Arts on the Edge Has Kicked Off the Summer Festival Season in New Haven

The 2013 Audubon Arts on the Edge festival (which ended minutes ago, as I write this at 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, June 8) has exactly the same elements as it has had for the last few years:

• an outdoor stage with local theater, dance and music events, most of them driven by student performers from the arts-based schools in the neighborhood.

• displays from local museums and organizations, like the creepy pair of fake lungs demonstrating how bad smoking is for your body.

• half of Audubon between Orange and Whitney is closed off to traffic (detour at Trumbull if you drive), the tarmac covered with fresh chalk drawings.

• Similarly, a side wall of Neighborhood Music School is covered with paper for painted murals.

The big difference between last year’s AotE fest and this year’s was that last year, it looked all day like it might rain any minute. Most of the performances, and all the info booths, went inside to the Educational Center for the Arts. And did it rain? Barely.

Today, the rains had already come, a day-long deluge that ended for good just hours before the fest began. But at noon, there was no doubt: clear skies, hot sun, bright expressions on faces. All was outdoors and all were giddy.

A guy helped kids mold clay pots outside Creative Arts Workshop, with the offer to glaze them and hold them for pick-up later in the week. The pots, that is.

Lady Blaze stiltwalked.

The ECA theater department did a full production, with sets and costumes and screens, of Asian folk tales.

The New Haven Register distributed free copies of its “early Sunday” edition. Actually, the papers were just piled at an unmanned, unmarked table, asking to be taken.

Friends of the New Haven Animal Shelter had free tattoos. So did the Luvena Leslie hair salon.

Elm City Market gave out fresh organic apples as well as chocolate-chip Cliffs Bars.

New Haven Reads, which gives out free books to needy readers, had an all-children’s-books selection.

A young girl picked up a trumpet at Neighbohood Music School’s “Instrument Petting Zoo” and abruptly blew a few bars of “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In.”

It was that kind of afternoon. The first family festival of nearly-summertime. The Arts & Ideas festival is nigh, followed by concerts on the Green and other family delights.

There may be no Ideat Village festival this summer, which makes much of the other festivities seem tame. But I’ve always appreciated Arts on the Edge as a fairly radical affair for kids. They get to dance in the streets and mark up walls. They get to touch gnarly faux-lungs. They get to see high school kids act out (as actors as as masters-of-ceremonies). They get to get lost in an amiable crowd.

Arts on the Edge definitely has an edge. This year, it also glowed smoothly and warmly in the sunlight.