free Summer Times newspapers passed out at Summer in the City events
free music lessons provided by local musicians on Make Music Day
organizations supported through funding and professional resources
grants given to support arts organizations, events and projects in our region
pop-up performances through Hartford Live! in August and September
As we look forward to a new year, here’s a look back at a few of the things we loved about last year and what we’re excited about in 2020. Be sure to follow us on social media for even more news and updates!
Was there ever a more fun celebration of the arts than The Art Social?
On Thursday, October 17th, 2019, supporters, arts leaders, artists, and community members alike gathered in the comfortably contemporary Atrium at The Goodwin in Downtown Hartford for a one-of-a-kind event. Formally known as Big Red for the Arts, the Arts Council aimed to put a new twist (with a new season) on our annual fundraiser.
In addition to a live auction (hosted by WFSB’s Scot Haney) of unique arts experiences, we invited some of our program partners and grantees to exhibit and perform their work.
New Charter grantee Queen Ann Nzinga Center started off the evening’s programming with a medley of hits that had the crowd going wild.
Arts & Wellness grantee Southington Community Cultural Arts exhibited beautiful scarves, drawings, and paintings done by students in their All Access Art program, which connects adults with intellectual disabilities with their community by providing creative skills training in order to produce meaningful income and enhance their quality of life through the creative process.
Dan Liparini, who has performed for Arts Council programs on several occasions, brought two fellow Hartt School graduates to form a jazz trio to provide a soundtrack for the entire night, and audiences were wowed by a long-form collaboration with The Dance Collective.
Art on the Streets participant Bri Dill was painting the entire night! In addition to abstraction, Bri works with alcohol ink to create an interactive experience using color theory and emotion.
Another new Charter grantee, Spectrum in Motion Dance Theater Ensemble, closed out the night with a special performance.
In addition to supporting the arts in a wonderful space, guests were treated to delicious hors d’oeuvres, small plates, desserts, craft cocktails, and a donut bar by Chef Tyler Anderson and the team at Porron & Piña.
With The Art Social happening in under two months, we wanted to take a moment to highlight just a few of the reasons you should join us for the event (in addition to showing your support for arts and culture in greater Hartford, of course!)!
1. We’re in the center of it all in downtown Hartford at The Goodwin Atrium.
One of Hartford’s architectural highlights now turned into a destination for locals and tourists alike, The Goodwin will be this year’s home to the big event. Guests can also look forward to a one of a kind culinary experience curated by award-winning Chef Tyler Anderson and his team.
2. Celebration of Innovation, Collaboration, and Inspiration.
What exactly are you supporting when you purchase a ticket for The Art Social? Here are just three examples of the arts programming your dollars support:
Arts + Innovation: You may have seen Bri Dill, founder of Art.Lab on Pratt St. work her magic with alcohol ink over the summer for Art on the Streets. On October 17th, you’ll have a chance to take it home!
Arts + Collaboration: Two of our city’s premiere performing arts entities will partner up for a special performance at The Art Social: jazz guitarist extraordinaire Dan Liparini (along with fellow Hartt School of Music and Brookyln-based alumni Alex Tremblay and Eric Hallenbeck); and The Dance Collective, a professional contemporary dance company that centers work by female choreographers.
Arts + Inspiration: Southington Community Cultural Arts (SoCCA) All Access Art program provides adults with intellectual disabilities connection to their community, creative skills training, and meaningful income. Works from SoCCA will be on display and the program teaching artist will be in attendance.
3. Join us in honoring local heroes!
We’re excited to announce the inaugural Arts Inspiration Award, honoring an individual (Jeff Verney) and an organization (United Technologies Corp.) that share our commitment to using the power of the arts to create a stronger community. The recipients demonstrate extraordinary leadership and dedication to supporting the arts and seek to inspire others to join their efforts.
Our biggest fundraiser is back with a new twist, and we’d love for you to see what we’ve done with the place. RSVP by October 3 at LetsGoArts.org/Social
If you walk into the art gallery at Apella Capital, a financial planning firm in Glastonbury, you can see an exhibit that features the works of five local artists. Amid the variety of paintings and pastels, Laura Kinlock’s landscapes and panoramas stand out. Ms. Kinlock, a retiree and resident of Stafford Springs, Conn., is a trained artist whose history with visual arts dates back to her college years. However, she did not have the experience or confidence to exhibit her works in shows or enter competitions until recently, when she began training at Arts Center East.
For Ms. Kinlock, retirement was “life changing.” The Syracuse native had lived her whole life in upstate New York until her move three years ago to Stafford Springs. “It was the sort of event where I stopped working on a Friday and moved that Monday,” she said. The move to Connecticut went smoothly, but once she got to her new home she initially struggled without work to occupy her time. “I floundered,” she said. “I always judged my self worth based on work, and suddenly I didn’t have that anymore.”
Ms. Kinlock, 63, attended the State University of New York
at Oswego, where she double majored in photography and art history, but after
graduating she pursued a career in counseling, including some work for social
services. After moving to Connecticut, she knew she needed a way to fill some
of her newfound free time. She considered a number of volunteer positions, but
did not find a good fit for her schedule or interests. While driving on Route
30 one day, an elephant sculpture on a lawn outside a white building caught her
eye, and she saw a sign for Arts Center East, an organization located in
Vernon, Conn. that provides a space for the enhancement of visual arts in the
community. The center offers classes, sells works by local artists in their
artisan shop, provides gallery and exhibition space, and hosts events and
performances featuring music and theater. “I wasn’t familiar with the concept
of a community arts center,” said Ms. Kinlock, “but I filed that idea away in
the back of my mind.”
She did some research on the Internet before deciding to enroll in a pastel class with instructor Jane Penfield. It was not Ms. Kinlock’s first foray into pastels – she had tried learning the medium before and struggled without a teacher – but it proved her most successful. “Pastel is my first love,” she said, “and I really needed several years of solid instruction to get the hang of it.”
Ms. Kinlock has now been involved with Arts Center East for
three years. After the first year of pastel classes she decided to try a second
medium and enrolled in a watercolor class with instructor Elizabeth Parys. The
following year she stopped taking pastel classes in order to be able to enter
competitions. “At that point I felt good enough to go out on my own and enter
juried shows,” she said, “which you really can’t do when you have a teacher
critiquing your work.” She is still enrolled in the watercolor class, and also
volunteers at the center.
Over the past few years, art has become more than a hobby for Ms. Kinlock. It serves as an outlet, a form of reflection, a means of relaxation, and a fulfillment of a childhood dream. “I was greatly discouraged as a young person for pursuing a career in art. I really think I could’ve,” she said. “I have some sadness that I didn’t listen to myself and I listened to the naysayers – where would I be as an artist if I had forty years of experience behind me? But that’s why it’s so great to get another chance. It’s an affirming experience.”
While she did not pursue an art career out of college, Ms.
Kinlock attributes her compositional ability to her studies at SUNY Oswego.
“Photography taught me to compose,” she said. “And now I work from my own
photos.” Although she is essentially recreating her own work through different
mediums and forms, there have been some challenges that Ms. Kinlock has faced
on her artistic journey at Arts Center East. During one instance, she struggled
to paint a particularly complicated photograph that she had chosen to work from
for its sentimental value. “I was less than a year into my studies at Arts
Center East and I chose a photo, which was my husband and daughter at the Grand
Canyon, with lots of different colors and depths to consider,” Ms. Kinlock
said. “My teacher Jane said, ‘Well that’s very ambitious,’ which you can read
into a lot of different ways,” she added with a laugh.
the help of her instructor, though, Ms. Kinlock was able to complete the piece
and was pleased with the result. “For me, doing that painting was the first
time I felt like I could master the medium and not just be a wannabe,” she
said. Ms. Kinlock mainly focuses on landscapes, but likes to mix
up the type of scene she paints and the type of paper she uses. She also paints
portraits occasionally. She says she tends to “get bored” with artists that
choose the same subject matter again and again.
More than anything, though, Ms. Kinlock appreciates the way that making art forces her to focus on her own creativity and process, instead of worrying about the world around her. “I’ve had some very stressful things happen in my life with my family, and it’s really driving me crazy what’s happening in this country,” she said. “Art gives me solace – I can control it. Being able to disappear for a few hours and create is a lifesaver. It just feels good.” Over the past few years, Ms. Kinlock has sold some artwork through local shows and online, but profiting off of her work is not her priority. “I’m not interested in promoting myself as an artist or becoming commercial,” she said. “I prefer to think of it as my therapy.” She added jokingly, “Besides paying for materials, it would be way more expensive to actually go to therapy!”
Ms. Kinlock emphasized how Arts Center East has helped
improve not only her technique but her mentality as an artist. “In college I
had a tremendous amount of angst and I would tear up my artwork if I didn’t
like it,” she said. She no longer destroys an attempt that doesn’t look the way
she had hoped. “I think fretting over it prevents you from actually doing it.
It’s just a piece of paper. If it’s terrible you can do it over,” she said, “or
you can put it in a show anyway and someone else will find value in it because
they like the way it looks more than you do.”
the help of her instructors at Arts Center East, Ms. Kinlock has shown her work
in a few local exhibits. Last summer, she sold seven works from a show at
Stafford Coffee Co. in Stafford Springs, and her current exhibit in Glastonbury
is on exhibit until the end of the summer. She has sold three pieces so far.
She has also sold a number of works online through her Facebook page.
Kinlock’s time at Arts Center East has made her appreciate the variety of arts
opportunities that Connecticut offers. In her experience, the state has made
more investments in community exposure and engagement with the arts than she
has witnessed in other places she has lived. She urges residents to take
advantage of their local art offerings, and takes care to do so herself. Most
of all, however, she appreciates how Arts Center East has helped her grow as a
person. “It’s really spectacular,” she said. “I feel like I can call myself an
For many Hartford arts organizations, grants and contributions come with a caveat: the money must be used towards an event or specific program. This fiscal model allows nonprofits to produce topic-based programming and donors to see exactly where their dollars are being used. It does come with a downfall, however: organizations’ fundamental expenses largely go overlooked. This is where the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Charter Grant program can be vital.
The Charter Grant program provides unrestricted operating support to arts-based organizations in Greater Hartford, which allows the nonprofits to focus on their programming and events without worrying about operating expenses like rent and utilities. According to the directors of these organizations, charter grants are some of the most important donations that they receive. Executive Director of the Charter Oak Cultural Center Rabbi Donna Berman emphasized this. “Our history with the Arts Council goes back over 20 years, and it is one of the only sources for operating money,” she said. “It’s the bloodstream of our organization. We wouldn’t be able to turn our lights on everyday.”
Grants and Communications Manager at Judy Dworin Performance Project, Jennifer Eifrig, agreed. “Unrestricted Charter Grant funding allows a degree of flexibility in choosing ‘challenging’ topics such as immigration and incarceration and exploring their impact through performance and residency programs, knowing that our operational expenses are covered at least in part,” she said.
With the support of the Charter Grant program, both organizations have been able to provide arts programming and events for Greater Hartford residents for decades. The Arts Council has worked with Charter Oak for more than 20 years and with JDPP for 30 years, dating back to its founding.
In recent years, each organization has provided important services and programming to the Greater Hartford community. At Charter Oak, the largest graduating class of Beat of the Street Center for Creative Learning, a school for those experiencing homelessness, received their diplomas this spring. Graduates of the school are eligible for a full scholarship to Goodwin Community College, and all nine members of the graduating class will be attending in the fall. In addition, over 1,000 students are currently enrolled in the Youth Arts Institute, a program that offers visual and performing arts classes to kids for free.
At JDPP, everyone is busy with projects that mark and celebrate the organization’s 30th anniversary, including a number of ventures aimed to assist community members who have incarcerated friends and family. One such program was Bridging Boundaries™, a series of in-school programs for children with incarcerated parents that culminated in the spring. In addition, the final touches are being added to a resource guide entitled “Helping Hands” for families with loved ones in prison. The guide includes art offerings as well as other services.
An important goal of each of the two organizations is to
emphasize social justice through art, according to the staff members. “We
believe that the arts are not a luxury but a human right,” said Dr. Berman.
“Our biggest impact is letting people witness and experience the arts.” This
mantra is reiterated throughout the organization, and drives their practices.
“Even in our performances we never turn anyone away for lack of ability to
pay,” she said.
Ms. Eifrig said that JDPP holds similar beliefs as central to the organization. “Quite simply, the arts are what make us human,” she said. “In all their forms – dancing, drawing, painting, making music – the arts are about communicating who we are, what our needs and hopes and fears are, and what we aspire to be. One of [our] goals is to raise visibility for the organization as a model for advocating for social justice through the arts.”
“If we are ever going to come together as one human family…it’s going to be through art.”
Through the Charter Grant program, the organizations are able to invest in the programs that further these goals, and that have proven most impactful to the community.
Charter Oak and JDPP each have exciting programming coming up to celebrate summer and to mark the beginning of the school year, and each is hoping for another landmark year. Most of all, though, they want to ensure that the Greater Hartford community has continued and constant exposure to the arts for years to come. “If we are ever going to come together as one human family,” said Ms. Eifrig, “it’s going to be through art.”
“We are here to find that dimension within ourselves that is deeper than thought.” – Eckhart Tolle
Connecticut artist Carol Ganick views artmaking as meditation in action, so it’s no wonder she includes the above quote in her artist statement. Carol paints in various media including watercolor, acrylic, mixed media, and oil. Her work is generally characterized by strong use of gestural brush strokes.
Carol’s natural curiosity and love of discovery enables her to focus on the creative process rather than the final product. She gets restless without change. A common trend amongst artists is they will have not one or two, but many different projects going on at once. Carol believes that discovery is more important than capturing an image, which explains her love of abstraction and experimental processes. “If someone is following some sort of creative direction, whether it be painting, writing…they have to find their own voice,” she comments. “I think in painting, it’s your own approach – your own being in terms of what you respond to, that makes you feel motivated.”
Carol uses this approach not only for her own work, but with her students as well. She always encourages her students at West Hartford Art League to be brave, and to “be careless (or carefree) when putting paint to paper.” She says this mindset allows for more discovery. For Carol, teaching provides the incentive to find different ways to approach a material, subject, or medium. “You learn more from your mistakes than from doing things correctly every time.”
This former human resources professional has found a new love in teaching and creating art, having taught at the Art League after a recommendation from the late artist and educator Paul Zimmerman. In her second career, Carol circles back to the importance of art education. “If you have a good teacher who can inspire, it is priceless.”
Carol Ganick is one of the Arts Council’s 2019 Featured Artists. Each year, the Arts Council picks a work from two local visual artists to create prints that given to supporters of our United Arts Campaign. Click here to learn more, or find how you can receive a copy of Ganick’s Connecticut Marshes below.
Many of Hartford’s key arts organizations have been present in the community for years, maintaining a presence in the region that upholds a commitment to providing exposure to the arts for all residents. Many other organizations, however, are just starting out or reinventing themselves with new innovations and imaginative goals. Fundamental for these institutions is the funding that can make all this possible, which is the concept of the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Ignition Grant program.
The program, one of the Arts Council’s six categories of funding, is designed to support revolutionary new ideas, cutting edge programs and new strategic plans for arts organizations within Hartford County. This open-ended goal allows organizations to be creative and dream big. As a result, Ignition Grants have a variety of uses and impacts that are personalized for each organization.
Sonia Plumb, Founder and Executive Director of Sonia Plumb Dance Company, has received multiple Ignition Grants and emphasizes the outcomes they have yielded. “Two and a half years ago we got a sizeable Ignition Grant to create a website,” she said. “It’s beautiful, it’s well-done, and it’s a real source that people can access.” More recently, the company received an Ignition Grant to expand their apprenticeship program and help secure funding to ensure its success. “I’ve had people as far away as Cuba and China want to come be a part of this program, but we weren’t ready to take that on,” Ms. Plumb said. “Now that we know what the apprenticeship program needs to look like in terms of guidance, teachers, and classes, we have much more of a plan in place to be able to take these students on. We’ve been able to develop our vision and clear goals”
Development and Marketing Director at ActUp Theater Priestley Johnson said that their Ignition Grant has helped the organization grow through planning and support. “We believe meaningful organizational growth begins with the proper planning,” she said. “Our Ignition Grant provides support on the development of a 3-5 year strategic plan, and we’re looking forward to working with an external consultant to help bring together the Board of Directors, ActUp company members, and ActUp team members to discuss the social justice advocacy ActUp will be focusing on, development of the North End Community Arts Center, and capacity development.”
For both organizations, exciting programming designed to further their goals is on tap for the coming months. For Sonia Plumb Dance Company, one such event is a series of small free mini performances and dance classes in Hartford parks later this month. “There will be one at Elizabeth Park, one at Goodwin, maybe one at Bushnell Park,” said Ms. Plumb. “Everyone can bring their kids and take a 45 minute dance class!”
ActUp Theater is celebrating the success of some of their
recent productions while looking forward to the upcoming season. “This past
spring we performed to sold out shows at the Lyceum Center, where we performed
a musical adaptation to Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun with
talkback sessions on relevant social justice topics with noted guest speakers,”
said Ms. Johnson. “We also had four sold out shows at Classical Magnet School’s
black box theater where a dynamic all-minority cast of 65 hit the stage for
Hairspray!” In addition, two new shows will be introduced for winter and
Besides past and future
programming, however, both organizations are passionate about expanding the
arts within Hartford and its neighboring towns. “Hartford is our home,” said
Ms. Johnson. “We are building on a mission to cultivate a creative edge where
imagination thrives in the lives of our community members. It has the ability
to surpass all probabilities, create goals, and fulfill dreams.”
When you look at a painting, what do you see? Are you mesmerized by the colors? Does it evoke a feeling? Do you pay close attention to the technique or the focal point? Is it telling a story?
Karen Israel, one of the Arts Council’s two 2019 Featured Artists*, has all of this on her mind (and more) when she begins a new painting. Even though Israel tends to be inspired by things occurring in nature (landscapes, fish, and flamingoes to name a few), one walk-through of her studio or a glance at her portfolio reveals that her repertoire includes a broad range of subject matter.
Blues Traveler Redux (seen below) was created from
Israel’s imagination but influenced by her visits to Barn Island on the
Connecticut Sound over the summer. “My concept in creating this was to paint
the feeling of fresh air and distance.” In deeper conversation with Israel, you
would learn that basic artistic principles play an important role in her
artistic process. “I often begin each painting with a simple sketch. Throughout
the painting process I consider a harmonious color palette. I pay special
attention to the edges of the clouds and how they sit against the sky and
always strive for creating distance and atmosphere in my landscape. This
painting is one of a series of ‘big
sky’ paintings where the inspiration derives mainly from my memory of a place.”
When creating, she is always considering these essential
questions:“What are the shapes, what are the tones, are the edges soft? Is the
object in motion? Where is the light? I look at negative spaces(spaces between
objects) and ask myself:are they interesting and varied?” Whenever possible,
Israel strives to tell a story through her paintings. “I will ask myself which
elements of the painting are most important to the story?”
Israel was most recently awarded the Gold Medal of Honor from the
Audubon Artists Association and Best in Show from the Pastel Society of the
West Coast. She is an elected member of the Lyme Art Association, New Haven
Paint and Clay Club, Salmagundi Club NYC and the American Artists Professional
League. Her work has been featured in
Practique Des Artes and the Pastel Journal.
She teaches regularly at the West Hartford Art League and the
Farmington Valley Arts Center and gives workshops and instructional demos
throughout the Northeast. Her work has been recognized in both national and an
international competitions, but Israel is careful to note that painting is not
her first career, and that she is constantly learning. “I tell my students…when
you’re learning from me, you’re learning from the 10 people before me that I
have studied under”
* Each year, the Arts Council picks a work from two local visual artists to create prints that given to supporters of our United Arts Campaign. Click here to learn more, or find how you can receive a copy of Israel’s Blues Traveler Redux below.
It’s “crunch time” for West Hartford’s Capital Classics, the professional non-equity theater company that will present its annual Greater Hartford Shakespeare Festival at the University of Saint Joseph this month. The organization’s production, marketing, and sponsorship teams are busy preparing William Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. While the scene at Capital Classics may seem hectic, however, after nearly 30 years of summer Shakespeare the organization certainly knows how to put on a good show.
In 1991, Geoff and Laura Sheehan moved to Connecticut in the hopes of starting a family and contributing to the art community, but they soon noticed a hole in the local theater scene – outdoor summer theater. Originally centered in Bushnell Park, Capital Classics focuses on producing “affordable, accessible, and engaging” classical entertainment, serving the Greater Hartford Community with cultural and educational programming, and providing job opportunities and training to the state’s professional theater artists, according to Mr. Sheehan, who is also the director of The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Since its founding, the organization has presented the Shakespeare
Festival annually, focusing on one of the illustrious playwright’s works each
year. Recently, they have produced Pericles (2018), Love’s Labour’s
Lost (2017), Othello (2016), and Romeo and Juliet (2015).
This year, The Merry Wives of Windsor will play July 11-28
and will feature various Greater Hartford arts organizations as part of their
pre-show entertainment. Some of these include local student groups in the Youth
in Community Art series (Thursday), singing by the Elizabethan Consort
(Friday), performances by Ballet Hartford (Saturday), and lectures by local
professors and authors (Sunday).
One of Capital Classics’ most important goals is diversity.
According to the organization’s website, multicultural casting is of primary
importance, as it “brings greater truth and dimension to a production and
accurately reflects the reality of the community.” Mr. Sheehan reiterates the
importance of diversity, saying that a rewarding result of the festival has
been seeing the audience expand to include people of all races, ages, and
genders. “We believe the arts are important as a way to connect our inner, individual
humanity to the larger collection of humanity and our common experiences living
together on this planet,” he said. “Art, especially theater, brings us together
in a group for the very purpose of a shared lived experience.”
As the calendar gets closer to the start of the event, everyone at Capital Classics is focused on preparing the best possible show for the audience, which is expected to surpass 2000 attendees. While volunteers have been working out logistics to ensure a smooth event, the artistic team is busy building sets, sewing costumes, composing original music, and choreographing imaginative dances. The excitement for the festival is strong, according to Mr. Sheehan. “We love what we do,” he said. “It’s a joy to see audiences of all ages enjoying Shakespeare every summer.”
Besides the festival, Capital Classics works on a few additional projects throughout the year. In the fall, they will present their annual Halloween radio-theater performances of a work of classic literature at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, and over the course of the year they host monthly Shakespeare book club talks at the Noah Webster Public Library in West Hartford.
While some may consider the study or presentation of Shakespeare to be tired or overdone, Mr. Sheehan disagrees. “We find that performing Shakespeare allows us to connect to humanity throughout time, to see our common experiences well before we lived,” he said, “giving us perspective on our own time, and quite likely that of the future as well.”
Supporting organizations like Capital Classics is part of our mission to improve lives and transform communities through the arts. Your support for the Greater Hartford Arts council helps us make it possible.
This spring, a “triple crown” of art exhibitions took place across the state displaying works by Connecticut artists of all backgrounds. Their uniting quality? Each artist is a current or former inmate in the state correctional facility system who is participating in Prison Arts, a program run by Community Partners in Action that offers art education to incarcerated individuals.
Community Partners in Action, founded in 1875 with Mark Twain sitting on its first Board of Directors, is an organization that focuses on behavioral change for inmates and advocacy for criminal justice reform. Offering services based around employment, basic needs, and reentry for inmates, CPA works with the goals of reducing recidivism, enhancing public safety, and informing policy. Prison Arts, in its 41st year of operation, is CPA’s longest running program and has been an important fixture in Hartford’s art scene. The program runs classes and projects for inmates and makes a practice of purchasing a handful of exceptional pieces each year in order to build a permanent collection.
So far in 2019, Prison Arts has presented three shows around Connecticut. The first, entitled How Art Changed the Prison, ran from January to May at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield. CPA’s largest museum exhibition ever, the exhibit featured the work of 35 artists that have been involved with Prison Arts over the last 28 years. The artwork was accompanied by extensive text panels and a small book to allow viewers to engage with the artwork and examine how the artists have grown as creators over the course of multiple decades.
In March and April, the Hartford Public Library displayed an exhibit called 40 Years of the CPA Prison Arts Program, which featured the largest number of works from the program’s permanent collection ever shown in one place. Alumni artists traveled from all over the country to attend the show and fundraising event.
Lastly, the 2019 Annual Show at Capital Community College
was on exhibit through June. The show contained over 750 pieces from 127 inmates and several former prisoners, and included drawing, painting, and sculpture. Program Manager Jeffrey Greene described the show as “massive, diverse, and incredible.”
“Art provokes and engenders empathy and a wider perspective – two things we need most”
Greene says he cannot emphasize enough the positive effect that Prison Arts has had in Connecticut. For the artists, Greene said that the program gives their incarceration more meaning. “Instead of prison being a barren ‘time out,’ it has become a vibrant, contemplative, and revelatory continuation of their lives,” he said, “and a powerful ‘workplace’ to prepare for the future while living an important life in the present.”
Meanwhile, for the outside community, Prison Arts has helped to promote awareness about those living in prison and the complexity of their community. “The program has served to dispel stereotypes about who lives in prison, why people make art, and the complex nature of art making,” Greene said. Greene also mentioned benefits for prison staff and families of the incarcerated, citing safer workplaces and stronger connections between individuals despite physical separation as key outcomes of the program.
The future of Prison Arts
looks promising. The show at the Aldrich brought new attention to the program,
according to Greene, and is expected to result in new investors, collaborators,
and opportunities. In the next year, a focus will be to establish new workshops
in underserved prisons. “The [current] project just begins to address the need
within prisons,” Greene said. “Waiting lists and requests from prison staff
just keep piling up!”
Ideally, Greene added, it would
be possible to expand the involvement of the public and the State of Connecticut
in order to put on the largest annual art exhibit of any kind in the United
States. “What if thousands of prisoners, former prisoners, as well as
prisoners’ families, prison staff, victims of crime, and victims’ families were
all part of a massive community event that underscored the value of everyone
involved?” he asked. “That would be something we could all take great pride in,
and it is certainly something to work towards.”
On the shorter term, the program will present its annual alumni
show at the Russell Library in Middletown in the fall, which highlights an
ongoing rotation of artwork from the permanent collection housed at Hartford’s
Community Court. Also in the fall, a large exhibition of pieces from the
collection will be shown at Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford.
Greene, who describes his experiences with Prison Arts as “incredible,” said that the overall importance of the program is “huge, no hyperbole needed,” due to the people involved and their environments. “Artists, artwork, and art-making compel people to consider themselves, those around them, the direction of their own lives and…the world as a whole,” he said. “Art provokes and engenders empathy and a wider perspective – two things we need most!”
Supporting initiatives like Prison Arts is part of our mission to improve lives and transform communities through the arts. Your support for the Greater Hartford Arts council helps us make it possible.