Connecticut's Top 10 Contemporary Art Galleries

Milford, Connecticut
Milford, Connecticut | © Doug Kerr/Flickr
Barbara Speed

Connecticut‘s community of universities, colleges and independent art galleries have helped shape the state’s growing art reputation. Tucked into large and small towns across the state are galleries showing contemporary artists, emerging talent and the best in American art. Culture Trip select the top 10 art venues to visit during your stay in Connecticut.

1. Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Museum, Church, Store

KAWS, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
© Mike SImonds/Flickr
The Aldrich museum in Ridgefield is the only large, dedicated contemporary art museum in the state. Founded in 1964 by Larry Aldrich, the museum is housed in an 18th century converted church and general store, and maintains a white, clapboard appearance (along with a modern glass extension). Rotating exhibitions are on show and recent offerings have included Martin Creed’s Scalesexhibition, which experimented with musical sounds, sculpture, paint and audiovisuals; and a retrospective of drawings made in ballpoint pen since 1950 by a variety of artists. The gallery also hosts talks, lectures and community events, making it an important cultural hub for the small town of Ridgefield.

Thomas J Walsh Art Gallery

Hosting four exhibitions a year, the Thomas J Walsh Gallery is small, but perfectly formed. It is housed in Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts (a centre for art, music, dance, theatre and film) and has dramatic high ceilings stretching to two storeys. Recent exhibitions have included an exhibition of Po Kim’s bright, modern works, and a show by American magical realist painter Colleen Browning. Fairfield, a short drive from New York City, is a picturesque town by the sea – make sure to also visit its historical revolution sites and Ogden House, a preserved 18th century farmhouse.

Thomas J Walsh Art Gallery, 1073 N Benson Rd, Fairfield, CT 06824, United States, +1 203 254 4242

Center for Contemporary Printmaking

This striking stone building in Norwalk’s beautiful Mathews Park is home to exhibitions, studios and frequent workshops on the art of printing. Its Grace Ross Shanley Gallery showcases solo and group shows, as well as international print competitions (including the ‘miniature print’ competition, in which artists must submit a piece of 4” by 4” or less). In a small ‘printmaking cottage’ next door is the current artist-in-residence, a role which print artists take up for anywhere from one week to several years. Visitors can tour the studios, watch artists, take one of the workshops and view the exhibitions – visit for a comprehensive insight into an often-overlooked craft.

Center for Contemporary Printmaking, 299 West Ave, Norwalk, CT, United States, +1 203 899 7999

New Britain Museum of American Art

The New Britain Museum of American Art was the first museum in the country dedicated to displaying only American art. Situated in New Britain, a small manufacturing town, the museum has an encyclopaedic collection which traces the entire development of American art. The museum owns more than 10,000 works by American artists, from colonial portraits through Impressionism and more recent works. Recent exhibitions have included James Prosek’s natural history paintings and sculptures and a collection of multi-sensory installations by Ivan Toth Depeña. The museum’s permanent collection is also very impressive – it includes works by Georgia O’Keefe, Robert Motherwell, Andy Warhol and Willard Metcalf.

New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington St, New Britain, CT, United States, +1 860 229 0257

NBMAA Exterior

2. Contemporary Art Galleries at UConn

University, School, Art Gallery

Part of the University of Connecticut, these galleries focus on forefronting the biggest trends in contemporary art and exploring interdisciplinary crossover. Architecture, design, photography, performance, music, film, video and fine art all rub shoulders within and on its walls, and series of artists talks and art criticism also provide debate and discussion. A recent exhibition featured pieces of marketing, blurring the lines between art and commodity, while another, ‘Uncanny’ consisted of a series of creepy photographs. Exhibitions involve both internationally renowned names and those who work and study in the University’s Art History department, helping put the department on the contemporary art world map.

Housatonic Museum of Art

Part of Housatonic Museum of Art in Bridgeport, this free gallery boast an impressive collection of works, which are on display throughout the campus and in its own galleries. The collection, amassed entirely through donations, includes artworks from the past three centuries as well as ethnographic objects such as helmets, masks and weapons from Africa, Oceania and the Americas. Artists on show include Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Warhol, Klimt, Renoir, Rodin and many more – an amazing collection to be held by a single college. Visiting allows you to view the art but also the college, as you wander its corridors (and even the president’s offices) to view the entire collection.

Housatonic Museum of Art, 900 Lafayette Blvd, Bridgeport, CT, United States, +1 203 332 5052

Courtesy Housatonic Museum

Joseloff Gallery

The Joseloff Gallery is part of Hartford Art School and shows both internationally famous artists and students and staff from the school itself. Gallery monitor jobs are often filled by students and a artist fellowship allows artists to come to the university to teach and exhibit their work. The building is an architectural feat, designed by Tai Soo Kim to have no right angles and with skylights flooding the galleries with light. The Joseloff recently hosted an exhibition of art on the subject of sustainability, with installations exploring ways to improve the environment, and Keith Sonnier’s striking neon sculptures have also been on show here.

Joseloff Gallery, 200 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford, CT, United States, +1 860 768 4090

Real Art Ways

Real Art Ways is an alternative art space near Hartford’s Pope Park. It was founded in 1975 when a collection of artists and museums took up residence in a space in downtown Hartford where they lived, worked and exhibited. Today, the space is housed in a simple one-story converted typewriter factory and hosts events around many disciplines, from visual arts to lectures, films or musical performances. The collective has always focused on the diverse and alternative, and hosted a landmark exhibition of Puerto Rican artists in 2005. They exhibit only living artists, putting their exhibitions on the cutting edge of international contemporary art.

Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor St #1, Hartford, CT 06106, United States, +1 860 232 1006

3. Slater Memorial Museum and Converse Art Gallery

Art Gallery, Building, Museum, Memorial

This hundred-year-old museum and gallery on the campus of a secondary school was founded by William A. Slater to bring the art and culture he saw on visits to France to Norwich. The beautiful Richardsonian Romanesque building, complete with gables and a turret. The museum and gallery display fine and modern art from around the world, including a collection of casts of famous Greek Roman, and Renaissance statues, and acts as an educational resource for the school and a community art space. The Converse art gallery is a smaller adjacent gallery devoted to contemporary art, and hosts six exhibitions a year.

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