a statement, Gov. Dannel Malloy emphasized that Connecticut has a rich tradition in the arts and that Artspace has furthered this cause through its three decades of service to the New Haven area. Mayor Toni Harp agreed.

“This unique cross-sector collaboration is a testament to the inherent strengths of our Greater New Haven Region as both a diverse cultural ‘hub’ and an innovator fostering wellness,” Harp said in a statement.

This coming weekend, Westville artists will open their studios from noon to 6 p.m. To increase accessibility, Artspace will organize routes and bike tours for visitors to travel easily between studios. The following weekend, Citywide concludes its 21st exhibition at the Yale West Campus, featuring multiple installation pieces among other commissioned works of art.

All of the Citywide events are free and open to the public.

John Besche |