BACA Opens A Satellite In Downtown New Haven

Lucy Gellman | December 13th, 2023

BACA Opens A Satellite In Downtown New Haven

Branford  |  Downtown  |  Economic Development  |  Arts & Culture  |  Visual Arts  |  Branford Arts & Cultural Alliance

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Top: Artists Regina Thomas, Oi Fortin, Gray Jacobik, and Linda McCarthy. Bottom: Some of Thomas' work. 

The birds appear across the collage, ready to take flight. At the top, one is bathed in a sea of yolky yellow, a red arc cutting over its head in a near halo. Along the middle register, a bluebird looks out to the left, as if it is scoping out the long hallway beyond the frame. Closer to the bottom, a tiny blackbird stands on a branch, so small the shape takes a moment to register. Around them, shapes multiply, one's eyes unable to stay still. 

Regina Thomas' large-scale, vibrant collage helps set the tone at BACA West, a new art gallery from the Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance (BACA) and Beachwold Residential at the 360 State Street apartments in downtown New Haven. Tuesday morning, artists, arts leaders, and city and town officials from both Branford and New Haven gathered at the building to cut a ribbon on the gallery, celebrating its official launch. It opened quietly with an installation from six Connecticut artists last month.  

The gallery is currently showcasing the art of Gray Jacobik, Linda McCarthy, Oi Fortin, Regina Thomas, Scott Camphausen and Rosanna Mitchell. Dan DeStefano, senior vice president of Beachwold Residential, said that 360 State plans to rotate the art every three months, to give it the authentic feel of a gallery and give more artists the chance to show their work. All of the work on display is for sale. The satellite joins BACA’s shoreline location, in the shell of a former Denali at 1004 Main St. in Branford.    

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Cutting the ribbon on the gallery. "This is only the first step in the potential for us to grow this further," said BACA President Frank Carrano, pictured at center with Dan DeStefano. 

"This is only the first step in the potential for us to grow this further," said BACA President Frank Carrano, thanking DeStefano for his willingness to open up the space to independent artists for free. "This would not have happened had we had to come in here and rent the space, put up a lot of money up front. It opens limitless opportunities for others to look at this as a model."

Artists "represent the cultural community that is looking for opportunities to share their art, to show their art, and to learn from each other about how to make art," he added. "One of the things I think the gallery has the potential to do is to bring artists together and share, create and learn from each other." 

Tuesday, several speakers heralded the gallery as a model for public-private partnership, particularly as other mixed-use and residential developments spring up across New Haven and the region. Looking around at artists and tenants who had gathered in the lobby, both Cultural Affairs Director Adriane Jefferson and Mayor Justin Elicker called it a win for both the city's creatives, who do not always have access to free or affordable exhibition space, and for downtown New Haven.

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Pointing to recent data from Americans for the Arts, Elicker added that arts and culture are helping drive the state's economy, from small, independent satellite galleries like BACA West to larger venues in the city and the state. Lindy Lee Gold, a senior development specialist with the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (CT DECD), noted that such a resource can be especially beneficial to artists, who are their own small businesses. 

"The reality is that, historically, there are certain groups that have had a lot of access to resources and networks that helped them start their businesses and their businesses thrive," Elicker said. "So I find it really exciting that this space, embedded in New Haven, is an opportunity for New Haven artists to get exposure and to grow their businesses."

"Everyone has the right to participate in the arts," Jefferson added. "Everyone has the right to make art, and to make money for their art. And so every time we have an opportunity like this, to exhibit this beautiful gallery in a space like this that welcomes people ... that's always a win for us here in New Haven."  

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Garrett Sheehan, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, Cultural Affairs Director Adriane Jefferson, and Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove. 

That message resonated for both Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove and several of the artists present, who hail from Deep River, Branford, and New Haven and had come out Tuesday to celebrate both the space and each other. Calling the gallery a testament to New Haven’s draw and diversity, Cosgrove suggested that similar collaborations could help create a stronger New Haven, a stronger Branford, and a stronger state.  

Fortin, a printmaker who lives in New Haven's Westville neighborhood and works out of a studio in Erector Square, said she's grateful for a new space to exhibit her work. As a member of Wábi Gallery, she's been able to show some of her work at KNOWN Coworking downtown, but has found that exhibition opportunities are limited for artists in the area.  

McCarthy, who works in oil and acrylic on canvas, added that she's excited to see how the six exhibiting artists complement each other. Her work, for instance, leans toward abstraction and impressionism, with gentle seascapes that immediately relax a viewer with their wispy clouds and blue skies. Installed alongside Fortin's work, they take on a life of their own, colors marbled and swirling into new configurations.

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Linda McCarthy's work on view at BACA West. 

So too the work of photographer Scott Camphausen, whose close look at life beneath the sea strikes a kind of unexpected chord with Thomas and Mitchell’s celebrations of nature above ground. In one such work from the photographer, a coral-covered rock springs into vibrant color, giving way to the expanse of ocean to its right. Just feet away, a pink-and-white conch shell beside Mitchell’s flowers takes on a life of its own, at once in conversation with the blooms that hang above it, and the enchanting sea life below. 

As he walked past the work, DeStefano said he hopes to create more chances for artists to connect in and beyond the building. He added that he sees BACA West as only a starting point: Beachwold Residential purchased the apartments last November, meaning that he is still working to implement changes.  

"We wanted to open the doors," he said. "This is a venue for local artists to collaborate, to make a living selling their art. It's also a place for the public to come, and we're encouraging that. We're committed to supporting our local artists, who make New Haven, Branford, and the region a more supportive place." 

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Ramon Espada and Brenda Nigretti. 

For some residents, that artistic exchange is already taking place. As they lounged on the chairs in the lobby, Brenda Nigretti and her husband, Ramon Espada, said they are both glad to have the art in the building.

After growing up in New Haven's Hill neighborhood, Nigretti lived for years in West Haven, and then moved into 360 State when she returned to her hometown. The art helps her feel more at home. 

"It's beautiful!" she said.