Dan Deutsch

Summer in the City, So Far

We’ve been having a blast at the 2018 Summer in the City events, so as a re-cap of some of the events we had the chance to catch up with a few of the event organizers to learn more about the history and what they look forward to in the future. In this post you’ll hear from Riverfront Recapture’s Mike Zaleski on the annual Fireworks Celebration, James Varano, the mind behind the Black Eyed and Blues Festival, and Desmond Sinclair of this weekend’s West Indian Independence Celebration.

GHAC: What role did you have in the beginning of your event versus the role you play now?

DS: [I] first got involved with a costume group in 1987. In 2000, I was elected Treasurer and then President in 2017.

MZ: As a kid growing up in the area, I remember coming to the river to watch the fireworks. I remember being in awe of the sound and the colors reflecting off of the water. When I joined Riverfront as the new CEO, Riverfront Fireworks was something I wanted to make sure continued. With support from Summer in the City, we have been able to keep that tradition alive.

JV: It was my idea to do a blues festival in Hartford – I saw how successful it was in other cities and said, “why not here?”


GHAC: Why do you think people keep coming back?

DS: The mission to educate and share the rich heritage and culture of all Caribbean Nations, and our free concert after the parade helps as well.

MZ: This year I spoke with three women who arrived at 3:15 to save their spot, and spots for their kids and grandchildren, on the Founders Bridge. They took turns walking around and ordering dinner, they ate together at 7 and watched the fireworks sitting in the same spot, with the same friends, just like they have every year as long as they can remember.


GHAC: Why do you think this event is important to Hartford?

DS: It helps revitalize Hartford, increase business partnerships and strengthen our community. The festivities attract attendees from across Connecticut as well as tourists from neighboring states.

MZ: There is never a shortage of events in Hartford. On any given day you’ll find something happening in our parks, in Bushnell Park, or at TheaterWorks…the list goes on and on. But the significant events supported by Summer in the City showcase our city’s diversity and genuinely represent the many cultures of our city.

JV: It is an event that draws a diverse demographic – from local Hartford folks to people in the outer suburbs and beyond.


GHAC: What are you looking forward to in the future?

JV: The future looks good – we have gotten marketing support, being part of the Summer in the City featured events.

DS: Continuing to grow and develop our partnerships with local governments and businesses through diversity. Our goal is to improve our ability to showcase our rich heritage culture and attract major Caribbean sponsors to make the link between Greater Hartford and the Caribbean.

MZ: We continue to look for ways to make the fireworks and surrounding programming more exciting, and more attractive to visitors to our parks. I’m looking forward to many more years of fireworks, and hopefully seeing those same three grandmothers saving seats on the bridge in 2019.

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Summer in the City, which is made possible by United Technologies, is a program of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, in partnership with the City of Hartford.

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Hartford Artisans Weaving Center Builds Community and Creativity, Stitch by Stitch

Tucked away next to Grace Lutheran Church on Woodland St, the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center is led by Executive Director Katie Glass along with a handful of part-time staff and a team of about 30 volunteers. Glass recently joined the ranks at the Center with as much curiosity and excitement as a kid in a candy store, and you can hear it in her voice. “Soup to nuts, it’s a team thing,” Glass says. “I’ve never felt more kindness or support [in a workplace]…people help each other start to finish.”

In fact the Center, entering its 10th anniversary year after moving from Oak Hill, is a candy store in its own way. Enter the gate and walk up the stairs, and one of the first things you see is a community weaving project the Center brought to downtown Hartford for Art on the Streets. The Center itself is full of life and color – artisans and volunteers alike can be seen at their looms, with a patient, focused, yet light-hearted attitude towards their craft. How can you frown when you see brightly colored scarves, rugs, shawls, wall-hangings, and pillows in progress all around you?

Every year, the Center presents an exhibit of their artisans’ work on the third floor of the Hartford Public Library. This year, “Block by Design” explores the endless designs one can weave using the basic unit of a block pattern. The artistic force behind every stitch is Creative Director Fran Curran, who not only conceptualizes the colors and patterns, but she also personalizes each design to every artisan. At most looms you will see a piece of paper with a set of numbers in a specific order; that is weavers’ code. For the artisans who are 55 and older, they will use the code as a visual guide. For the artisans who are visually impaired or blind, they might listen to the numerical pattern on headphones, translate it to braille, or even memorize it!

When you visit the exhibit at the Library, the finished products are truly works of art. On the surface they clearly have an aesthetic and textural beauty, but the benefits of weaving go beyond the aesthetic. The art of weaving is multidisciplinary to the core. It combines math and art, and the act of weaving increases artisans’ opportunity for creativity, builds community, and helps build synapse connections in the brain. Glass added that doing things with one’s hands helps lessen anxiety. One of the artisans, Joanna, said it best: “You have to be very present…you can’t miss a stitch because you’re thinking about what you have to get for your groceries.”

“Block by Design” is on view at the Hartford Public Library through September 29, and you are invited to meet the artisans at the gallery on Monday, August 13 at 10:30AM.

Mark your calendars – their annual open house and sale is November 10-11 from 10:00AM to 5:00PM at 42 Woodland St! Visit www.weavingcenter.org for more information.

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