The non-profit visual arts organization, Artspace, features mostly local artists in their annual Open Source Arts Festival.
Courtesy of Artspace New Haven
Artspace—a nonprofit visual arts organization in New Haven—enables artists, organizers, and audiences to come together around shared artistic processes and experiments at the 2022 In Common Spaces Open Source Art Festival.
The festival features artists specializing in a variety of practices, from visual art to music, starting on October 21 and ending on October 30. Viewers can enjoy artwork in many places, including Artspace’s open studio sites, neighborhood platforms, and even online. The event acts as an opportunity for artists to directly share their work with the public and network in the process.
“We have artists, people working in new media like video art, we also have people working in painting, sculpture, installation art, fiber art, ceramics — it really goes across the board,” said the director of curatorial affairs. of Artspace Laurel W. McLaughlin.
Artspace events are free and open to the public.
Gabriel Sacco, visual culture producer at Artspace, said the festival is not just about studios, exhibitions and different platforms, but about “combining everything together and creating one big common space across the city”.
Creating common space throughout the city is very important to this iteration of the open source festival, especially after the pandemic, according to Sacco. He says Artspace is “really trying to get it back to pre-pandemic speed,” which means engaging the artist community and patrons by doing things like inviting audiences to artists’ home shows.
Yet Artspace acknowledges that the pandemic is still ongoing. They encourage visitors to wear masks and social distance. For people who may not want to visit artists in person, Artspace has a variety of Zoom events. They are later archived on their website and can be viewed months later.
The pandemic isn’t the only way this year’s festival is different. McLaughlin was appointed director of curatorial affairs in June 2022, but has been working with Artspace as a guest curator since April 2021. When she looked through Artspace’s archives, she recognized problems in their community outreach strategies.
“I realized that many of the neighborhoods that [Artspace has] before that, it was mostly white and mostly wealthy neighborhoods in the city,” McLaughlin said.
This year, she says, Artspace is providing opportunities for BIPOC artists to organize neighborhood platforms.
McLaughlin sought out community leaders who would work with Artspace to launch the neighborhood platforms.
One such leader, Doreen Abubakar, is the founder and executive director of the Community Placemaking Engagement Network. Abubakar oversees the Newhallville Learning Corridor, in the historically black Newhallville neighborhood. This is the site of the exhibition entitled ‘AfroCentric Expressions’.
Before organizing this event, Abubakar visited art organizations in New Haven and asked them if they had a list of black artists. She failed to get one.
But beyond the difficulty of finding black artists in the area, Abubakar praised Artspace for the infrastructure they provided in the Newhallville learning corridor.
“[I]If you are designing something to enable people in certain areas to thrive, then you have to build the infrastructure and then provide activities and events around it,” Abubakar said.
This project will allow her to continue to provide events in the future, each one different from the next.
“We have artists, people working in new media like video art, we also have people working in painting, sculpture, installation art, fiber art, ceramics, it really goes across the board and even musicians,” McLaughlin said.
One such artist interested in non-traditional media is Evelyn Massey. Massey is the owner and curator of @noirvintageandcompany, an online vintage business.
Her installation is titled Vintage Noir Fashion Speaks Through The Eyes Of Black Culture and celebrates clothing worn by people of color from the 1930s to the 1960s. Her installation features (among other things) mannequins dressed in vintage clothing.
This is Massey’s first year participating in Open Source, but he already has a positive experience.
“The interaction is great, everyone is so kind,” Massey said. “I like how people can go to different places to see all the artists.”
She’s looking to expand her business to a physical store soon, so Open Source is an opportunity for her brand to gain visibility and for her business to gain momentum.
Massey’s installation will take place at Dixwell Q House on Saturday 29 October from 11.30am to 5pm.
The Newhallville Open Source Expo will be held at the Newhallville Learning Corridor on Friday, October 28th from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. More information about the festival is available here.