Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My thoughts on this year's City-Wide Open Studios

Artspace
50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
City-Wide Open Studios 2008

My overall thoughts on this year's City-Wide Open Studios, in brief.

As a preface, I think it's important to note that there is no way of knowing how the economic meltdown caused by three decades of conservative economics impacted attendance. But it couldn't have helped. According to Artspace Executive Director Leslie Shaffer, a key reason for changing the format this year was to "broaden" the audience. Specifically, the hope was to attract curators/collectors from New York and Boston. Needless to say, this didn't turn out to be the best year to attempt that.

First, the things I liked:

• The Artist-In-Residence Sites, or AIRS. While it is arguable whether they really fit into an "open studios" concept, the AIRS each had their own unique identity. I visited each of them and was impressed both with the art being shown and the general success of the curators in finding threads of commonality.

• The Artist Directory. Setting aside the fact that so many artist statements are impenetrable nonsense, the directory is a great resource. (I do think, however, that the image reproduction could have been better. Most of the images printed dark and/or muddy.)

• Seeing the work of artists evolving over the years. A few, in particular, at 39 Church Street: Jerry Saladyga, Steve Grossman (Web) and Silas Finch (Web). Adding complexity without sacrificing their distinctive personal approaches.

Next, my take on what didn't work:

• CONNcentric. Yes, there is a lot of interesting, professional, well-made art being shown at Artspace right now. But as the anchor exhibit of this sprawling event it failed, in my opinion, miserably.

That letdown was experienced the night of the opening. Where previous Open Studios' openings were packed with visitors—creating a palpable sense of excitement befitting an event kickoff—attendance this year was dispiriting. And it's not surprising. Having several hundred artists showing is a surefire recipe for having a big turnout.

Personally, I also found CONNcentric less interesting than previous main exhibits. The layout of the show seems uninspired and haphazard. I missed the pleasure of finding an artwork that I really liked and cross-checking it against the numbered list. (I don’t think the directory was an adequate substitute.) Yes, I know that many artists felt constricted by having to work within the 18x18-inch format. Too bad. I also very much missed the democratic presentation of previous shows.

• Attendance. My impression and anecdotal accounts from artists indicates that attendance was significantly down from previous years.

I believe that the welcoming and inclusive nature of previous CWOS fostered a broad audience for the entire event. Whether by design or not, the changes narrowed participation and probably constricted the audience. Was the work being shown then, on average, of a consistently higher quality? Probably, but I don't see the tradeoff as having been worth it.

I would be interested to hear from any artists who might have been visited by the coveted curator/collector cohort. From the few artists I talked with in which the subject came up, none of them reported being visited by well-heeled out-of-towners.

• One weekend. Way too little time.

• No alternative space. Perhaps there wasn't an appropriate venue available. No doubt the alternative spaces are logistical nightmares to organize. But they have been major attractions. (Again, I return to the notion that weeding out many artists hurt attendance as well as impacted the democratic nature of the event.)

As always, please feel free to comment. If you are a "local studio" artist, did the changes work out better for the you? Anybody meet any New Yorkers/Bostonians? How do folks feel about CONNcentric as compared to previous main exhibits? Is this the end of CWOS?

24 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hank,

Thank you for a good unbiased write up. I know that this was Leslies first CWOS and I give her a lot of credit. She came up with a few worthwile ideas and some that should have just remained ideas. But she had the drive to change it up (for the better) and as we all know Rome wasnt built in a day...

Look at this years event as a stepping stone and do what ever it takes to bring back the Alt space and a multi weekend event.

See you next fall

10:06 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus, Hank, Aren't you the harbinger of doom? "Is this the end of CWOS?"

I think you've been looking for failure since the event was announced. You've spent more time on this blog complaining about the format change then
trying to look at the new changes objectively.

Would this event have had such a "palpable" air of disappointment if you hadn't gone out of your way to put it there?

And what, exactly, was great about the previous kick off shows? Having to wade though a sea of mediocrity to find the few, good, 18x18 inch pieces on the overpacked wall?

And how did CONNcentric fail? Because people didn't go see it in the number that you think constitutes a success? So it's ARTspace's fault that people didn't show up like gangbusters for an art opening?

And what, in your "god-blog" opinion, comprises an open studio event?
Have you been to any outside of New Haven?

I think you have a lot of presumptions about what CWOS needs to be. It would have been great if you could have remained objective and reported on the event as it was, not as you wanted it to be.

Thing change. Find a way to deal with it, or get out of the way.

10:30 PM

 
Blogger Hank Hoffman said...

Actually, the possibility that this might be the end of CWOS doesn't originate with me. I heard it as a rumor going around from a few people this past weekend. So I'm putting it on the table.

In terms of amount of blog space, I certainly spent more time dealing "objectively" with the changes than complaining about them. The posts on CWOS, including Artspace's press releases, begin in June. Check it out. I devoted two long posts to Leslie Shaffer's and Jemma Williams' explanation of the process by which the changes came about and the reasons for the changes. Just those two posts took much more space than my expression of my concerns.

"Would this event have had such a 'palpable' air of disappointment if you hadn't gone out of your way to put it there?" You vastly overestimate my influence.

My presumptions on what CWOS should be are based on being familiar with the event from its inception. Just my opinion.

I recognize that some folks want an event that screens out what they see as a "sea of mediocrity." There are others-- myself included but also including some wonderful and accomplished local artists--who feel that the non-judgmental inclusiveness enriched CWOS.

I had no investment in the failure--if that's what happened--of this year's CWOS. I would have been happy to have been proven wrong in my concerns.

11:56 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I would be interested to hear from any artists who might have been visited by the coveted curator/collector cohort. From the few artists I talked with in which the subject came up, none of them reported being visited by well-heeled out-of-towners."

did any of the jurors from NYC galleries show up? that would have made up to 5.

1:05 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you have bus rides to Fair haven? I was with the group in Front Street and we hardly got people to visit, maybe they were just friends and family...
I'm very disappointed.

1:33 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd personally like to hear more about what you thought of the work you saw, the way you often discuss it. I understand that the change created a lot of controversy, but let's not allow it to be ALL politics and no talk about the art itself.

7:36 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw concentric today and I can honestly say that only a quater of the stuff was worth viewing. It seemed that some artist actually tried to make their stuff look bad.

Im actually glad that I didnt get chosen after I saw the exhibit.

5:04 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In reply to the last post. I too checked out the Conncentric exhibit over the week. There was a few really great pieces but the rest seemed really low brow. I was amazed that Kathyrn Proulxs piece actually got juried in. It almost seems that she was trying to mock the whole jury process. Upon checking out her website to get a better understanding I noticed this.....Posted on Proulxs website in the middle of August.

"As I’ve previously mentioned, part of being a good artist or designer is how well you present yourself. After reviewing countless submissions for an upcoming art-festival-that-shall-not-be-named, I’ve compiled a short list of ways to present yourself as a great artist, regardless of the body of work to back it up.
Follow All Given Directions
Presenting yourself"

Then she goes on to mention that she designed the Artist directory too.....?

It just goes to show that more and more artist that were chosen for both "Airs" and "Conncentric" had serious ties with the jurors.

Maybe Hank will do some research on these "ties" and do a write up on it.

10:29 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Then she goes on to mention that she designed the Artist directory too.....?"

Hey, jackass, get your facts straight. Kathryn Proulx did not design the Artist Directory.

As stated in the credits of the Directory itself the book was designed by the Communications Director of ArtSPACE, Jemma Williams.

Seriously, why are you people still wasting your energy speculating about who got in and why?
The event happened. Either you liked the work, or you didn't.

GET A LIFE.

Go make some art...
or are you complaining because you don't have any real talent and would rather spend your time commiserating with all of the other losers in New Haven's art scene.

12:35 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Maybe Hank will do some research on these "ties" and do a write up on it."

What would this research show exactly?

That New Haven's a small town with a large population of Artists, curators, Uni Profs, etc...

Many of whom know each other???

What would this write up prove?

It's not as if any of the AIRS or CONNcentric artists are walking away with money, fame or a serious career boost. All they got was a small slice of the fragmented CWOS spotlight, for a brief period of time.

I'm deeply saddened that this years event has been pissed on, mucked with and completely ravaged with bitter, sad sack speculation about who got in, who's more deserving, who this, who that....

Maybe this years event was disappointing because you're incapable of enjoying anything that doesn't flatter your massive, rejected ego?

And to Hank "Objectivity" Hoffman,
I think you're incessant need to stoke the fires of controversy played a large roll in the pall hanging over CWOS. You can deny your part in this, claim that you're serving the interests of the public, but you pushed a negative agenda and helped to ruin a positive, public event.

Way to go.

12:59 PM

 
Blogger Hank Hoffman said...

I'm not going to waste time doing reseach on these "ties." As i've expressed before, I think the notion that there was some conspiracy is ridiculous. I agree with the commenter who wrote that such research would just show the obvious: "That New Haven's a small town with a large population of Artists, curators, Uni Profs, etc..."

As to his attempt to scapegoat me for the outcome of this year's CWOS, I can only state that I expressed concerns that many reasonable folks had about the organization of the event. I gave substantial space to Leslie Shaffer and Jemma Williams' explanation of the process that led to the changes. Every comment in support of the changes was posted.

Apparently, if a powerful and influential local arts organization makes a decision with important ramifications, no one is to question it. I don't buy that.

I want to add that I respect the work of Artspace and the organization's importance to the arts community. But I also believe that they made a fundamental mistake in not addressing the reasons for the changes when those changes were first announced.

Would that it was otherwise but the reach of this blog is in no ways large enough to have played the nefarious role with which you would like to credit it.

9:20 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm deeply saddened that this years event has been pissed on, mucked with and completely ravaged with bitter, sad sack speculation about who got in, who's more deserving, who this, who that...."

I think this blog has exactly *one* troll (maybe two) who's posting all the "Artspace conspiracy" screeds. The writing style seems to be pretty uniform.

The idea that a narrowly-read blog destroyed CWOS this year is pretty silly. Overall attendence was down, many artists dropped out rather than adapt (on short notice) to the changes, valid concerns were expressed by people who did participate about how it went (and how it could be improved)...these are all issues that deserve to be aired and discussed. And that's not the same thing as a personal attack on Artspace or Schaffer.

9:49 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is to say that the poster was a "he" pretty presumtuous of you.

Funny how no one here would comment about the Proulx connection. She clearly stated on her website that she was reviewing submissions for a "area arts festival" during the begining of August. Then she gets into CONNcentric.....?

Look we all get that New Haven is a small town. But to exclude anyone that isnt from New Haven while taking their entry fee isnt fair.

10:34 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was pulled from Faux Beau(Proulxs website)


"this is the book I spent my summer designing!" Pictured was the CWOS book opened to her page......

coincidence ?

10:44 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Proulx was an intern at ArtSPACE during the summer of 2008.

She assisted in laying out the Directory, but did not design it.

She did not "review submissions". That is an error on her part. She looked over the submissions well after the jurying process was over and took the information from the online directory to insert it into each page of the book.
As other posters have stated, it would be nice if you would get your facts straight before you go off and spread unfounded rumors.

As to her inclusion: Who knows? Perhaps the jurors found merit in her work.

10:44 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfounded rumors ? Did you look at her website ? If not now would be a good time to do so. I have researched everything that I have posted.

8:42 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Unfounded rumors ? Did you look at her website ? If not now would be a good time to do so. I have researched everything that I have posted."

And your research consists of what? Pulling a couple of quotes off of a college interns website, taking them out of context, and using them as evidence that there was some sinister fix in the jurying process?

Wow.

Do you have any other long-standing conspiracies you would like to lay to rest with your awe inspiring deductive powers?

10:51 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pulled from Faux Beaux -

How to Present Yourself as a Great Artist Without Making Great Work
August 11th, 2008 · No Comments
As I’ve previously mentioned, part of being a good artist or designer is how well you present yourself. After reviewing countless submissions for an upcoming art-festival-that-shall-not-be-named, I’ve compiled a short list of ways to present yourself as a great artist, regardless of the body of work to back it up.
Follow All Given Directions
Presenting yourself […]

Straight from her website.

10:23 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As I’ve previously mentioned, part of being a good artist or designer is how well you present yourself. After reviewing countless submissions for an upcoming art-festival-that-shall-not-be-named, I’ve compiled a short list of ways to present yourself as a great artist, regardless of the body of work to back it up.
Follow All Given Directions
Presenting yourself […]"


As I've already pointed out she did NOT review submissions in the same way the jurors did. She used the term incorrectly. She took the information from the online directory and put into the program used to layout the Artist Directory.

In the sense that she looked over every submission from everyone who participated in the festival and then used that information to compile the book, then yes, she "reviewed submissions". She was not involved in the jurying.

I know that I'm probably not going to be able to convince you that there was no back room jockeying going on with the jury selections, however, allow me to make a humble suggestion.

Instead of throwing around accusations without any evidence, why don't you contact a juror, any juror, involved with CWOS 2008 and ask them about them how the selection process worked.

Perhaps that will clear up any confusion on your part and allow you to move on and do something more productive with your time.

4:31 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would you defend someones lies ?

8:55 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because I don't think ArtSPACE is lying. I think people like you, with an ill informed ax to grind, ruined this years festival.

8:03 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can someone that didnt partisipate "ruin" CWOS ? I payed the 50.00 and entered both juried shows. I did not get in. Those are the breaks when it comes to juried shows. Sometimes you get in and sometimes you dont.

And considering no one here besides Hank knows anyone who is posting as anonymous you dont know me and its in poor taste for you to cast your judgements at someone that you never even met. Can you say ignorant : )

If you want to blame anyone about this years event blame Artspace. They at the end of the day made the choices on how this years event was going to be played out. No one outside of artspace had any influence at all. (including me lol)

4:23 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh and I never said that Artspace lied. They might have played favorites in the jury process. But once again you missed my point. I was asking you why you were defending Prolux and her lies on her website ?

She lied twice about her role in this years event and on both accounts you defened her.

Why would you defend a liar ?

5:43 PM

 
Blogger Hank Hoffman said...

Just for the record, I don't know who posts as anonymous.

10:55 PM

 

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