Dan Deutsch

Making the Band: The New Mosaic

A question for former choir kids: Were you ever singled out for being “overactive” in class? It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, to hear that singer-songwriter, bandleader and composer Erica T. Bryan was known to dance throughout her own choir class in grade school. Yet instead of channeling her boundless creative energy into marching band or other creative pursuits at the time, she took it on as a lifelong passion. She promptly said goodbye to her choir days after being called out and took to studying jazz with educators such as Jeff Fuller in high school and Noah Baerman at Wesleyan’s Center for Creative Youth. She found her way into other genres that allowed her to groove while singing, which has become a signature part of her performance.

“Funk and jazz are different conversations in the same room.”

Bryan met bassist Tom Sullivan as they joined Hartford’s own West End Blend – back then, it was a roaming collective of 14 undergraduate musicians at The Hartt School of Music, with Bryan taking the lead vocalist/emcee role in emulation of her idol, Chaka Khan. As the band’s audiences and opportunities got bigger, the group slimmed down to a core of eight with a growing national repertoire of venues. It took a while for the idea of representing Hartford on a national scale to sink in. When conversing with audiences, they would get the reaction “Hartford? Really?” Yes, Hartford, really! The culture shock was mutual. It was on tour that Bryan learned the invaluable lesson of knowing your audience.

After a few years of gigging and touring, Bryan also knew what she’d want as a bandleader; she had been feeling the desire to branch out to create a sound and a vibe that was more her own. In 2018, she recruited hip-hop drummer Dwayne Keith, jazz keyboardist Michael Carabello, and Sullivan (by then a frequent collaborator and significant other) to create The New Mosaic – a culmination of different styles influenced by each other, but creating a bigger picture. As a frontwoman, Bryan had never wanted to be a stereotype – a singer who doesn’t contribute more than their primary talent. She has used her strong background in music theory to maintain equal footing with her bandmates in all of her projects. In this process, her band isn’t simply interpreting Bryan’s lyrics and melodies – it is a true collaboration through and through.

All of her artistic projects are taking things carefully, as her two larger groups continue to maintain and build their audiences virtually. Last year, West End Blend was signed to Colorado-based talent agency Madison House. The New Mosaic has been steadily building a local and regional fan-base with their smaller, yet just-as-full neo-soul sound. Right now though, the groups are trying to make the best of this “weirdly indefinite” time. Even though she’s disappointed about the lack of gigs, Bryan is grateful for the opportunity to breathe, and is focusing on creating and publishing art on her own time.

The New Mosaic (L to R): Tom Sullivan, Erica Bryan, Michael Carabello, Dwayne Keith

(photography: Denis Semenyaka)

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Building Hope from the Ground Up: Local Artist Joins Linked4Life to Break Silence around Mental Health

How do you find hope in challenging times? Alyssa Haley, owner of Born & Bred Studio in Hartford found a way to build it with her own hands.

Haley also constructed this bottlecap sign for Bear’s Smokehouse in New Haven prior to its grand opening.

Earlier this fall, Cheryl Antoncic of Bear’s Restaurant Group worked with the Jordan Porco Foundation to develop Linked 4 Life, a new initiative that aims to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and suicide prevention. Cheryl’s vision was to link together 11,000 carabiners as a public art installation as a symbol that we are all linked together, and it is OK to ask for help. The installation would also set a world record. However, Cheryl was looking for a local artist to put it together; that is where Haley came in.

Some of the best ideas start small, like a napkin drawing – and that is exactly what happened here. Haley knew that the sculpture’s foundation needed to be solid, yet lightweight to help with portability. Seeing as her whole family are crafters and/or tradespeople, she is no stranger to working with metal and other materials left as refuse. After her father connected her to Ironworkers Local 15, she started working with apprentices Sam Cook and Parker Maulucci on a 3D version of her drawing using donated scrap metal, which is a sculpture of “HOPE,” done in the style of Robert Indiana’s “LOVE” sculptures, seen in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Last week, the team finished sanding the 7’ x 7’ x 3’ frame, and had a chance to reflect on the work they had done. Ironworkers, construction workers, and other tradespeople don’t usually get to see much of the finished product, as they work on our infrastructure systems. Yet with a work of art, they marveled at the chance to create something that would make a different kind of impact.

The structure itself differs from its inspiration in a significant way; it is a frame rather than block letters. This symbol of hope is represented by the idea of community coming together around one idea, and that is breaking the silence and stigma surrounding mental health. Haley and the Linked 4 Life team is using art to bring us together, emphasizing that we are all struggling and that everyone’s individual experience is different. While collaboration is something that happens constantly both in front of our eyes and behind the scenes, there is a deeper need this year to come together for a larger purpose. Alyssa and her team were able to transform a napkin drawing into a record-breaking public art installation within a matter of weeks in a project that doesn’t just raise awareness for a cause, but also honors the often overlooked yet crucial work of essential workers.

On Saturday, October 10, Linked 4 Life will celebrate a temporary installation at Yard Goats Stadium before it is permanently placed elsewhere in downtown Hartford, and teams from around the state have been collaborating on selling the branded carabiners which Haley will assemble over the following weeks. Carabiners ($3 each) are being sold at all Bear’s Restaurant Group locations, as well as through online donations, and all proceeds go towards the Jordan Porco Foundation. As of writing, half of clips made have been sold. Visit linkedforlife.org learn more.

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Local Violinist Inspires Hope in Light of Global Pandemic

“Feel the fire in your belly.”

Those of us lucky to have had at least one peer, teacher, or colleague make a profound impact on the rest of our lives know what it’s like to hear that phrase. If you pursued an art form to any degree outside of the classroom, you’ve heard something like this before. Whether it inspired you to keep going or choose another path is a different story. Dr. Gary Capozziello is the epitome of the former.

photography: Ruth Sovronsky

Capozziello, a self-proclaimed “product of the Fairfield public school music programs,” initially gravitated towards the drums. However, like many elementary school music students, he was given an instrument he would end up either reviling or embracing: the violin. He had already started learning the Suzuki method on his own when he started tutelage under Yuval Waldman and Deborah Graser, whom Capozziello calls his “musical mother.” The quote at the top of this article can be attributed to renowned violinist Isaac Stern, who Capozziello had the honor of playing for in a masterclass in high school. Seeing as this time period is pivotal for any teenager, Capozziello had already accrued guitars and amplifiers as a second musical interest, but with his teachers’ influence in his mind and Stern’s words in his heart, he sold them all to pursue violin in New York.

photography: Ruth Sovronsky

His resume is embellished with positions, guest spots, and pedagogy all around the world, but he calls Connecticut his home. He has been in the Northeast for the better part of a decade, but had to leave New York after coming down with a case of COVID-19 in May. Not only did he deal with the disease for at least a month, but he’s also a high risk patient. Now, he feels better than ever after seeing much success with his doctor, who was able to address Capozziello’s symptoms and chronic illness all at once. Although he was reluctant to make his story public at first, he has seen an overwhelming amount of support, in part from the Greater Hartford arts community.

In July, Capozziello started posting short solo violin recital clips in hopes of raising money for fellow musicians affected by COVID-19. At the time of writing this post, he has raised almost $4,000 for an individual artist relief fund with the Arts Council, with the goal of raising $10,000 by the end of the month. In addition to a feature in the Hartford Courant, Capozziello earned a primetime spot on WTNH in an interview with Ann Nyberg, a surefire way to spread the word. Immediately after the clip aired, other musicians started coming out of the woodwork asking him for advice and sharing their stories. He’s been able to lend an ear and share his perspective, an experience he’s found immensely rewarding.

“I love sharing something that brings magic into people’s lives.”

He wants to “use music to do good in a time when we need to look out for each other,” and he’s looking for more ways to spread love, compassion, and kindness through music. Creating the fundraiser inspired a sense of purpose, and he’s been able to give hope to others who are dealing with the disease themselves.

photography: Carol Gimbel

Capozziello’s fundraiser ends October 4th, when he will perform a full-length solo violin recital in culmination of several weeks’ worth of shorter clips. Tune in to his Facebook page or visit his fundraiser page to contribute.

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Keeping It Moving: How Savana Jones Becomes One With the Music

“I embody multiple styles…I move with what’s given to me.”

Take one look at Savana Jones’ resume and you’ll see that she’s done it all – and if you see a gap, she’ll seize any opportunity to take on a new challenge. Having grown up listening to pop, doo-wop and R&B, the leap to ballet and contemporary wasn’t as far as one might think. A young Jones watched in awe as ballerinas close to her age glided across the screen in White Christmas, and asked her mother, “how do I do that?” It wasn’t long before Jones, already a student at the Artists Collective, was dancing with Hartford City Ballet, which exposed her to the world of dance through programs that usually offered lessons in multiple types.

photography: Mike Marques

A pivotal point in Jones’ dancing career was in 2012, when she decided to take on dance professionally. Darlene Brandon hired Jones as the Assistant Choreographer for Mapeach ProductionsThe Wiz, and it was from there that Jones’ dance circle grew exponentially. Over the years, she’s worked with Anne Cubberly of Night Fall, XY Eli Blues Band, Ruth Lewis and Dimensional Dance, and Ballet Theatre Company. While inspired by the classics – Lena Horne, Alvin Ailey, and more – her true inspirations are people she’s been able to share time with. These artists come from multiple disciplines, which highlights her multifaceted background: ballet, ballroom, jazz, hip-hop, samba, Bollywood, and traditional dances from China, Trinidad, Barbados, and Jamaica.

In addition to the never-ending love and encouragement from her mother, Jones’ flexible homecare job has enabled her to pursue all of these different artistic ventures, including featured spots with Ed Fast and Conga Bop at the Iridium in New York City last year. Jones met Fast in a typical fashion for Hartford artists: at a gig. During pre-COVID times, Jones constantly sought out live music. One night after a gig of her own, she walked into La Casona as Conga Bop was finishing their last tune. She serendipitously met Fast through a friend, and the conversation was brief: “You dance?”

photography: Mike Marques

“I’m in love with who I am and excited about where I’m going.”

With the downsizing of live arts events to participate in and attend, Jones has found the time to use dance to its fullest extent. She’s used this newfound time to keep in shape, increase flexibility, work on strength and conditioning, and meditate through movement. When she’s “focused on becoming one with the music, everything else goes away.” She’s adapted to the transition from in-person teaching to virtual lessons, and is actively expanding her business practices to be more flexible to her students’ needs.

Jones’ love of live music isn’t connected solely to her active dance career. Growing up, she loved all kinds of instruments, particularly strings, percussion, and the piano; she’s always wanted to play acoustic guitar. Recently, she’s been wanting to take up the bass guitar. When we’re all able to gather together again to celebrate our local arts scene, take a close look at the rhythm section of the band – you may see a hidden dancer.

photography: Edward LaRose
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A Tale of One City, Through the Voices of HartBeat Ensemble

“Our work has always been about the city and the community.”

Flipside

HartBeat Ensemble Co-Founder and former Artistic Director Julia Rosenblatt has worked in the realm of theatre for social change for years. Before co-founding the Asylum Hill-based company, Rosenblatt had been working with fellow co-founders Steven Raider-Ginsburg and Gregory Tate in the San Francisco Mime Troupe. An opportunity opened up in the late 90’s when their plans to move back to the Hartford area aligned, and they decided to create HartBeat Ensemble together. The plan was to dig deep for about a year to figure out exactly what they wanted to do. Five days after moving back to the area, the world changed on September 11th. They immediately jumped into action and started developing street theatre and devised pieces, which would serve as a preview for work to come. The company’s model was, and still is based in community partnerships. Early ones include Catholic Workers, SEIU 1199, and CT Coalition for Peace and Justice. They were “in residence” at Charter Oak Cultural Center for several years before finding their current home at the Carriage House Theater.

For a company that’s only been around less than 20 years, the tight-knit group has amassed decades’ worth of experience through their collaborators. Fellow theatre artists, playwrights, students, and educators are often seen on stage or in the booth. One of these artists is Cin Martinez, a founding member, actress, playwright, and producer. She remembers her first experience with HartBeat fondly: “[It was] a pleasant experience to have a supportive ensemble, a group that was prepared and happy to help me grow professionally,” Martinez said. “[it] created an environment that I felt seen and heard as an artist of color.”

Martinez, center, in Flipside

“I have purpose here.”

LAUGH the Poet is another example of a company member who started out doing just one thing at HartBeat but is now a multi-faceted theatre artist. Over the past several years, he’s been involved in a variety of capacities: internships, sound design, stage managing, and acting. It was through the company’s Youth Play Institute that he transitioned from participating to facilitating. Through talking to him, it quickly became clear that he’s never said “no” to anything they’ve asked of him, because he lives and breathes HartBeat. “Theater is a home where you can be yourself.” They used to call him “Tigger” because of his boundless energy, and helped him harness uneasiness into focus and productivity. According to Sanchez, being a part of this group of people he always wants to be around has made him calmer, and taught him how to be more efficient and present. As a bilingual facilitator, he’s been able to connect with students in both Spanish and English through theatre, where they otherwise may not have opportunities to connect on personal and cultural levels. Working with HartBeat gives him the opportunity to work with students that share some of the same characteristics he had, where “disruptive’ energy is accepted.

“Things can’t be the same…ever again.”

Jimmy and Lorraine

Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr. has been the company’s Artistic Director for over seven months, but the present and future of HartBeat Ensemble isn’t all that different from what he had imagined they’d be doing. They had planned a season of productions by or about people of color, and now they are pivoting the company to be even more intentional about anti-racism. In reality, for one of Hartford’s few theatre ensembles dedicated to social justice, this isn’t as drastic of a change in content as it will be in format. Instead of staging productions in their 75-seat theater, the company is looking into radio plays and outdoor performances. Simmons and company are asking themselves and their audience, “how do we create the world we want to live in?” through a BIPOC lens. “In theater, which is very white (at least in the USA), it’s time to have a conversation,” Simmons said. “Many of the things we took for granted are going to start crumbling, and will be replaced by a new experiment that will be more inclusive and nimble.”

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Life in Full Circle: Versatile Poetiq’s Journey from the Court to the Mic

Poet. Host. Educator. Actress. Activist. Sports fanatic.

Is there a better word to describe Brittana Tatum than Versatile? She would most certainly say “no,” and here’s why.

In the theater industry, it is common to call people who excel at acting, singing and dancing, “triple threats.” In Tatum’s case, her passions lie within poetry, hosting open mics, and educating. It all started with one fateful open mic at The Russell in downtown Hartford. What started as a Myspace name, “Versatile Poetiq” ended up becoming her stage name and how she’s known in arts scenes around the region. “Poetry has taken me places I never thought it would,” and it all started with spoken word, according to Tatum. “Versatile” doesn’t only describe everything she does; it has a lot to do with her identity as a Queer, Black woman who grew up in the suburbs. After a brief stint a prestigious acting school before she could write complex sentences, she started playing basketball. Tatum eventually got recruited to play basketball at college, but she felt pulled towards her artistic side.

Just two days after her Russell debut, Tatum performed at an open mic hosted at the former Tapas Restaurant in Downtown Hartford. It was there that she met a few other like-minded artists that would soon join her growing circle of influences and inspirations, including TangSauce, Zulynette, and DJ Stealth (aka Assad Jackson). As for hosting, it ended up being something she simply fell into doing, as a result of meeting the right people at the right time.

One of these people is Khaiim Kelly (aka Self-Suffice), who eventually became one of her closest friends and mentors. After subbing for Kelly at an open mic at City Hall, she was asked to host a dance battle at Heaven Skate Park, which quickly became one of her favorite events to host. Stars continued to align for Tatum after Kelly invited her to be a Teaching Assistant for a Civic Engagement class at Charter Oak Cultural Center. For the past decade, she’s been an educator there as well as Arts for Learning CT, a nonprofit organization dedicated to arts integration and engaging kids of all ages and abilities in learning through the arts.

Black Ink walking across the Paper Saluting Success
White out the Black mistakes enslaving his Progress
A Colorless world, a colorless Rainbow, a colorless disaster
So I speak of holding Black White as the Story Happily Ever After

(excerpt from the poem “Black White,” by Versatile Poetiq)

Tatum didn’t just stop at writing and performing, hosting, and educating. This past February, she starred as hustler and gambler Can in “Daisies on Harlem’s Doorstep,” written by Sharece Sellem at the Norwich Arts Center, directed by Rob Esposito and Briana Dawson. More recently, she’s been hosting “The Corner,” a bi-monthly open mic produced with Kamora’s Cultural Corner, Connecticut’s only Black LGBTQI Community Center. Every session includes a community poem, where each participant writes two lines in response to the previous two lines, and that is part of what keeps Tatum excited and inspired about being a community-minded artist.

Yet even artists sometimes have a non-artistic hobby they pursue on the side. For Tatum, that’s sports. “I could probably work at ESPN,” she said. Her love of sports truly runs the gamut – from basketball and football, all the way down to the Little League World Series. Did we mention she’s a foodie as well? There is something truly poetiq about being versatile.

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Lindaluz Carrillo and the Art of Collaboration

If you live in Hartford, or take some time to explore the city, there’s a chance you’ve seen the work of Lindaluz Carrillo.

Carrillo, an urban pop artist who specializes in graphic design, explores alternative typography by incorporating elements of urban lifestyle, pop culture, and hip-hop into messages of self-love, empowerment, and activism. From commissioned murals at Parkville Sounds, Impact Academy and Barbour St to the more ephemeral at Heaven Skatepark, Carrillo’s work stands out among the rest, featuring bold letter styles written in both Spanish and English.

Art has been a part of Carrillo’s life since she was very young, collaborating on murals with her elder artistic counterparts. She enjoyed the process and bonding over the act of creation, and it became something she wanted to continue on her own. She started off in the local arts community trying to get her voice heard, and as she’s grown in experience and notoriety, younger artists have been looking to her as an artistic/community resource.

“The younger generations are what builds culture and what keep it sustainable,” Carrillo said. “I can see the impact that my work has.” She wants her work to encourage others to expand on what they’re doing. Creating art with her community is essential to her creative process. In addition to surveying a space for a mural commission, she builds relationships with the people dependent on the space to write the story of her future work. She narrows down ideas with the client, and strives to make the process a combination of structure and freeform.

Lindaluz Carrillo’s work at Parkville Sounds (image c/o Parkville Sounds)

A mural artist in her own right, Carrillo has always valued collaboration as a crucial part of her artistic process. One of her recent projects, “You Are Loved,” is a group effort with Fernando Garcia, Mina Echevarria, fellow typography artist Matt Godzik and Angela Godoy. Carrillo knows these artists through many different means, but it meant even more to work with Godoy on this particular project, given they went to the same arts-focused high school and college. Carrillo also collaborates with artists outside of the visual medium. For a while, she shared a multidisciplinary studio space in Parkville with two other Hartford-based artists: Jasmin Agosto, curator and producer with SageSeeker Productions, and recording artist Brandon Serafino.

These days, Carrillo is creating. For her, the pandemic has allowed more time to explore ideas. Instead of working on a client’s time, she is diving deeper into her own ideas in both a creative and critical sense. However, working with clients and other artists is something that can’t come soon enough.

(photos c/o Lindaluz Carrillo)

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Rebecca Maloney’s Mixed Media, Methods, and Materials

Every artist’s path is different. For Rebecca Maloney, it took some time away from home to feel the warm embrace of Hartford’s artist community upon her return. After graduating art school, she felt called to her grandmother’s attic after her passing, where she found boxes of old magazines. It was from this collection of magazines that came material for her first solo exhibit.

A World of My Own

After a stint out west, Maloney returned to the Nutmeg State and started holding her own painting and mixed media workshops, based on her experiences participating in similar workshops elsewhere. More recently however, she’s placed a heavier emphasis on mixed media for her personal portfolio.

“While playing with materials, you’re learning about them,” said Maloney. Learning about interactions between materials is essential to her discovery process. Maloney is more interested in stepping away from the formal aspects of the result, rather than working towards a specific goal. The juxtaposition of methods and materials leads to future uses of both in different contexts.

Mixed Media is a highly experimental medium, but it doesn’t have to be high concept. For Maloney, her primary form of artistic expression is much more improvisational; each layer not only builds upon the other, but also inside every layer is a lesson about that particular material and how it interacts with other materials. Maloney also enjoys collaborating with people and sharing ideas. This becomes particularly helpful in her work with ActUp Theater, a Hartford-based theater company that explores social justice issues and current events in its productions.

Upon returning to the Hartford area, she was recruited to help with set design for the company. She was (and remains) excited for the challenge, for creating an entire production aesthetic and working with a production crew is a very different process than working alone in one’s studio…and that’s what she loves about being an artist – “not having something and then suddenly having something” – she’s inspired by spontaneous existence. For Maloney, working with ActUp ignites a different part of her brain, allowing her to see creativity in different ways.

The relationship of an individual to its surroundings is something Maloney takes very seriously: her role as a community-minded artist. If you follow her on any of her social media accounts, you’ll see not only her own work, but a variety of work and resources she shares from other accounts, local and otherwise. Having a community-oriented mindset holds you more accountable to figure out what resources you have and how to use them to make a community better.

Souvenir

When the pandemic crisis hit our own community, Maloney became one of many artists who continue to share their own work along with others’, as well as resources and virtual experiences. Maloney partnered with Diana Aldrete, a professor of language and cultural studies at Trinity College, on #ArtUnQuaratined, a month-long workshop dedicated to art journaling they broadcast on Instagram live through May 2. Yet with all of this sharing, she isn’t putting as much pressure on herself to create, and that’s something that can apply to any artistic medium or job. Maloney is giving herself permission to not overload, which is something we should all consider.

(photos c/o Rebecca Maloney)

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Grants Coffee Talk: COVID-19 Concerns in Grantmaking

On March 18th, grantmakers from across the globe came together to discuss how they are reacting to the COVID-19 crisis.  This open conversation revolved around two prompted questions.

                What changes are you currently rolling out?
                What changes are you considering?

These questions resulted in the overarching topic of “What can we as grantmakers do to make the lives of our grantees easier?” There were many different ideas and some grantmakers shared steps they are taking to alleviate the strain their grantees are facing. 

Some foundations and organizations have had the capacity to create emergency funding, see a comprehensive list at https://covid19freelanceartistresource.wordpress.com/#FUNDING

Besides the creation of new funds grantmakers are looking at their current grant portfolios and reevaluating the processes in place.  Changes to requirements, deadlines and applications are being made to meet the needs of grantees and granting organizations.     

While all of these items address the short term needs of grantees, grantmakers are also thinking about the long-term and what their organizations grants are going to look like over the course of the next year. Will they increase funding, will they have to decrease funding, will there be more operating support, more program support?

These are all issues that the Arts Council is currently addressing. We have already extended the Summer Hartford Events Grant deadline to April 17th, and are having one on one discussions with our grantees on how we can support them during this time of uncertainty.

SOURCE

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GHAC + Covid-19

Artists, educators, facilitators, entrepreneurs, communicators, administrators, change-makers – we’re in this together. 

⁠We’re doing all that we can to gather support for the capital region’s arts and culture sector and continue to be a resource for artists and organizations. We will be regularly updating this page with links for artists, organizations, and families looking for resources.

For grantees with approved projects and funding that experience delays or cancellations due to COVID-19, please contact the Greater Hartford Arts Council directly at grants@letsgoarts.org.
Here is an ongoing list of resources for artists and national information regarding preparation and prevention.
 
CDC – Centers for Disease Control + Prevention
 
WHO – World Health Organization
 
Crowdfunded list of resources for freelance artists
 
National resource for artists and arts organizations specializing in advocacy, research, and connection
 
National cultural philanthropic organization
 
Grassroots community organizer with a focus on social justice
 
Artist-funded philanthropic organization
 
Emergency preparedness service for arts organizations
 
National philanthropic organization with a focus on music
 
Federal resource for local and national arts organizations
 
 
 
 
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (CT)
Support for self-employed workers

New York Foundation for the Arts
Tri-State Relief Fund to Support Non-Salaried Workers in the Visual Arts
 
Peace First Rapid Response Grants
Grant Program for Young People (13-25)
 
 
CARES Act Emergency Relief Grant for CT Arts Organizations
Emergency funding for non-profit arts organizations
 
CT Department of Labor (Update 5/18/2020)
Public Assistance During COVID-19 Pandemic
 
Artist-founded design agency aligned with social causes
 
Supporting sustainable careers for craft artists
 

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