First a shirt factory, then a newspaper, now a newspaper and an art gallery, at least for the weekend. Photo: Thomas MacMillan/New Haven Independent.
City-Wide Open Studios is New Haven’s annual (15th) autumnal art cornucopia, where dozens of artists throw open their doors, literally and figuratively, to thousands of visitors over three weekends in October.
And for the first time in nine years, the prodigal daughter, returned from California, was able to partake in CWOS — the L.A.M.P. Festival, whose pretty lights lured the moths of the art world to downtown the first Friday night of the month; and some of last weekend’s gems at one of the festival’s anchor sites, the studios at Erector Square. (Let’s just say you sometimes appreciate things more when you move away, then return …)
But I’m taking a pass on this final weekend (Oct. 20-21), the traditional Alternate Space portion of their program. No way in hell am I going. (Apologies to Colin Burke, who did his damndest to try to get me to see his camera obscura, which will be in an old delivery truck in the parking lot.) Too painful for me.
This year’s alternate space happens to be the New Haven Register building. The artists have pitched their figurative tents and canvas and other media where — until March, when the Journal Register Company contracted its printing and distribution to The Hartford Courant — the printing press and the mailroom were situated and people were gainfully employed.
It’s the place where I crammed at least 25 years’ worth of work into 11 1/2 years, producing the Weekend section and interviewing hundreds of legendary and not-so-legendary performers as the entertainment editor/music writer. (It was two and a half full-time jobs in one 55-to-60-hour week for one wretched paycheck.) It’s a place where I worked my ass off, a place where I did a damn good job for too long despite a lot of obstacles, a place that almost killed me, literally. (In this case, a brutal case of sleep apnea that started percolating in New Haven and exploded three years after I moved to California.)
And now, it’s being used as an alternate art space for CWOS. That’s usually reserved for buildings where the business is dead and gone — say, the Smoothie Building, in between its days as an undergarment factory and an overpriced apartment building; or the Armstrong Building, the striking, stilted, early-’60s structure along Long Wharf, after its days as headquarters for Armstrong and Pirelli Tires and before becoming a vacant ornament at the entrance to the Ikea parking lot.
In this case, though, the carcass’ heart is still beating, if ever faintly. As someone who gave her all to newspapers for three decades — and most especially in that place — I don’t know whether this weekend saddens me or just plain pisses me off.