Five Points – Judith McElhone: Baby steps quickly

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Judith McElhone, Founder – Executive Director Five Points Arts

In 2012, Five Points Gallery, a small 744 square foot contemporary art 501c3 non-profit exhibition space, opened in the heart of historic downtown Torrington. Against all odds, Five Points Gallery, has become Five Points Arts, one of Connecticut’s outstanding visual arts organizations and a cornerstone of Torrington’s transition from an old industrial town into a major arts destination. Judith McElhone, the executive director of Five Points Arts, sheds some light on the vision behind her organization.

Tell me a bit more about your role in Five Points and your plans for the art residency.

I became involved in 2012 when I was asked to consult with Torrington’s Arts and Culture Commission on the temporary summer exhibition space. At the end of that summer, there was an opportunity to continue exhibiting challenging contemporary art, and from there it has continued to grow thanks to community support and an amazing group of hardworking committed individuals. My motto – Baby steps quickly.

In just 10 years, Five Points Gallery, now a beautifully renovated 3800 square foot exhibition space, has showcased the work of over 800 professional artists from 37 states and 12 countries.

In 2017, Five Points Arts grew to include the Launchpad, an initiative, which allows recent art school graduates affordable shared studios above Five Points Gallery and The Annex, a first come first served community pop-up gallery.

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Ann Temkin, Curator of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA, Lecturing at Five Points Gallery. 2013

On July 1, 2020 Five Points Arts purchased the former University of Connecticut Regional Campus on University Drive in Torrington, while still maintaining its firm commitment to its downtown presence. Located just 4 miles from Five Points Gallery and two hours from both New York and Boston, the 30,000 – square foot building and 90-acre campus is currently transitioning into a vibrant art center focused on creative practices that extend the understanding of the visual arts as a vehicle for positive community, cultural and economic change.

The Art Residency program is an essential component of Five Points Arts’ commitment to provide inquiry into the relationship among art, technology, ecology and societal change. Artists in residence have access to fully equipped “laboratories” designed to hone cross disciplinary skills. The residency also offers opportunities to build new networks between artists, business leaders, community members and government agencies.

The first Mini Residency, The Water Women, corresponded perfectly with one of Five Points Arts major interests; climate change and the ecology. As the residency program grows, we plan to expand the initiative to include international artists focused on this issue and other areas crucial to our understanding of one another and the world we live in.

As the founder of Five Points Arts, I envision it as a place open to calculated risk taking; a place where art yet to be imagined will be created and exhibited. Five Points Arts mission: “to champion and nurture artists at all stages of their careers, and to empower a diverse community through the presentation of inspiring exhibitions and educational initiatives”

Water Women Artist Residency: Susan Hoffman Fishman, Leslie Sobel, Krisanne Baker & Joan Sullivan, Courtesy of Five Points Arts, 2022

Judith McElhone holds an AS degree from Northwestern Connecticut Community College and a BFA and MFA from the Hartford Art School. She is an exhibiting professional artist and a Connecticut Visual Arts Fellow recipient. McElhone taught at the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford and was an adjunct instructor of art at Northwestern Connecticut Community College for over 20 years. McElhone was honored as NCCC Alumna in 2003. She also received the University of Hartford Alumni Association’s 2014 Anchor Award, which recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves by achieving the highest level of professional and community accomplishments. Mrs. McElhone has also been named one of the 50 Most Influential People in Litchfield County by Litchfield Magazine.