Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Artspace and City-Wide Open Studios: Eviscerating a classic event?

I have posted below Artspace's press release detailing the schedule for this year's City-Wide Open Studios. (CWOS). At first blush, it certainly looks like the signature annual art event has been hacked/downsized/however-you-want-to-say-it in such a manner as to cut not only significant numbers of artists but also much of the art-aware public out of access to the riches of the CWOS experience.

One weekend? It was one thing when the event was getting off the ground. In the first year or so, one weekend made sense. Organizers were feeling their way, trying to ascertain whether there was an audience for the event.

But now we know that it can take a weekend just to explore the artistic riches in studios throughout Erector Square. That trying to see artists in Erector Square as well as studios at Gilbert Street in West Haven and in 39 Church in New Haven or over in Hamden takes more than one weekend. And where is the alternative space in this mix?

There are obviously reasons why such a drastic slash-and-burn approach has been taken to CWOS. But Artspace apparently doesn't feel those reasons are worthy of being addressed in their press release. This is a schedule that will leave many—hundreds, perhaps?—of artists on the outside looking in. It will significantly curtail the ability of the public to experience all that the New Haven visual arts community has to offer. And it will prevent artists themselves from enjoying the CWOS experience, as they have in past years on the weekends in which their own studio was not open.

Perhaps I was quite unfair to Freda Moon?

Please feel free to comment on your reactions to Artspace's decision to trim CWOS from three weekends to one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my totally unvarnished opinion. Artspace has been doing a fantastic job for the past 10 years bringing the art to the people. At some point they, as an organization, should have the right to step up their game. I think that Artspace has realized that CWOS has become perhaps the only thing that the great majority of people associate with Artspace. That is not what Artspace wants. I can tell that CWOS is a tremendous effort that takes most of the year to plan, organize, and pull off. I agree with either downsizing to a more manageable effort or spinning it off to some other entity. That way perhaps Artspace can begin to address it's other goals and ambitions. Put bluntly, I don't think it is fair hang that weight of expectation around Artspaces neck on an annual basis. Its time for someone else to step up and keep it fresh. Lord knows that New Haven, and CT in general, has a lot of great artists and a large pool of people with a tremendous amount of energy. Perhaps the Arts Council should be running it. Just and idea, but doesn't it seem logical and fitting that it become their cornerstone event every year?

9:29 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

Hank’s questions about the new open studios are the same kind of questions we asked our Open Studios artists in a survey which 80% of the artists responded to. Their answers and long conversations with later groups of artists gave us the following direction.

1) Don’t dilute the event over many weekends, but run a longer single weekend so that the event is concentrated and the audience is more focused.
2) Give artist more control over their immediate environment and peers.
3) Don’t let the Alternative Space overshadow scattered studios which are found all over our community.
4) Keep the event open to all, but find some way to challenge people and reward those who work hard.
5.) Expand our audience and potential buyers by getting the word out beyond New Haven.

Our new model is the product of all of that artist input and, even operating with diminished private and public funding, we’re pretty excited about how it will turn out. Thanks to Connecticut Art Scene for also asking some of these questions because that’s how things get better.

10:54 AM

Blogger David Taylor said...

Hank, every work of art is not of equal interest to everybody! A vital art center must have competition and controversy. Artists must compete with each or other. Even art audiences must compete with each other.

A program which promises to call special attention to 180 artists out of or six or seven hundred even a thousand is not too tough for a self-respecting artistic community. We can't all be flattered and coddled forever! Flattery and coddling don't lead to sales or other forms of real commitment anyway.

This year's plan for CWOS, it seems to me, provides more incentive for serious viewers from outside New Haven (for instance, New York) to come here for a single four day weekend instead of three, and for a wide range of artists to be singled out for attention as opposed to the 7 or 8 who have been chosen from the multitude to be featured in exhibitions following CWOS in past years. These 180 will get to show several examples of work that will surely represent a wider range of work than past juried shows from CWOS have shown. There will be plenty to fight about! Art is a silly game if there is nothing at stake. Competition is the sine qua non of evolution. Let's evolve!

2:05 AM


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