Westville’s reputation as an emerging arts district and destination has taken a step forward with the introduction of West River Arts, a new cluster of art studios and sister project of The Range at Lotta Studios.
The Range at Lotta Studios is a multi-function, adaptable facility; a creative co-working space in the heart of Westville Village with photo and gallery quality, digital printing studio, retail shop and meeting room. It was opened last year by photographers Luke and Mistina Hanscom at 911 Whalley Ave.
Add to that operation the new upstairs West River Arts.
West River Arts features some of the area’s fine artists, jewelry designers, artisans, architect-artists, and product designers. Independent clothing designer Neville Wisdom opened a boutique and manufacturing business in the same building last year, adding to the commercial revitalization that has taken hold amid a flurry of new businesses in the Village’s West end.
The list of West River Artists and tenants includes: Eric Epstein, Noe Jimenez, Luke Hanscom, Susan McCaslin, Caryn Azoff, Don Wunderlee, Rob Roy, Howard El Yasin, Kate Stephens, Sarah Bratchell, Roy Hanscom, Mistina Hanscom, George Moore, Kieran Coleman, JoAnne Wilcox, Mohamad Hafez, Travis Carbonella, Johnathon Henninger, Violet Harlow, Chris Ferguson, and Semi Semi-Dikoko.
Another new addition to Lotta Studios corner building is The Coffee Pedaler, a satellite to-go coffee bar and namesake of the artisan coffee shop on East Street whose Yelp reviews are over-the-top good.
On Saturday, from to 2-6 p.m., Lotta Studio and the brand-new West River Arts will host an inaugural “Second Saturday” event celebrating with open studios at some of the 12 artist spaces and offices located on the second floor of the historic Masonic Temple building at 909 Whalley Ave. A 2 p.m. ribbon cutting ceremony will officially welcome West River Arts and the Coffee Pedaler to Westville’s “Main Street” (aka Whalley Avenue).
At 5 p.m., Lotta Studio in conjunction with Strange Ways and the Yale Humanist Community, will host a book reading and Q & A featuring Katie Heaney, author of the popular memoir Never Have I Ever. The author will introduce her new novel Dear Emma, about the intrigues of Harriet, a college student who writes an advice column under a pseudonym for her college newspaper. Heaney is a senior editor at BuzzFeed and has written for Cosmopolitan, Vulture, The Hairpin, The Awl, and Pacific Standard.
Mistina Hanscom said that Second Saturdays will be a monthly event affording visitors an opportunity to peruse artists’ work at West River Arts and Lotta Studio, but also attend simultaneous openings and events at DaSilva and Kehler Lidell Galleries with whom Lotta Studios is coordinating.
Among the artists who will be on hand to greet visitors at the first Second Saturday event will be painter Don Wunderlee who returns to Westville from his Erector Square Studio having earlier maintained a storefront studio in Westville for many years. The award-winning abstract painter will be showing original paintings and quality reproductions.
Referencing her ongoing investigation into the meaning of shelter, artist Susan McCaslin, partner in the Westville-based design firm “Design Monsters,” will show a section of the installation “Wall/Paper,” a piece that was first shown in 2015 at Hamden Hall’s Moira Fitzsimmons Arons Art Gallery. Also exhibited will be her new woodcuts from work that references the Old Leatherman, an itinerant who lived in Connecticut in the late 19th century. Hand-pulled and digital prints will be available for purchase.”
Mechanical engineer and Industrial designer, Kieran Coleman will display some of his upcycled, wall-mounted mood lamps …
… andfurniture and product designs.
Along with viewing the work of other artists at West River Arts, visitors may well sense the synergy of an expanding artists’ community and the elements of place making being generated by creative visionaries — on Second Saturday and beyond.