If it weren’t for the fact that one weekend of this year’s City-Wide Open Studios (CWOS) is taking place on Yale’s West Campus, Yale staff member Andrea Miller might not be making new art.
Miller spent much of her adult life working full-time as a fiber artist in her Erector Square studio until she joined the Yale staff in 2009 as a research assistant for Minding the Baby®, a collaboration between the Yale Child Study Center, Yale School of Nursing, and two local community health clinics that provides support (via home visits) to first-time mothers and their families in New Haven. With her new job, Miller had less time for art, and eventually gave up her studio at Erector Square. In time, she also became a grandmother to five children, so her life was pretty full, she says.
But when Miller discovered that the West Campus — where she is based — is the “Alternative Space” site for this year’s CWOS, she was inspired to begin making art again after a nine-year hiatus. This is the first time that CWOS will be held on the campus, although the university has been co-sponsor of the arts extravaganza since it began 21 years ago.
“I kind of let that part of me go dormant for while,” Miller says of her art-making. “But having the CWOS Alternative Space be on West Campus seemed like such a nice intersection of my life and work at the nursing school and my old life as an artist. How could I not use it as a catalyst for making new work? That’s what motivated me to take part.”
Three weekends of art and artistic celebration
Miller is one of about 400 hundred artists — including dozens of Yale affiliates — who will come together across various New Haven sites for the annual CWOS, Connecticut’s leading visual arts festival. The event takes place over three weekends in October. The theme of this year’s festival is “Wellbeing,” which is one reason why hosting the Alternative Space Weekend on West Campus near the School of Nursing seemed a perfect fit, says Helen Kauder, executive director of Artspace, which hosts CWOS.
“Our commissioned artists for CWOS this year have created innovative projects and demonstrations related to the theme of wellbeing, often collaborating with professionals in health care or wellness fields,” Kauder says, adding that the West Campus site will connect artists, audiences, and practitioners in the health care field. Some of the commissioned artists (see below) are Yale affiliates.
“We’re delighted to host Artspace and all the CWOS participants in what is the last remaining unoccupied building here at West Campus,” says Scott Strobel, deputy provost for teaching and learning and vice president for West Campus planning and program development. “Alongside our scientific faculty, art and cultural heritage has long been a part of our campus space. Through the Alternative Space Weekend, it’s great to extend that connection to the New Haven community.”
Every year, thousands of visitors from Connecticut and beyond travel to New Haven to see the exhibited works — and art demonstrations — by artists from throughout the state working in a myriad of media. Some of the artists welcome guests into their home studios or their spaces in art complexes like Erector Square in Fair Haven. Hundreds of artists who do not have private studios share their work with visitors in the Alternative Space.
An opening reception at Artspace, 50 Orange St., will kick off the CWOS festival on Friday, Oct. 5, 5-8 p.m. One work by each participating artist will be on display, and many of the artists will be on hand to talk about their work. These artworks will remain on view in the Artspace gallery throughout the festival. An official map and guide to CWOS will be available.
This evening coincides with First Friday “On9,” during which the street in front of Artspace is closed off for a block party (weather permitting). There will also be a range of wellness- and art-themed experiences, including outdoor mini-yoga classes, massage chairs staffed by professional massage therapists, live sketching, and more.
Erector Square Weekend
Artists with studios in Erector Square — a historic complex at 315 Peck St. in Fair Haven that once housed an Erector Set factory — will invite guests into their spaces noon-6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 6 and 7.
Westville/Private Studios Weekend
On Oct. 13, artists who live and work in private studios and shared work spaces in Westville will open their doors to guests noon-6 p.m. These studios are within walking distance from each other on Whalley Avenue in the Westville section of New Haven.
On Oct. 14, artists in private studios throughout New Haven, West Haven, North Haven, and Hamden will welcome guests into their studios noon-6 p.m. Artspace will offer guided bike tours to many of the studio locations (meet at noon at the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop, 137 Orange St.). Those without bikes can rent one through New Haven’s new bicycle sharing program Bike New Haven. (Some of these artists will also open their studios on Oct. 13; consult the official map and guide for details.)
Alternative Space Weekend
The Alternative Space Weekend, Oct. 26-28, sets New Haven’s CWOS apart from other open studio weekends in the region by offering artists from across Connecticut, as well as those interested in creating site-specific works, a unique backdrop to showcase their talents.
New this year is Preview Day on Friday, Oct. 26, when members of the Yale community can tour artists’ displays in the Alternative Space without the presence of larger crowds.
There will be a series of special projects and commissions taking place at the Alternative Space, where some 200 artists will exhibit in Building 410, adjacent to the School of Nursing (YSN). Alternative Space hours are also noon-6 p.m.
“Yale Nursing is glad to welcome City-Wide Open Studios to our campus,” says Ann Kurth, dean and the Linda Koch Lorimer Professor of Nursing. “With its wellbeing-focused theme, the location of the event right next door symbolizes the important relationship between art and health, humanities and the sciences for people’s health. At YSN, we engage in innovative teaching that integrates aspects of the arts into our curriculum. In partnership with the art galleries and music school at Yale, our students observe artworks, and listen to musical rhythms, which have proved to significantly improve their diagnostic and auscultatory skills. This is why nursing exemplifies ‘STEAM’ — science, technology, engineering, arts, and medicine — as important elements in addressing the human condition.”
At West Campus, scientists and scholars work in numerous health science institutes, as well on sustainable energy and the preservation of cultural heritage.
Miller, who describes her artworks in fiber as “abstract and expressive,” says that the art-infused curriculum of the Yale School of Nursing where she works has helped to inspire her return to making art.
Events during the Alternative Space weekend will also include henna body painting, tai chi, live television and radio broadcasts, interactive performances, block printing demos, gift-making for cancer patients, documentary film screenings, musical meditation sessions, live readings, and more.
The West Campus is located on West Campus Drive off the Marsh Hill Road exit on I-95.
Commissions and special projects
For this “Wellbeing” theme, Artspace commissioned 13 projects that examine issues of health, wellness, and/or mindfulness as they relate to bodies, minds, or the environment. Yale affiliates are among those whose special projects will be featured in CWOS.
Adam Berkwitt, assistant professor of pediatrics, is a participant in The Center for Adult Swaddling Project, which invites visitors to return to fetus-like states to experience a comforting bundled environment. The Center for Adult Swaddling will be open to participants in scheduled group workshops and demonstrative performances. The project, a collaboration between designers, medical practitioners, artists, and scholars, is a response to studies conducted by Berkwitt and others on the benefits of swaddling and other soothing actions on infants born to mothers who were addicted to opioids during their pregnancy. The project also draws on the practice of Otononamki therapy in Japan. Berkwitt’s collaborators are Aude Jomini, Chen Reichert, Sam Malissa, David B. Smith, Laura Marsh, and Alexandra Jomini.
Two Yale School of Art alumni — Martha Lewis and Marion Belanger — have created a site-specific installation called “The Underneath,” which examines our place in the greater ecosystems by creating a womb-like environment of roots, dirt, and insects, and both filtered and natural light. Belanger is a noted photographer and Lewis is a multi-media artist who was recently artist-in-residence at the Yale Quantum Institute. (A story about their collaboration is forthcoming on the YaleNews site.)
Dr. David Rosenthal, assistant professor of medicine, medical director of H-PACT (Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team) for VA Connecticut, and director of integrative clinical medicine at the School of Medicine, is collaborating with cultural organizer Deborah Lehman di Capua on “Alone No More,” a project that examines veterans and their relationships with loneliness and art. Veterans take part in guided close-looking sessions with organized group visits to artists’ studios and meet artists who are vets themselves.
Other commissioned pieces include:
- “Conversion Therapy,” an installation that fosters individual acceptance and self-celebration for and among those in the LGBTQ community;
- BOOBs, a traveling exhibit including local artists that seeks to examine the breast in many contexts, such as age, gender, body image, race, and healthcare;
- “I Know You So Well,” a sound and movement choir led by Rachel Bernsen and Rachel Kauder Nalebuff ’13 that brings together healthcare workers (including Dr. Bill Fisher ’66) who likely never connect in their professional lives to think about what it means to heal;
- “Hero Stories,” an open mic installation that seeks to create a safe space for recovering addicts to record music and design album art;
- “An Urban Perspective: Black Minds Rewired,” a collection of 30 short pieces collected from writers, musicians, and poets from New Haven and beyond that explores race, mental health, and the stigma surrounding mental illness in poor black communities;
- “Science for a Better life,” a series of paintings that explores the history of the West Campus site;
- “Tree Spa for Urban Forest Healing,” a mobile tree syrup processing unit and a tree spa;
- “An Experimental Laboratory for Healing,” an interactive, mixed-media video installation that explores the artists’ daughters mitochrondial disease;
- “Through The Echoes,” a dance performance featuring the Elm City Dance Collective and guests that pays homage to the West Campus site; and
- “ana alole (The Hats),” a collection of six hats that reference Iroquois crafts, regalia, and ceremonial objects with millinery techniques and drag culture, and that are intended to give restorative strength and prayer to their wearers.
The slideshow above features just some of the Yale-affiliated artists who are participating in CWOS. Others served on the jury to select the commissioned works for this year’s CWOS.
For Miller, her journey back into the art world has been a “stimulating experience,” she says.
“Since 2009, I’ve done virtually no work till this year,” says Miller, a mostly self-taught artist who began working with fiber to make quilts. “I still think of myself as an artist. I wanted to push myself to make new work, and I’m excited to be participating in CWOS. It’s fun to meet a lot of new people and to get responses to my art, and to see the work of others.”
All CWOS events are free and open to the public; donations at exhibition sites are welcome. More information about the arts festival can be found on the CWOS website.