From his sixth-floor studio in the Colt Building, Richard Hawley may have the best city view in Hartford, with the blue-and-gold onion dome in the foreground. Hawley still lives in New York. However, the Farmington native — a descendant of 19th century Courant owner and Connecticut Gov. Joseph Roswell Hawley — rented the place three years ago when his father's health started to fail.
Hawley's father died last summer. Still, Hawley continues to hang out in Hartford when he wants to work on his photographs, which he took while traveling around the world as a producer for Merchant-Ivory Productions. (His film credits include "The White Countess" and "The Golden Bowl.")
"I take my inspiration from Cartier-Bresson's idea of capturing the perfect moment," Hawley said in an interview. "All of time is a line of dots, and I capture different moments on the line."
Hawley is one of 225 artists participating on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 10 and 11, in Open Studios Hartford, a weekend visual feast all around the city, at which members of the public can see artists' work, wander through their studios and meet the creators.
Among those artists, about 100, like Hawley, are exhibiting for the first time. This weekend, the 23rd annual staging of the event, also is the first Open Studios in 10 years that includes the studios inside the Colt building, which for many years was the hub of Open Studio weekend.
Hawley still shoots on film, shunning digital photography. He says that his inspiration for this is his work as a producer.
"When a movie has too much money, it loses its ingenuity as a method of solving problems," he said. "Digital photography works the same way. When you shoot on film, you're limited in a way, and you need more ingenuity." He also likes the depths of color he can get with film.
Hawley said he waited for many years to go public with his photos. He was intimidated by his older brother, well-known artist Stephen Hawley. But now he is comfortable with his work enough to open his studio to strangers, to show off his "ghost" photos and what he calls "dreamscapes." Some have mysterious names, such as "Incident at the Beach," which he shot in The Hague in 1979.
What was the incident? You'll have to ask Hawley. You'll have the chance during Open Studios, and on Friday, when a solo show of Hawley's work will open at The Tobacco Shop at 89 Pratt St. in Hartford at 6 p.m.
Allegra Brelsford, also a first-timer, will show off 10 or 11 of her quilts in the Colt building. Brelsford, a Vermont native who recently moved to West Hartford from Washington, D.C., has no formal art training, but she is inspired by the terrain of her home state.
"I love Vermont, the landscape, the color ... it's warm, bright, welcoming, embracing," she said. "Vermont formed my sense of color."
So warmth, joy and peace are her themes, even when subject matter is dark, as with her Sept. 11 quilt, which is dominated by warm brown. "Last year was the 10th anniversary, so it felt like a good time to make this," she said. "It's not about tragedy. It's about new building, a new city. I want people who see it to feel joy, hope, a sense of healing and regrowth. There is always possibility."
Rayfield Scott also is exhibiting at Open Studios for the first year. At this time last year, if someone told him that he soon would be pursuing art full-time, he'd have been both excited and dismayed.
"I was let go from an insurance company, due to outsourcing. My last day was Aug. 3," Scott said. "I always enjoyed art. I went to Tyler Art School at Temple University. So I let art call me back."
Scott will exhibit his small-scale lithographs in the Colt building. "I fell in love with printmaking," he said. "I made one and thought, 'This is beautiful. I'm gonna do this forever'."
Whether that comes true or not is in the public's hands. "We'll see how this weekend goes," he said.
Rory Gale is a first-timer, too, with her sisters, Addy and Callie. Addy founded Hartford Prints three years ago, with a city grant, as a place to create prints, teach Hartford teens and boost Hartford visibility by concentrating on work that promotes the city. When the business started going well, Addy lured her sisters from New York to join her. They operate out of a studio on 56 Arbor St.
"We love Open Studios. We want to be a presence in the community," Rory Gale said. "We think of it like eating local and buying locally made crafts. Buy artwork you know was made locally."
The Gales use a lot of vintage presses and old-style print-shop typography cabinets. Rory Gale said she wants visitors to appreciate the handiwork that goes into creating each print. "Everything these days is created digitally," she said. "We want to show something that took some time."
Natasha Miles has exhibited at Open Studios for years. However this year, for the first time, she's bringing along some of her students from Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. The teens will exhibit and do dancing, spoken-word and visual-arts demonstrations at the Studio @ Billings Forge.
Visitors also can see the murals in the restrooms in that venue. The students created them, inspired by the work of Keith Haring. The Firebox restaurant, next door to the studio, will have a jazz brunch on Sunday to complement Miles' and the kids' exhibits.
"In the past I felt that Open Studios lacked youth involvement," Miles said. "We want to show off kids who are rising in their fields. That's what the school's mission is."
Cynthia Bulaong, the organizer of this year's Open Studios, said although she is most excited about the return of Colt Gateway into the Open Studios mix, "all of the venues have something really different and attractive about them."
Among these are the massive complex at 56 Arbor St. — Real Art Ways is in the back of it — its neighbor at 30 Arbor St., the new "Dirt Salon" spot on Bartholomew Avenue and the ArtSpace block across the street from Union Station.
Even the train station will have artists in it. "We wanted to be able to spread the artists around the city," Bulaong said. "Them being there may attract people who are in the city for other reasons to see the art."
OPEN STUDIOS HARTFORD will be Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 11 and 12, at 56 Arbor St. (Arbor Arts Center), 30 Arbor St., 50 Bartholomew Ave. (The Dirt Salon), 563 Broad St., 89 Arch St. (Hartford Bicycle Studio), 75 Charter Oak Ave. and 146 Wyllys St. (both Hartford Square West), 140 Huyshope Ave. (the Colt building), One Union Place (Union Station), 555 Asylum Ave. (ArtSpace), 69 Myrtle St.(Photo Arts), 40 Woodland St. (Hartford Artisans Weaving Center), 120 Holcomb St. (Oak Hill Art Studio), as well as at Hartford Art School, 200 Bloomfield Ave. in West Hartford, and Wethersfield Academy of the Arts, 411 Hartford Ave. in Wethersfield. Parking is free at most locations, and free shuttle buses will be available. Details, including a map and an artist list: http://www.openstudiohartford.com