Westville Village ArtWalk annual community-based arts festival
Opportunities & Challenges
Initiated by Westville resident Thea Buxbaum more than 21 years ago in an effort to strengthen community ties and provide a catalyst for the revitalization of the Westville Village Commercial District, ArtWalk succeeded by bringing thousands of people to Westville each Mother’s Day weekend, and by establishing Westville’s reputation as a community-oriented, family-friendly arts district. Over the years and through the efforts of Westville Village Renaissance Alliance (WVRA), ArtWalk has grown and transformed with the neighborhood, but its essence – a community-led celebration of music, art and artmaking – remains central to its success. In fact, Westville is increasingly seen as an arts center in New Haven, in large thanks to ArtWalk, and the many arts organizations, businesses, and subsequent events it has inspired.
There are many partners for ArtWalk – the City of New Haven, the Village businesses and venues, the sponsors – but ArtWalk’s strength is the dozens of dedicated individuals who make it happen year after year. Last year, WVRA received a grant from the Carolyn Foundation to help underwrite community arts programming, including ArtWalk. The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven provided a small grant, and Webster Bank, Yale New
Haven Hospital, the Yale Office of Community Affairs, Eagle Rock Apartments and Integrated Wellness Group sponsored ArtWalk at various levels. Additionally, New England Brewing and Brew Haven generously donated to the beer garden.
The Westville Village ArtWalk is a free, annual, community-based arts festival that spans three blocks in Historic Westville Village and Edgewood Park, New Haven, every Mother’s Day weekend. The event features a full day of live music, art exhibitions and demonstrations, interactive art-making for kids and adults, theater performances, and a 30+ vendor Artist & Artisan Market. Friday night features curated artist studio tours, gallery openings, and a concert, dance party and beer garden.
ARTWALK 21, which took place May 11 & 12, 2018, featured several ArtWalk ‘firsts’, including live silk screen printing of original t-shirt designs by several Westville Artists, and the 1st Annual Westville Rubber Ducky Race. Great live performances by local (and formerly local) bands JOATA, THABISA, and OLIVE TIGER anchored a schedule that also included live improv comedy, a magic show and live street performers.
Close to 40 arts and crafts vendors participated in indoor and outdoor vendor markets. And WVRA’s Friday Night Street Party was the largest ever.
Outcome & Impact
ArtWalk is a beloved, community-defining event in Westville, and the impact of its founding cannot be overstated. Westville Village Renaissance Alliance (WVRA) itself was an outgrowth of Artwalk, founded and led by the same group of community volunteers. Thea Buxbaum went on to create the ArLoW (Artists Loft West) housing which provides below market rents to artists in 20+ live/work spaces in Westville.
ArtWalk transforms Westville Village each year, inspiring and connecting the community with its unique intergenerational spirit of art-making, community-building and fun. A new generation of artist/entrepreneurs, drawn to the ArtWalk spirit, have built on this foundation, bringing new energy and ideas to Westville. Their impact on ArtWalk can be seen through their contributions – the silk-screening event, the open studios at West River Arts, performers like Thabisa and Olive Tiger, and even our gorgeous video and photo event coverage. New businesses like Lotta Studio, West River Arts, Strange Ways and Neville Wisdom Fashions have accompanied this new artistic energy, and even newer businesses like Vintathromodern Vintage and Elm City Sounds have been inspired by it.
As ArtWalk continues to thrive and grow, Westville Village Renaissance Alliance continues to build on this success, increasing year-round arts-related community programming and strengthening the community as a result. In recent years, WVRA has expanded the October Citywide Open Studios weekend, expanded Holiday events and promotions to include holiday markets, open houses and enhanced Small Business Saturday support. With six new businesses in 2018, Westville Village is enjoying a revitalized, arts-focused shopping district – with new businesses that have chosen Westville because of its artistic, inclusive spirit.