A two-office suite on the lower level of a city building officially became an art space. With the ribbon cutting ceremony complete, Sept. 19, at 377 Main St., the venue is now the headquarters for ArtsWestCT — whose mission is to center creative expression by and for the West Haven community. From its new space, the organization can support rotating exhibitions, an Artists Lending Library, and the launch of monthly First Friday celebrations, interspersed with special events.
Sharing the space as a second tenant and ArtsWestCT’s programming partner is Umbrella Impact, a 501(c) (3) youth development organization.
“If you are a creator with a vision, we’ll help you develop and realize it,” said ArtsWestCT President Elinor Slomba as she addressed approximately 30 city and state officials, and supporters assembled by the West Haven & Milford Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Slomba explained some of the features offered with the new headquarters.
“For the Artists Lending Library, we have useful items like a professional PA system, a 10X10 vending tent, a set of wooden easels, and a slide projector for loan to creative people who may need them for an event or a presentation. These things that are not always easy to access but can make a huge difference to their success,” she said. “Along with that, we offer technical assistance with event planning and promotion.”
Slomba admitted the space is limited, but is only the start of what is hoped to be a expansive future.
“These are humble beginnings, but we have a track record of delivering on what we say we’re going to do, like Make Music Day which was a partnership with the Early Childhood Council and enjoyed a great deal of momentum between its first and second year. Now we are partnering with West Haven Senior Center on an exhibition of watercolors at Ora Mason Library. Some of the seniors have been in painting classes for years and never had a show,” she said.
Groups and artists interested in being part of ArtsWestCT’s consortium are encouraged to contact the organization. Umbrella Impact, meanwhile, provides scholarship incentives to children in grades 4-8 from low to moderate-income families and will have a glow-in-the-dark experience tent at Halloween on the Green.
Slomba said an example of groups working together for mutual benefit, youth volunteers from Umbrella Impact will help serve refreshments at ArtsWestCT’s reception for the senior artists Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. at the Ora Mason Library, and the public is invited to attend. Sounds Unlimited will be playing the seniors’ favorite music and will test a live-streaming service for those who can’t attend.
Creative entrepreneurs are arranging for coworking at a desk in the new office space and to deliver small-group workshops in the second room of the suite, which can hold up to 12. Offsite, meetings with cultural stakeholders like Breakwall and the Milford Arts Council are taking place. Plans include ArtsWestCT’s marking of All Nations Day, Oct. 7, from 2-8 p.m. at Music Back Then Performance Theater on Bull Hill Lane, and a panel discussion on Accessibility in the Arts takes place Nov. 14, co-presented with the West Haven Public Library. First Fridays will begin Dec. 1.
Dabar Ratupenu, an ArtsWestCT Board member who is also a member of the First Congregational Church, the SCSU alumni choir and the Indonesian Association of Connecticut, was there to offer his support.
“With West Haven artists invited into more aspects of civic life and taking on leadership roles in the community,” said Ratupenu. “You’ll see more good things happening downtown and around the city.”
James Celestine of ADT Security, also on the Board, agreed.
“A cultural re-awakening is already taking place, but now it can accelerate.”
The Ribbon Cutting included remarks from Simon McDonald of the West Haven & Milford Regional Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Nancy Rossi, and First District council member Bridgette Hoskie. Attendees included several other Council members and Board Members, State Rep. Dorinda Borer, and representatives from Sounds Unlimited, LiveFree100, the Milford Arts Council, the West Haven Family Resource Council, and Bridgeport Library, plus artists and educators.