Alumni in the Arts: Etana Solomon ‘14
Amalia Tuchmann ’23 and Anvi Pathak ’26
In January, The New York Times named New Haven as one of the top 52 places to visit in 2023, noting that, among other attributes, it is a “treasure trove of contemporary art.” Hopkins alumna Etana Solomon ’14 contributes to the rich New Haven art scene as a member of the Board of Directors at the Ely Center of Contemporary Art, or ECOCA. The center, which is located at 51 Trumbull Street, is a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting contemporary art exhibitions that are inclusive, diverse, and promote dialogue around global and community issues.
From her Hopkins days, Solomon fondly remembers taking woodworking and fine arts classes: “I think they were all really helpful in getting my head out of school and homework, I found them really refreshing. I still pursue my own artistic hobbies, making collages and doing pottery, and I think it’s a really nice method of self-care.” She is drawn to art because “it is a way to create dialogue without the same polarization that comes out of other mediums. Art is a way for people to express their thoughts and opinions and have them be received in a way that is thoughtful and progressive rather than accusatory.”
After Solomon graduated from Hopkins, she attended college in Washington D.C. and then moved back to New Haven during the pandemic. “Being back here as an adult was really different,” she said, “and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and how I wanted to use my skills to help my community. ECOCA has a really deep appreciation for the arts and is focused on bringing art to the New Haven community, which I was drawn to.” She also looks at art as “a way to bridge communities and create joy in the world.” Solomon finds the New Haven art scene to be underrated, mentioning organizations like Erector Square, Artspace, and NXTHVN that inspire her. “I think we’re really creating a culture here where creatives and changemakers can make a huge impact,” she said.
ECOCA is situated in the historic John Slade Ely House, which was built in 1901. After John Slade Ely died, his wife, Grace Taylor Ely, donated the building to community use. “She wanted it to be an open space that everyone could use,” Solomon said. It was passed on to the Friends of John Slade Ely House, and ECOCA was established in 1961. “We actually purchased the John Slade Ely House this past year which helps the organization move forward and really make it our own, so it’s a super exciting time,” Solomon said. She detailed the center’s mission as an institution: “You’re looking at a building that has so much history, but that wasn’t always that inclusive because of the neighborhood that it is in, so now as ECOCA, we’re really trying to make art accessible for the community.” The Ely Center is working towards that mission through different events, partnerships, and programming, as well as open calls for artists, through which anyone can apply to be featured in an exhibition.
One of those partnerships is with Yale-China, with whom ECOCA is collaborating for its most recent exhibit. “We will be hosting an exhibition that will open after the Lunar New Year Festival on January 22 and will run until February 19, called Kit Huang: Forever 17,” said Solomon. Huang is a videographer from Hong Kong and the artist in residence with Yale-China. The exhibit will center on a film he directed and produced.
“Anyone who’s interested in interning or volunteering at the Ely Center can reach out to me directly,” said Solomon, noting that Hopkins students can email her at email@example.com, and those who would like to donate to support community art programming can do so at https://elycenter.org/donate.