Saturday, August 18, 2012

As a newspaper building, the Register is going to make a heck of an exhibit hall for Artspace's alternative weekend

By Ed Stannard, Community Engagement Editor

NEW HAVEN — As the New Haven Register looks forward to selling our 42-year-old plant and moving downtown, the old newspaper plant and shirt factory is going to be host for one last extravaganza.

Artspace’s annual Alternative Space Weekend, part of the City-Wide Open Studios Festival, will be staged in the Register’s Long Wharf building Oct. 20-21. More than 100 artists will bring their work — and create new works inspired by the space — to our press room and other areas where we once printed, folded and bundled the paper for delivery.

“We’re going to be inviting artists to exhibit and create work in the factory parts of the building,” said Helen Kauder, executive director of Artspace New Haven. The artists will use “six or seven of the spaces that were used for printing and to put together the paper.”

That will include the press room, which has a high ceiling and walking areas on two levels. Artspace will install “innovative hanging systems that will be set up so that artists can hang their work,” Kauder said.

While we stopped printing the paper in our Long Wharf Drive plant earlier this year (it’s now printed by the Hartford Courant), the news, advertising, circulation and business operations are still there as we await a buyer. Recently, the city rezoned the area to allow for a retail business.

An empty hallway lined with lockers at the New Haven Register will become an exhibit space Oct. 20-21. (VM Williams/Register)
When artists look at a space, they see something different from what others might. So, for example, a hallway with a row of lockers becomes an exhibit space; box trucks used to deliver newspapers become traveling studios.

“We’ve had a longstanding interest in thinking about mobile studios,” Kauder said, seeing “the opportunity with those lovely silver trucks.”

City-Wide Open Studios is celebrating its 15th year this year, and Kauder said a theme of this year’s exhibit will be the traditional 15th wedding anniversary gift of crystal, which Kauder said fits with the newspaper’s ideals of “transparency, clarity.”

The Alternative Space weekend has used several industrial buildings in the New Haven area, including the Pirelli building (in front of Ikea) and the Smoothie corset factory (now residences).

City-Wide Open Studios Alternative Space exhibit was held in the Smoothie building in 2000. (Mara Lavitt/ Register)
The Register building at 40 Sargent Drive was built in 1970 by Gant Shirtmakers on land that was reclaimed from New Haven Harbor. It was described by the late Elizabeth Mills Brown in her book “New Haven: A Guide to Architecture and Urban Design” as “landscaped, well-groomed and of inexpensive construction — the model modern, suburban factory.”

But the Gant factory closed just nine years later and the Register (as well as the former New Haven Journal-Courier) moved there from its longtime location at Orange and Audubon streets in 1981.

It was perfect for the Register at the time, because the publishers had planned to buy new presses and build an addition to house them that would have made Audubon Street a dead end. That plan angered the neighbors.

The Sargent Drive plant fit the newspaper well: executive offices in the front, the high rear section for the presses and the vast middle for the rest. The only drawback was its location by Interstate 95: good for visibility, not so good for visitors. Over time, though, the 200,000-square-foot plant has become far too large for the Register. Once it’s sold, the paper will move to a new location back downtown.

Before that, however, the arts community will bring the empty spaces to life for a weekend.

“This organization is such an important part of the arts community and we’re excited to be part of it this year,” said Connecticut Group Editor Matt DeRienzo. As the Register plans for its 200th anniversary celebration later this year, DeRienzo said it’s a great opportunity “to show off the space that has birthed so many editions of our newspaper over the past 30 years.”

If you're interested in exhibiting during City-Wide Open Studios' Alternative Space weekend, contact C.J. Randall at


Anonymous Anonymous said...

move the editorial offices downtown, perhaps on the Green. Get the reporteres out there walking around, walking over to the PD, FD and City Hall...getting on buses, getting the pulse of the city.

The Register could start an innovative trend and bring back the glory days of journalism

August 18, 2012 at 3:57 PM 
Anonymous Paul Bass said...

What a great idea! Looking forward to stopping by and seeing what the artists cook up.

August 20, 2012 at 8:16 AM 

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