Corsair Propels Local Artists

DAVID SEPULVEDA PHOTOProclaiming that “this isn’t just another project,” Andy Montelli, Post Road Residential founder and developer of Corsair, a new luxury residential complex at 1050 State St., has not only embraced a slice of New Haven manufacturing history in the project’s creation, but commissioned some of New Haven’s best-known artists and artisans for site-specific installations at Corsair that highlight local manufacturing and the spirit of a people building a nation.

To curate Corsair’s varied installations, Montelli enlisted the help of Aicha Woods, a New Haven arts enthusiast who works for a prominent New Haven architectural firm. Woods said that she and Montelli made many contacts with artists during City Wide Open Studios, visiting artists’ studios during their selection process last fall.

Woods noted that Montelli’s model of voluntarily supporting local artists to the degree that he has is unique among private developers. “I hope to see more investment in the local arts community from other project developers,” she said.

Corsets, cigars, auto parts, galvanized metals, locks, textiles, and oak barrels are but a few of the products that were made at the Corsair site. Perhaps most impactful were items produced for the war effort during World War II. Signaling that theme and others are the building’s unique, bronze door handles crafted in the shape of airplane propellers, an homage to the building site’s war-era contributions. Designed by Massachusetts based sculptor Jeff Buccacio, the handles pay tribute to the Corsair F4U fighter plane propellers made by M.B. Manufacturing at the State Street site.

Inside the new building are a number of architectural artifacts from the original building site, including aviation-themed concrete panels that once graced the building’s facade, steel window frames, and pine beams re-purposed as part of the industrial-themed Quittin’ Time Bar decorated with antique bottles excavated from the site. Tables and other industrial-themed furniture by Frank Conroy of 21 Tables of Hamden help complete the up-cycled vibe.

Slabs of timber from the Lincoln Oak Tree that was felled in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy on the New Haven Green have found new life as a library table at Corsair, created by Zeb and Ted Esselstyn of City Bench.

Corsair’s library has been assembled by media specialist Liz Acas and boasts a collection of New Haven-centric reading materials; books about New Haven art and architecture, history, literature, social life, travel guides, and of course, pizza. Local wood worker and furniture designer Bryan Smallman, located across the street from Corsair on State Street, designed the shelving consisting of individually lit cubicles.

In the building vestibule leading to the large lounge area, visitors will be greeted by a massive aerial pencil rendering (canvas print) of portions of New Haven and East Rock created by Gregory “Krikko” Obbott, artist and owner of the Hill Museum of Arts.

Award winning New Haven sculptor Susan Clinard is well known for her incorporation and re-purposing of historical artifacts as she evokes the work ethic and sense of dignity of industry workers. Two totemic sculptures representing male and female figures, entitled “Finding Balance,” have been fashioned from century-old wood forms and beams. Hovering above and between the two sculptures is Clinard’s kinetic mobile of human figures, cast in opaque resin as they float among soothing blue, Calderesque shapes. 

Additional aviation themes inside the “amenity space” include a montage of photo-engraved plates by Jeff Mueller of New Haven’s Dexterity Press that draws directly from maps and images of the Corsair propeller era in New Haven. A photo display of historic images by Kerri Sancomb appears at the beginning of the gallery’s corridor.

Laura Marsh’s flag and banner ode to World War II poster icon Rosie the Riveter — from a sculptural flag series called Diversity Flags, “which explore U.S. symbolism that actively engage with contemporary strides for diversity, humanism, equal rights for women, and global sustainability,” Marsh stated — gives a nod to pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, East Rock, and American can-do spirit.

In the State Street-side interior gym is “Dogfight,” the aerodynamically inspired mural of international artist Raylene Gorum, which is based on symbolic interpretations of air flow patterns surrounding Corsair planes in flight. Part of the image grows from the wall onto the gym’s large, street-level window. “The building itself becomes a dynamic canvas,” Gorum explained. “The transparency of the work on the window creates a spatial relationship between indoor and outdoor and results in an interplay of available light, shadow and reflection.”

For the Corsair’s forested courtyard, New Haven sculptor Silas Finch has once again partnered with Bodhi Designs to present a nautically-themed canopy of light, shadow, and rigging engineering. Last year the collaboration yielded a suspended boat sculpture above Miya’s, a smaller installation of specialized rigging combined with an actual boat form.

Not even the Corsair parking garage has escaped artful augmentation. A tour de force of stenciling, color, and image by Brian Johnson and Graham Honaker of Johnaker is inspired by Corsair-era imagery, along with a few surprises (some of the company’s principals are depicted) will greet visitors and residents at the garage entrance.

A rotating exhibit of art for Corsair gallery walls on the State Street side of the building will be curated by New Haven gallery owner Fred Giampietro of Giampietro Gallery. Giampietro also noted Montelli’s extraordinary and serious effort in commissioning and supporting local artists.

“Montelli is not decorating with the work,” Giampietro said. “He’s treating it like a serious corporate collection.” The Gallery’s inaugural exhibit will feature the new collage work of local artist Jonathan Waters. Paintings by artists Sabrina Marques and Zachary Keeting are now in the gallery and part of the company’s permanent collection.

For Montelli’s part, investing in and supporting New Haven’s arts scene makes perfect sense. “New Haven is a town that reveres its arts community and you always try to make a building of its place,” he said. Montelli said that as a businessman it may be hard to justify the arts component and that he is not sure of the economic impact. “But it makes for a better place to live,” he said.

The public is invited to an artists’ reception, “Made For Corsair,” from 6:30-8:30 on Thursday, June 16, at 1050 State St. To learn more about Corsair artists, visit the Corsair website.



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posted by: CT DRV on June 16, 2016  1:05pm

Great to see local artists getting paper for their work, but let’s not forget the atrocious track record of the contractors that built this place.

RayCon, a concrete contractor on site, has had numerous OSHA violations, been issued Stop Work Orders by the CT Dept of Labor, and even had a worker severely injured (ears bleeding after fall) on one of their jobs.

Can we make the foundation of these buildings as fruitful for workers as the trim?

posted by: Renewhavener on June 16, 2016  5:28pm

Echo the comment about local artists.  Very pleased to see them featured here, and CWOS is a wonderful resource which am glad the developer participated in and patronized as part of the project.

While not quite sharing the spirit of prior commentator, do have similar feelings relative to the comment.  Why not more local firms involved in the development? A Norwalk architect in Benifield and Mass contractor in Plumbhouse, really?  Equal or better talent exists here.

Also while I have not heard about this concrete sub or any injuries or stop orders related to this particular project, when the cast-in-place columns were going up formed with sono-tubes it was hard not to do a double-take.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on June 17, 2016  6:36am

Montelli was the best developer NHV could get. What an excellent way to reuse a contaminated and abandoned property. The opening was great and the evening was a general reminder of how special Upper State Street is as a neighborhood.

posted by: Steve Harris on June 17, 2016  1:40pm

That is so cool!!

posted by: Semi Semi-Dikoko on June 18, 2016  1:29am

This is a spectacular project that went to great lengths to accommodate essentials of aesthetics, environmental friendliness, placemaking, urban and community livability and much more! Yet, what really makes this awe-inspiring, is the amount of people and entities that deserve Kudos for the making of this tour de force: From the developers, technical teams, (architects, contractors & subs), the Artists, the incredible curation by Aicha Woods, CWOS, (the City-Wide Open Studios event, by ArtSpace New Haven), and … more!


posted by: Bradley on June 20, 2016  7:33am

One very small note regarding one of the captions. “Parliament” is the term for a group of owls (comparable to a “herd” of cows), which presumably has something to do with the title of Sabriana Marques’ work.

More substantively, I want to concur with Ben. Andy met repeatedly with neighbors of the development to address their concerns and has been an all-around good guy.