There’s a part of town that exists to make more you creative. And the best part is that it’s a block from our New Haven apartments. Read on for more about the Audubon Arts District, part of a larger downtown arts-and-shopping area known as the Whitney-Audubon Retail & Arts District. It’s an important part of our neighborhood at The Audubon New Haven.
The words “arts district” may bring to mind theaters, museums, and art galleries, but that’s not what you’ll find here. (Don’t worry—New Haven has all of those things, too. They’re just elsewhere downtown, all walkable from our apartments.) This arts district is more about doing art than viewing it. Think of it as the arts learning district. And there’s a lot to learn.
The arts offerings of Whitney-Audubon are contained almost entirely on Audubon Street, which runs alongside The Audubon New Haven. The first hint that this street is a creative place is the Educational Center for the Arts. This arts high school is in one of New Haven’s most colorful buildings, a former synagogue refitted with candy-colored windows. As a non-high-school student, you likely won’t be visiting this building. But that’s OK. There’s plenty more for people of all ages in Whitney-Audubon.
Picture yourself in an art studio? Go here.
Start with Creative Arts Workshop. This beloved institution is a community arts school. That means classes are open to all—no credits, no grades, just making art for fun. You don’t have to think of yourself as an artist to sign up, though. Beginners are welcome. Advanced artists, however, will appreciate the top-notch studios. And that many of the instructors also teach at area colleges. Best of all: CAW (as it’s known) teaches art that no one can do in their New Haven apartments. Think pottery, weaving, and printmaking. Even if you have a large luxury apartment, you can’t fit a kiln, loom, or printing press in it.
CAW’s best deals for busy people are its workshops. If you don’t have time for a regular class or just want to try something out, these are for you. Spend a weekend or an evening in the studio and go home with a print, piece of pottery, or even a lamp.
Good to know: CAW student and faculty shows include works for sale. These occasional exhibitions supply many New Haven apartments with affordable artwork. CAW’s Celebration of American Crafts, a month-long craft sale, is also a popular source for handmade holiday gifts.
Another fun fact: CAW is home to New Haven’s tiniest art gallery. It’s a display case inside a sign. Check it out as you walk to The Audubon New Haven.
Dreaming of being on stage? Try it near our New Haven apartments.
For the musically inclined, Audubon Street includes Neighborhood Music School. Founded in 1911, it’s where generations of New Haven kids have gone for music lessons. But NMS isn’t only for learning how to sing or play an instrument. And it’s not just for kids. Sure, if you want to take voice or piano lessons as an adult, you can. But adults can also take dance or acting classes. (That’s one of their dance classes above.) If you want to try, say, tap dancing but can’t commit to a weekly class, no problem. NMS offers a “dance card,” a pass that lets you drop in when you can. Already play music? There’s even a class where you can meet up with others and form a rock band. By the way, if you’re wondering about the quality of the classes, know that NMS ensembles have launched many professional musicians.
If performing is not for you, Neighborhood Music School is still a great neighbor. Keep an eye on their calendar for public events. Their Twilight Tuesdays series of courtyard performances is a pleasant way to spend a summer evening. Check out this photo to get a sense of these outdoor concerts. A stone’s throw from The Audubon New Haven, they’re truly in our backyard (and theirs).
If you’d rather watch dance, know that the New Haven Ballet performs at downtown’s Shubert Theater. (It’s a 15-minute walk or a six-minute drive from The Audubon New Haven.) The company’s Nutcracker production is a New Haven holiday tradition.
If it’s happening outside our New Haven apartments, this news source will tell you about it.
An overview of the arts district would not be complete without a mention of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. Its offices share an Audubon Street building with the New Haven Ballet and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, another important New Haven institution. (The building itself, with its colorful banners, is a district landmark.) The Arts Council is less significant for its physical presence in the neighborhood than for what it does to promote the arts around town. (Read about that here.)
For non-artists, the Arts Council’s most useful contribution may be publishing the Arts Paper. This handy guide is not strictly about the arts in the usual sense. Theater, music, dance, and the visual arts all get space, of course. But this news source covers creative pursuits of all sorts: food, businesses, and happenings around town. Pick up a paper copy at Clark’s Restaurant to peruse over pancakes. (Newspapers feel at home here, especially at the old-fashioned lunch counter.) Or read it on the go from your phone. However you get it, it’s essential reading for New Haveners in the know.
Photo: A dance class at Neighborhood Music School, part of the Audubon Arts District. (Credit: Stephanie Anestis/Neighborhood Music School)