Nine Divided By Two

Two cold? Of all the “twos” on view, the below-32 weather turned out to be the least consequential element of the March edition of the first-Friday culture-bump known as “On9.”

Yes, it was cold. Yes, attendance was much lower than it is in summertime. Yes, there were no outdoor block parties on the agenda, and the sole ribbon-cutting .

Yes, the threat of inclement weather is why On 9 New Haven—a monthly block party in the downtown Ninth Square district—doesn’t happen in January or February. Last year it didn’t happen in March either.

But the March edition of the monthly neighborhood-wide open house, designed to tout the glories of the neighborhood’s businesses, restaurants, clubs and galleries, didn’t seem premature. The two-hour event, produced by the Town Green Special Services District with lots of input from the businesses themselves, just scaled down to the realities of the too-long winter season. They did the cultural equivalent of snuggling together for body warmth.

A lot of the highlighted features of On9 were intimate and up close, not the sprawling community gatherings the event’s known for in summer.

There’s always a general theme for each On9. Next month’s, for instance, will be “Design On9,” followed by “Brew On9” in May, “Feast On9” in June. August will mark the return of the outdoor pie-eating frenzy “Pie On9.”

Friday’s official title was “Arts On9,” but it might as well have been “Two On9”:

• In the back room of the English Building antiquery, New Haven Theatre Company premiered a drama, The Magician, by company member Drew Gray. Except for a brief walk-on by the magician’s assistant, this is a two-man drama of boozy reminiscences between a lifelong struggling entertainer and his fed-up manager. Read more about that here.

• At Elm City Market, there was a battle between two green vegetables, Kale and Broccoli. The competitive foodstuffs were featured in free samples of soups and snacks (from kale chips to broccoli fritters) found at tables throughout the store, and customers were encouraged to vote for their fave. Read more about that here.

• Reynolds Fine Art held a Surrealist Game Night in honor of its current Surrealist-themed exhibit of paintings by William Butcher. The match-up here was in the title of the show: “Allegories of the Heart and Mind.” The time-and-space-bending Surrealist impulse was lost on those who set up the games, though: to play, you had to come at a certain time and be registered in advance.

• Multi-media sculptor Silas Finch drew “Cold Connections” with his art exhibit of that name, on display at 760 Chapel St. (former location of The Grove workspace, which moved last year to Chapel Street). The “two” to contemplate here was spatial. For weeks, you could view Finch’s work only through the storefront windows. Friday, the doors were opened and there was an indoor aspect to Finch’s show, which blends historical, old-world imagery with some harsh modern themes. Read a full story about that here.

Petra & Kenny provided a soundtrack of drum thumps and acoustic guitar jangles that echoed through the quiet halls of Artspace, where the exhibit Smart Painting (“by artists who respond to the institution of contemporary abstraction”) has been up for a month now. The vibrations of the fevered two-piece band matched the vibrant colors of the paintings. The drummer, Petra Szilyagi, is a painter herself who had a solo show at the Lipgloss Crisis space on Chapel Street during a previous On9 event.

Lipgloss Crisis’ rent-free tenure under the Project Storefronts art-business-boosting program ended a few months ago, leading to fears that On9 would rock out a lot less. Those naysayers didn’t reckon on Artspace.

…or on Café Nine.

The club, at the corner of State and Crown, always has live entertainment on Friday nights but doesn’t always proclaim itself as a key part of the On9 circuit. This time, however, Café Nine was packed for the opening reception of a “Punk Rock in Connecticut” photo exhibit by Tom Hearn. Featuring intense mid-1970s portraits of the Ramones, Debbie Harry of Blondie, Sylvain Sylvain and David Johansen of the New York Dolls, Robert Gordon and others, the exhibit (which will remain on Café Nine’s walls into April) was augmented Friday with a live set by local veterans of that proto-punk era, The Furors.

Art On9 may have been short on newness—most of the art shows had been on view for weeks. But that’s something that the cold is good for, right?Keeping things fresh longer.

The series succeeded as it always has, by showing the sheer range and breadth and vitality of the Ninth Square’s diverse downtown cultural enclave.

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posted by: on9newhaven on March 10, 2014  1:52pm

Thanks Chris Arnott for the great way you captured the evening activities during Arts On9. It was a fun night in New Haven’s Historic 9th Square. Many thanks to all those who came out to support the event, and the participating businesses who contributed to a successful evening.

Hope to see you at Design On9, April 4,which includes Cocktails On9 (cocktail contest) and Neville Wisdom’s Spring Fashion Show