Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Computer problems strike; & a response to Stephen Kobasa

I have gotten quite a few emails with announcements about this weekend's events. Unfortunately, my main computer chose this past Saturday to go on the fritz (screen went black: very Goth). It's in the shop.

Operating with my son's significantly slower eight year old iMac, I just can't post all the announcements as I would like. My apologies.

I did want to take just a moment to respond to Stephen Vincent Kobasa's article "Open and Shut It: A case against artists who sulk" from the Sept. 11, 2008 issue of the New Haven Advocate. I have to dissent from a couple of points made by Stephen (a friend and someone whose writings on art I much admire).

Stephen takes local artists to task—and, I suppose, myself, also—for taking a critical stance re the changes in City-Wide Open Studios. I've written on this question here and here and posted an interview in two parts with Artspace Executive Director Leslie Shaffer and Communications Director Jemma Williams here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

Stephen writes:

Since I have previously made clear in print my preference that the event should be abolished entirely, my willingness to grant the benefit of the doubt to the upcoming experiment with its form should be at least matched by those at the other end of the spectrum who want it enshrined without change. Even its most uncritical supporters would admit—or should admit—that it had evolved into a high-end flea market, flabby and unfocused.

Much of the ire apparently focuses on two juried exhibitions that will be included in the weekend's schedule. There is no point in lingering over the question as to whether those who claim that the process was somehow prejudiced would have made the same claim had they been chosen rather than rejected. In any case, one cannot have it both ways, to have Artspace grant its imprimatur, but not be able to render judgment.

The crucial point is that Artspace is not the only source of legitimacy for who makes art in this community. Why should artists depend on the gallery for a space when they could invent one? The neighborhoods that are the focus of the weekend are well-mapped.

Where are the guerilla galleries: Carts of serigraphs hauled down the sidewalk, sculpture sold from a van or out of a car's trunk, doors open to studio spaces that are not listed on the printed schedule?

I find the idea that hauling serigraphs out onto the sidewalk to be anything akin to a substitute for participation in a high profile art festival a little puzzling. Guerrilla galleries are a nice idea; they are to be encouraged. But that's like saying that writers and readers shouldn't complain when local papers like the Hartford Courant and the New Haven Advocate downsize, cutting staff and content. After all, the writers can take some chalk and write their articles on the nearest brick wall. They can put out their own mimeographed paper. "Why don't we do it in the road?" is unduly dismissive towards real concerns about what appear to be substantive changes to a cherished event (if not by Stephen).

I—and I am not alone—haven't seen the unfocused nature of CWOS as a drawback. It was one of the event's strengths.

A final, and perhaps the most important, point: the relationship between Artspace and City-Wide Open Studios and its participants has not been a one-sided one. It hasn't been Artspace all give, CWOS all take. Having followed CWOS since its inception, I say with some confidence that Artspace's sponsorship of CWOS has been a tremendous boon for Artspace. Without the inclusiveness of CWOS and the excitement it created, I don't believe Artspace would have thrived and grown as it has. Artspce would not now be occupying that choice piece of real estate on the corner of Crown and Orange if not for CWOS.

Not bad for a flabby, unfocused flea market.

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