Click in. Click with the artwork, and maybe claim one for yourself.
Artspace of New Haven began its latest version of City-Wide Open Studios Thursday, Oct. 1, with a month-long online portals showcasing art during COVID-19-crippled 2020. It is free and open to the public through the entire month of October at cwos.org.
So how “open” is this year’s event when a more typical year allows weekends of visits to artist studios, discussions face to face and a major live, viewing weekend of special commissions at the New Haven Armory or Yale West Campus?
Artspace officials see the glass as half-full, and potentially more than that.
“While the pandemic brought with it obvious challenges for this year’s Open Studios,” said Artspace New Haven Executive Director Lisa Dent in a news release, “we’re thrilled we were able to bring together hundreds of artists to showcase their work, both online and through limited socially distanced studio visits. It’s been an especially challenging time for many artists, who’ve been unable to show, or sell, their work, and we’re proud to be able to provide this platform for them.”
Katie Jurkiewicz, communications manager at Artspace, said in a phone interview, “It’s obviously gonna be different, but there are still opportunities to visit people in their studios... browse work and meet new artists.”
Jurkiewicz said there are 215-plus artists whose work will be represented while a number of those will also allow online or in-studio visits by appointment in New Haven and area towns including Hamden and Branford. She estimated the total number of artist visit opt-ins at 80, including online Zoom chats, with around 50 of them allowing in-person visits.
“Generally, you can schedule online,” said Jurkiewicz, an artist herself in New Britain who will do online meetups. “There’s going to be a button for everybody who is allowing one-on-one visits.”
All of the artists have a profile on their page and up to 10 images of their work to be showcased in one of the digital viewing rooms curated by staff. If you’re interested in purchase, Jurkiewicz said, you can click through to the artist’s website or Instagram to make contact. When sales are made, Artspace will attach a 3 percent fee on credit card transactions but receive no commission. It’s up to artists to send over some of the sale price to Artspace as a donation.
A look at the site Thursday morning showed a simple layout and fascinating mix of artwork (including some pottery and mixed media) from familiar names such as Bob Gregson, Frank Bruckmann, Susan Clinard and Roslyn Meyer, along with lesser-known artists.
Jurkiewicz noted you can zoom into images and even see how they would look on a wall.
“We tried our best to (determine) how could we digitally approximate the feeling of walking around. And you can’t really get the fun of going from space to space, but I feel like we tried our best to really present people’s work in as professional and clean a way as possible.”
Artspace, a public and foundation-funded arts facilitator that was founded in 1987 as part of the alternative-space movement, operates out of a 5000-square-foot storefront on Orange Street in New Haven. Its mission is to connect artists to audiences and resources — a tall order in a year with diminished live interaction.
Last year’s four-week event drew crowds of people to studios and special project weekends at Erector Square in Fair Haven and Yale West Campus. This year will have two days of restricted visits with Erector Square artists, Oct. 10-11.
While other years were mainly weekend events, this one will have Artspace promoting artists for the whole 30 days, Jurkiewicz said Tuesday, with online access at any time.
The Artspace team is confident in the software being used, working down to the wire to approve profiles and arranging for several visual examples of artwork for online viewing.
The year’s festival theme, “Who Governs?,” celebrates the 60th anniversary of political scientist Robert Dahl's groundbreaking book of the same name that used the government of New Haven as its subject. But few artists are using that theme; instead, an Artspace exhibition with that title will open at the end of October. (In previous years, the theme would be reflected in one piece from each artist and displayed at the lively CWOS opening night indoors and outside on Orange Street.)
It’s not an up-close year, but there’s a chance for wider participation by anyone with an internet connection.
“We’re ... really trying to promote it,” said Jurkiewicz. “I’m going to try to talk up on social media — especially on Instagram — individual artists instead of just presenting their work, maybe hear a little bit more from them, get more of that open-studios experience where you’re used to people trying to explain their work and their process to you.”