Courtesy of Artspace New Haven

Artspace — a visual arts non-profit organization in New Haven — is giving artists, organizers and audiences an opportunity to convene around shared artistic processes and experimentation at the 2022 Open Source art festival, “In Common Spaces.”

The festival features artists specializing in a variety of practices, from visual art to music, starting on Oct. 21 and ending on Oct. 30. Spectators can experience artwork in many places, including in Artspace’s open studio sites, neighborhood platforms and even online. The event acts as an opportunity for artists to directly share their work with the public and network in the process.

“We have painters, folks working in new media, like video art, we also have folks working in drawing, sculpture, installation art, fiber art, ceramics — it really runs across the board,” said Artspace Director of Curatorial Affairs Laurel V. McLaughlin.

Artspace events are free and open to the public.

Gabriel Sacco, visual culture producer at Artspace, said the festival is not just about studios, exhibitions and different platforms, but it also is about “combining everything together and creating one large common space throughout the whole city.”

Creating a common space throughout the city is very important for this iteration of the Open Source festival, especially coming out of the pandemic, according to Sacco. He says that Artspace is “really trying to bring it back up to pre-pandemic speed,” meaning engaging the artist community and patrons by doing things like inviting audiences into artists’ home exhibits.

Yet, Artspace acknowledges that the pandemic is still going on. They encourage visitors to wear masks and social distance. For people who might not want to visit artists in person, Artspace has various Zoom events. These are later archived on their website and can be viewed for months after.

The pandemic isn’t the only way this year’s festival is different. McLaughlin was hired as the Director of Curatorial Affairs in June 2022 but has worked with Artspace as a guest curator since April of 2021. When she looked at Artspace’s archives, she recognized issues in their community outreach strategies.

“I realized that a lot of the neighborhoods that [Artspace has] gone into previously were predominantly white and predominantly affluent neighborhoods in the city,” McLaughlin said. 

This year, she says Artspace is providing opportunities for BIPOC artists to curate neighborhood platforms.

McLaughlin sought community leaders who would work with Artspace to get neighborhood platforms off the ground.

One such leader, Doreen Abubakar, is the founder and executive director of the Community Placemaking Engagement Network. Abubakar runs the Newhallville Learning Corridor, in the historically black neighborhood of Newhallville. This is the site of the exhibition titled “AfroCentric Expressions.” 

Before organizing this event, Abubakar visited art organizations in New Haven and asked if they had a list of Black artists. She was not able to obtain one.

But beyond the difficulties of finding Black artists in the area, Abubakar praised Artspace for the infrastructure they provided in the Newhallville Learning Corridor. 

“[I]f you’re designing something to empower people in certain areas to thrive then you need to build the infrastructure and then provide activities and events around it,” Abubakar said.

This project will allow her to continue providing events in the future, each of which is different from the next. 

One such artist interested in non-traditional media is Evelyn Massey. Massey is the owner and curator of @noirvintageandcompany, an online vintage business. 

Her installation is titled “Vintage Noir Fashion Speaks Through The Eyes Of Black Culture” and celebrates clothing worn by People of Color from the 1930’s through the 60’s. Her installation features (among other things) mannequins dressed in vintage attire.

This is the first year that Massey has participated in “Open Source,” but she’s already had a positive experience. 

“The interaction is great, everyone is so gracious,” Massey said. “I love how people can go to different places to check out all of the artists.”

She is soon looking to expand her business to a brick and mortar store, so Open Source is an opportunity for her brand to gain visibility and for her business to build momentum.

Massey’s installation will take place at the Dixwell Q House on Saturday, October 29 from 11:30am to 5:00pm. 

Newhallville’s Open Source exhibition will take place in the Newhallville Learning Corridor on Friday, Oct. 28 from 4pm to 6pm. More information on the festival is available here.