Whitney-Audubon Retail & Arts District History

The history of our district can be traced back well beyond the completion of the Audubon Arts Center in 1994, it is primarily through the organizations that occupy the space that the thriving arts community came to be.

The Arts Council of Greater New Haven was founded in 1964 to support the New Haven Symphony’s and the Neighborhood Music School’s need of rehearsing and performing space. Working in partnership with the City of New Haven, the Arts Council took the lead in the development of the Audubon Street Arts Center, a mixed use district of arts organizations, arts schools, performance and exhibition spaces where people live, work and shop.

In 1986 the Council purchased several parcels of land on the street between Whitney Avenue and Orange Street and leased them to a developer who built Audubon Court, the complex occupied by apartments, retail, office building, and parking garage. The 99 year land lease generates a steady annual income for the Arts Council. At the same time, the Arts Council began construction of a 28,000 square foot building, across the street from Audubon Court and formed a condominium association in ownership with the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and, at the time, Artspace, but now owned by ACES Educational Center for the Arts. The Arts Council occupies the second floor office and WNPR Public Radio rents studio space.

In 1996, the Arts Council commissioned Wolf and Associates to conduct a cultural planning study that produced the New Haven Regional Cultural Plan, a collaborative effort that addressed issues such as the growth and development of arts and audiences, advancement of arts education, and economic stabilization of arts organizations. The Arts Council provided administrative support to the Regional Cultural Plan and helped carry out the comprehensive marketing and facilities plan.

In 2002, as a way to position New Haven to become the creative center of Connecticut, the Arts Council launched the Greater New Haven Arts Stabilization Project with major support from area arts leaders. This important endeavor led eight arts and cultural organizations through a rigorous process to learn new management and fiscal skills, helping them increase working capital and invest in infrastructure.

“A community dedicated to the advancement of the arts in New Haven, and beyond!”