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Art Exhibit Draws Inspiration From Talking Heads Song

As a first-time curator, Stephen Grant “kind of did it maybe,” in his words, “backwards.” Rather than base his debut show on specific artists and media, Grant started with a concept, a theme.

Having read David Byrne’s part-memoir, part-textbook, How Music Works, Grant was inspired by Byrne’s own seemingly endless desire to be inspired. “I wanted to create a show that embodied that attitude,” Grant said, so he based it on and named it for a classic song from Byrne’s Talking Heads days, “Once in a Lifetime.”

"In the beginning," Grant said, "I thought the show would be focused on mixed media and collage, so that’s kind of where it started." But Byrne’s music and other creative work draws from a wide range of eclectic and unorthodox sources. "He didn’t limit himself to whatever art he exposed himself to," Grant said, "so I figured that if I was really going to be capturing that attitude, I should do that with everything in the show."

Rather than stick to his original vision, Grant broadened the scope of the exhibit to include not only mixed media and collage, but watercolor, photography, and abstract art. “It’s kind of become a collage in itself,” Grant said. “So I guess I never really lost that original idea.”

The show is being held at the Sumner McKnight Crosby, Jr. Gallery at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, where the space doubles as an office. It features 28 pieces by seven emerging New Haven-area artists, and is not only a debut for Grant, whose day job is communications manager for the Arts Council, but the first gallery showing for some of the artists, too. Their work then fits into the “Once in a Lifetime” theme by virtue of its first-in-a-lifetime status.

Some of the artists used the song as a direct jumping-off point, naming their pieces after lines from the song, or interpreting sections of the lyrics. “It’s funny to see an artist’s vision of what those words meant,” Grant said. “I think for me it does mean living in the moment and taking every day as a once-in-a-lifetime experience—because that’s what it is. And just going with the flow and not thinking about going with the flow. Just letting it naturally flow like water.”

Once in a Lifetime runs through March 21 at the Arts Council gallery at 70 Audubon Street in New Haven. For more details, visit 1ifetime.wordpress.com.