Monday, October 26, 2015

Arts on Tap -- Literally -- at Annual Bridgeport Art Trail

Rick Reyes plays the Artists Kick-Off party at Read's ArtSpace_Nov-12. Photo: courtesy of Mike Horyczun
Art's on tap at more than 30 locations during the seventh annual Bridgeport Art Trail (BAT) Nov. 12- 15.

Open studios and galleries provide the nucleus for BAT activities, with workshops, studio sales, gallery tours, performance space concerts, and hands-on learning experiences featured on the schedule. Countless artists, photographers, designers, musicians, dancers, deejays, film makers, actors, and poets take part in a weekend of mostly-free events that celebrate what local inspiration and genius can accomplish. Online information is available at: . To view a downloadable BAT brochure, click here.

City Lights Gallery, the lead organization of the Bridgeport Art Trail, is joined by several anchor locations throughout the city – all products of successful gentrification initiatives. These include the American Fabrics Arts Building, hosting its 10th annual “Open Studios” showcase, The Bridgeport Innovation Center, the historic Arcade Mall, Read’s Artspace, 305 Knowlton, and The NEST Arts Factory. Additional participating galleries, studios, and spaces include: B:Hive, Gallery @ 999, PenRod Studios, Bridgeport Creates Gallery, Bert Chernow Gallery, Misencik Photography, Maggie Daly Arts Cooperative, Revisit Bridgeport, The Seasides, Black Rock Galleries, SteP uP Gallery, Pious Bird, Source Coffeehouse and Harborview Market. Several Open House events take place at locations such as the Bridgeport School of the Arts, (Steve Hladun's Jefferson School Loft in the South End), Hall Arts Academy, the Neighborhood Studios of Fairfield County, and Soundview Community Media.

Bridgeport’s recognized institutions are participating in BAT this year, including the University of Bridgeport’s Schelfhaudt Gallery, the Housatonic Museum of Art, the Discovery Museum, the Barnum Museum, and community radio station WPKN. Additionally, Bridgeport’s renowned concert halls and theatres celebrate the weekend with significant performances scheduled for The Klein Memorial Auditorium, marking its 75th anniversary, the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, and The Bijou Theatre. The city’s New England Ballet also presents a free all-day ballet workshop. Activities added to the mix include poetry readings, an all-day BAT bike tour, morning yoga session, vinyl record sale, Moroccan brunch, and Gambian-food evening opening.

Visitors can mingle with artists at a kick-off party on Thursday night at the historic Read's Artspace Ground Floor Gallery with guest combo featuring Rick Reyes of the Cosmic Jibaros. WPKN programmers will keep the party atmosphere going between sets. On exhibit will be the annual "Artists Choose Artists" exhibit produced by the Read's artists community. Once the Read's department store, an anchor store to the twentieth-century downtown, it is now a community-based, redeveloped live/work artist space in downtown Bridgeport. The gallery is utilized by the Read's residents to host exhibitions and related programming and is open on an event/appointment basis.

Another BAT anchor location is the American Fabrics Arts Building (AFA), which presents its 10th Annual Open Studios, showcasing over 25 artists in studios where the creative process happens. 2 Roads Brewery will host a beer tasting at the AFA building where WPKN will present its popular Vintage Vinyl Record Sale. AFA is located in a renovated factory building where linen and lace were once manufactured. The event has become a destination for collectors, interior designers, and art lovers alike. AFA's diverse group of artists are engaged in painting, printmaking, sculpture, quilting, jewelry, photography, ceramics, textiles, design, mixed media, and more.

A sampling of other BAT highlights includes visual art exhibitions ranging from Denyse Schmidt quilts, short videos and still photos from Misencik Photography, supersized drawings by Rick Shaefer, a fashion show Boutique presented by Bridgeport Creates and Fashion Oasis with works from local and regional designers, and a film presentation at the Bijou Theatre hosted by City Lights entitled “Mostly Silent” featuring vintage-to-contemporary film, news reels, and animation commercials, plus a presentation of works by Saturday Night Live’s animation and creative powerhouse J.J. Sedelmaeir.

The fifth annual Bridgeport Art Trail Bike Ride begins at City Lights Gallery at 9 am Saturday, Nov. 14, with a coffee and a bagel, then heads out with Bob Halstead to stops that include Mountain Grove cemetery, the final resting place of PT Barnum and Tom Thumb, plus the historic Majestic and Poli Theatres, and a number of open studio locations.

The Bridgeport Innovation Center (BIC), site of a number of special weekend events, has been providing a nurturing space for artists, entrepreneurs, community organizers, and small to mid-sized companies to grow and flourish since 1989. The building itself possesses a rich history and is a hidden historical gem of Bridgeport's East End. The oldest of the 10 buildings within the complex dates back to 1914 and for the majority of its life it was occupied by the Weed Tire Chain Company. Today, BIC is home to artists, entrepreneurs, business professionals, community organizations, religious organizations, and mid-styled companies in a variety of industries.

The Arcade Mall was one of America's first enclosed shopping malls. The renovated downtown landmark is being reactivated by the artists. Its charm and scale make it a perfect location for social gatherings and events. The NEST Arts Factory is a community of artists and musicians working in a wide variety of media in a re-imagined factory building on the West Side. Open space and a dedicated gallery within the NEST allow both performing and visual artists to share their work with the community. And 305 Knowlton Street Artist Studios is a repurposed factory building located on the Pequannock River providing two floors of working studio spaces. The rustic Armstrong Gallery on the first floor is home to exhibitions and events. There is plenty of parking in a new off-street parking lot. Check for BAT event details at these historic venues and at all BAT locations.

Check out all the offerings at

New this year will be a BAT Shuttle Bus service connecting all artists’ studio space sites. Park downtown and pick up a Shuttle Pass at City Lights, which is partnering with Neighborhood Studios to provide this service. Passes are free, but a $5 donation is suggested.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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