Unexpectedly, the Connecticut city has emerged, both because of and despite its association with Yale, as an affordable and dynamic home for artists of all kinds.
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By Suleman Anaya
On a recent evening in the New Haven, Conn., Dixwell neighborhood, artists, students, academics and locals gathered in a large, state-of-the-art event space for a conversation with the photographer Dawoud Bey, 69, who is known for chronicling unseen facets of the Black experience in America. Using thoughtful, precise words, Bey — who has a rare command of language — described the ways in which a long tradition of Black cultural production informs his work.
As the audience took in Bey’s resonant images of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., and the flight routes of enslaved African Americans in Ohio — among the historic sites the artist has reimagined in his work — the event’s venue was significant in more than one way. The talk was organized by NXTHVN, a fellowship program and arts center co-founded in 2019 by the artist Titus Kaphar, 46. Its heart is made up of two once-derelict low-slung brick buildings — one used to be an ice cream factory, and the other a facility that made laboratory glassware — that the architect (and Yale School of Architecture dean) Deborah Berke has converted into an efficient, luminous compound containing artist studios, production facilities, a gallery, a cafe and a black box theater that’s still under construction.
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