City Wide Open Studios Brings Its A-“Game”

Artist Bob Gregson wore an enormous yellow foam puzzle piece around his waist to Barcade on Orange Street Tuesday afternoon. Next to him, reporter Cassandra Basler of WSHU wore a similar blue puzzle piece.

“We have to decide which area we’re going to connect,” Gregson said. They chose the corner of Basler’s piece, which, with some encouragement from Gregson, fit into the side of Gregson’s piece.

“That was part of the design of it,” Gregson said. “How would we connect?”

Gregson was demonstrating his and fellow artist Melanie Carr’s joint contribution to this year’s upcoming edition of City Wide Open Studios, organized by Artspace.

CWOS begins Oct. 7 and runs every weekend through Oct. 30. In the Goffe Street Armory, where the CWOS’s Alternative Space Weekend will be held Oct. 15 and 16, Gregson and Carr will have 26 puzzle pieces, allowing 26 participants to figure out different ways to connect.

Plus, Gregson joked, “any time we can create havoc and anarchy, we’re up for it.”

Gregson’s and Carr’s project is one of 10 projects Artspace commissioned for CWOS this year, and one among hundreds of other projects from participating area artists responding to this year’s theme: “Game On!”

Brian Slattery PhotoAs planning began almost a year ago, “people who had attended CWOS wanted a theme that was more accessible,” explained Artspace Director of Community Engagment Tambira Armmand. As the conversation focused on play, on games, CWOS organizers began to think about how playing sports made people physically healthier, how more cerebral games like chess made people’s minds more elastic, and how games of all kinds brought people together, creating communities around them.

Armmand and Westville videographer Travis Carbonella are debuting a film at CWOS called We Had a Ball, featuring interviews with people in New Haven about playing games —  which Armmand said involved stories about “what they got up to in childhood,” including “dirtball wars all day in the woods by the river,” but also encompassed the story of a mother using games to connect with her son. The film also branches out to talk about city parks, and how parks can fall into disrepair when people stop playing in them, and vice versa.

The idea of using games to bring people together extends to the organization of CWOS itself. Artspace Executive Director Helen Kauder reported that 85 new artists are joining CWOS this year. “This is a great way to plug into the arts,” Kauder said she told each of them. “It’s really about forging an artistic community.”

Though it is also about playing games. Artist Gordon Skinner’s installation will turn the grounds surrounding the Goffe Street Armory into a “360-degree basketball court,” said Artspace Gallery Director Sarah Fritchey.

“I don’t like to call it a treasure hunt,” said artist Scott Schuldt, “but that’s what it is.” He will hide specimens he found while canoeing Connecticut’s waterways (think bottles and other interesting artifacts) all throughout the Armory. Anyone who successfully finds one will be able to take it home in a specimen box built by Schuldt. “But it will not be easy,” Schuldt said. “It’ll take you all day.” (“Challenge accepted!” someone yelled from the audience.) In a similar vein, Site Projects’ CWOS contribution amounts to a scavenger hunt across the artist studios that are thrown open to visitors during the event.

Megan Craig’s “The Way Things Felt,” a collaboration with dancer Rachel Bernsen, will feature a large area covered completely in felt; intrepid Armory goers will be given felt smocks that designate them as people who can add felt to the piece, people who can become part of the piece, or people who can take felt off the piece. The result will be a exhibit that is constantly changing, with pieces coming in, moving around, and being taken away — the last part, Craig joked, seeming like “good existential practice in letting things go.”

But also, like the basketball tournament that will be held on the courts across the street from the armory, just a lot of fun. If the 10 projects Artspace previewed are any indication, CWOS this years promises a lot of opportunities for people not only to observe, but to interact. To participate. To play. And maybe in the process, get a little closer together. As Caitlin Foley’s and Misha Rabinovich’s project, “Total Jump” — which simply asks people to jump at the same time — asks: “What if a worldwide jump could unite humanity?”

City Wide Open Studios begins with a large open reception at Artspace (50 Orange St.) on Oct. 7, 5-80 p.m. Westville Weekend, in which the neighborhood’s artists open their doors, runs Oct. 8 and 9. Armory Weekend — in which artists from across the state take over the Goffe Street Armory (290 Goffe St.), which will also house commissioned pieces focused on the theme of Game On! and other site-specific installations — runs Oct. 15 and 16. Private Studio weekend is Oct. 22 and 23; Artspace will be organizing bike tours for those interested. Erector Square Weekend — in which artists in that studio complex (315 Peck St.) open their doors — is Oct. 29 and 30. All events are free and open to all. Visit Artspace’s website for more information.

Those interested in donating to City Wide Open Studios may do so through Artspace, or may attend one of its fundraising House Salons, in which patrons can visit art collectors in the area who will “open their homes and share their passion for art.” City Wide Open Studios also welcomes volunteers who can help with reception, installation, and social media. Contact Artspace for more information.


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posted by: Bill Saunders on September 25, 2016  11:10am

When some artists are commissioned and other artists need to pay to participate it kills both the notion of ‘open’ and ‘community’.
In order for events like this to be truly egalitarian, everybody needs to be treated the same, even the gallery volunteers who will be participating ‘artists’ in a few short weeks.

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 25, 2016  1:26pm

The removal of the photograph of the ArtSpace Volunteers is an interesting tell…....

This action by NHI deserves a proper elucidation regarding this event.

There are three levels of particpation here:

1) Pay to Enter
2) Volunteer as an Entry Fee
3) Get Paid through Commission

The way this event is set up,  the commissioned artists get the most direct helpful press for their CV’s, while that ‘opportunity’ is directly on the back of everybody else that entered with an earnest spirit to show their work. 

Artists generally are welcome of opportunities to show their work, so they often miss or are unconcerned about the bigger picture about how they might be being ‘used’ for purposes of ‘grant money’ and other financial resources.

This is a real example of an ‘art trick’ hiding in plain site.