Dan Deutsch

Where Are They Now, Part 1: Farmington Valley Arts Center

Our promise is to use the arts to “improve lives and transform communities.” A few years ago, we created the Arts Catalyst program, which provides small arts and culture organizations resources that support growth and innovation. In the “Where Are They Now?” series, we’ll revisit each community arts center that completed the first Cohort of our Arts Catalyst program, where they worked with an organizational development consultant and a Business Volunteer for the Arts. The first post takes a look at how the Farmington Valley Arts Center found a way forward after the devastating recession in 2008 and what they’ve been able to do with the Arts Catalyst resources.

There’s nothing like a fresh start, and the Farmington Valley Arts Center has seen many changes since it started over 40 years ago. This former Ensign-Bickford fuse factory nestled in bucolic Avon is no stranger to transition. Started by a local clergyman in 1974, the Arts Center had been providing programs, classes, studio space, and a children’s summer camp until 2008 when the economy crashed. After closing for just one day, the Board of Directors had a chance to refocus. A new Board President was appointed to tackle the significant financial issues, and to put the FVAC back on the path to financial stability. Their “Rebuilding” phase included expanding their studio rentals, re-imagining their education program, relocating and refreshing their retail space, producing more exhibits, and adding  or revitalizing existing programs  such as an Artist-in-Residence  program, Art Parties and Art Hikes. They were also looking to take advantage of other funding opportunities, so they were excited to find out they had gotten in to the Arts Catalyst cohort in 2016.

As important as it is to start a project with this sort of breadth and depth with an open mind, it is completely normal to have some nerves and hesitancy, but Board member Linda Sorrell was ready to put all of the aforementioned ideas into action. “The innovation goal workshop really helped us crystallize things that we had been thinking about,” Sorrell said. “Going into the workshop, what became very apparent was that we had some really pretty good offerings and quite decent infrastructure in place. What we didn’t have was a way of marketing it.” Sorrell is referring to a strategic document that had been produced back in 2012, but a lot of the content had not been operationalized for various reasons. The innovation workshop guided Cohort 1 through an organizational analysis, vision development, and action planning exercises to help participants realize potential growth. Sorrell’s takeaway from the innovation goal workshop was the beginning of a marketing plan to operationalize their former strategic planning document.

“Working on innovation goals, it became clear that to do anything else, we had to get a particular message out there and start to address the audience, not only the audience we had at the moment, but to increase and diversify that audience pretty significantly.” Sorrell and the Board wished to grow the audience from a mostly homogenous group into different populations with varied interests. This is where the Business Volunteers for the Arts played a significant role. “[The] BVA partners were phenomenal…they understood social media in a way the FVAC board and volunteers did not…[they] put out surveys and collected a lot of data.” FVAC’s experience with the innovation goal workshop combined with findings generated by their BVA partners culminated in four distinct yet interwoven areas of potential growth: Visibility, Excitement, Community, and Sustainability.

Over the summer, the arts center hosted the first Funnybone Records showcase, an evening of music and poetry performed by artists associated with the West Hartford-based label of the same name. As part of their recently expanded clay program, they developed a series of “clay date nights” through Groupon that reached a new demographic and volume of people they hadn’t seen. “If we can get people back here once, we can get them a second and a third…we can start to understand what kinds of events will draw people in,” said Sorrell.

In conclusion, the Farmington Valley Arts Center participants had an overwhelmingly positive experience in the first Arts Catalyst cohort, and look forward to being able to produce more consistent offerings. Be on the lookout for our next “Where Are They Now” post, where we learn how the Windsor Art Center fared in their Cohort 1 experience!

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The Mark Twain House & Museum Writers Weekend

Writers Weekend, September 29-30,

The Mark Twain House & Museum

Author Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) enjoyed lively discussions with great writers around his dining room table at his grand home in Hartford’s Nook Farm neighborhood.

So it is fitting that a Writers Weekend is scheduled September 29-30 at The Mark Twain House & Museum. Learn from great writers in the place where Twain created his iconic characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Take advantage of discounted admission to Hartford’s premier brew fest, Tapping Into Twain, on Friday, September 28.

Writers and aspiring writers can attend workshops with humor author/columnist Gina Barreca, poet Bessy Reyna, and storyteller/author Matthew Dicks.  Travel writer Kim Knox Beckius, children’s author Dana Meachen Rau, and theater/music critic Frank Rizzo will share their insights.

Jacques Lamarre will present a playwrights’ panel, author Chris Knopf will talk about mystery writing, and author/columnist Susan Campbell will talk about the elements of writing a good story.

 

On Saturday night at 7, New York Times bestselling author Gary Shteyngart will discuss his new novel, Lake Success. On Sunday evening at 7, prolific and popular author Jodi Picoult will speak about her new book, Spark of Light. Those presentations are included in the weekend ticket, or can be purchased separately.

Registration for the Saturday and Sunday writing sessions begin at 9 a.m.

Information and registration: Writers Weekend, Gary Shteyngart, Jodi Picoult, and Tapping Into Twain.

Donna Larcen is Communications Specialist for The Mark Twain House & Museum.

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I Am An Artist Day 2018

I Am An Artist Day is back! Come down to Old State House Plaza on September 19, 2018 from 11:30am – 1:30pm to discover your inner artist through creative and interactive experiences with local arts organizations and artists!

Here is the full lineup of organizations you can visit with throughout the event:

Amistad Center
Using images from the Amistad Center for Art & Culture’s collection, participants will play “dress up,” create simple collages, and have their pictures taken with a Polaroid camera for a takeaway keepsake.

Ballet Theater Company
Put your dance knowledge to the test with Ballet Theater Company with two I Am An Artist Day challenges.
1. Name That Ballet: Can you match the plot of a famous ballet with its title? Stop by and play a matching game with us that tests your dance knowledge.
2. What’s In A Ballerina’s Dance Bag: Can you name all the things a ballerina needs in her dance bag? Try to name them all!

Caribbean American Dance Company
Judy Williams of the Caribbean American Dance Company will demonstrate traditional and modern Caribbean dance, followed by lessons and group dances.

Charter Oak Cultural Center
Community artist/educator Jocelyn Pleasant will use African percussion to showcase djembe and dundun rhythms of West Africa. She will share her music, demonstrate each of the different drums, and explain the history of African drumming.

Connecticut Landmarks
Participants will be invited to make a tissue paper flower to help promote the lovely and historic gardens on Connecticut Landmarks properties in Hartford and across the state. These creations will brighten your day by adding a burst of color to your hair, lapel, buttonhole, or desk!

Cuatro Puntos
Music Moves Hartford “Downtown Singers” will sing from 11:30-11:50. Lyric sheets will be available for audience members who would like to join them. Music Moves Hartford is a choir of downtown residents, many of whom have experienced homelessness.

Greater Hartford Arts Council
Passersby can participate in a Drip & Splat Community Painting that will be used as the backdrop for the upcoming TEDxHartford!

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
Help create a 21st century alphabet booklet taking inspiration from the “Anti-Slavery Alphabet” published in the 19th century to educate children about the evils of slavery. Create your own artwork and poetry to demonstrate the significance of a current issue we face in the world.

Hartbeat Ensemble
Call and response hip-hop poetry with LAUGH the Poet, actor and teaching artist with the Hartbeat Ensemble. Fill in the blanks of LAUGH’s poem to create your own rhymes. Learn on-the-spot freestyling skills.

Hartford Stage
Step back in time to the 1980’s and celebrate the world premiere of Bess Wohl’s play Make Believe at Hartford Stage! Stop by our table to play dress-up, blow bubbles, color, enjoy some popular candy from the 1980’s, and spin our wheel to land on a popular – yet now very outdated – ’80’s catchphrase!

Hill-Stead Museum
Guests can pick and choose from a variety of words from the poem “View of Cap d’Antibes” to make their own using a set format or make a free-form poem. Arrange them how you like on the felt board and take a selfie with your piece!

My Own Monet: Make a mono-print (a one-time unique print that artists like Degas experimented with) based on Monet’s Haystacks series. Use a plexiglass print plate as your canvas, paint based off the model or make your own masterpiece, then lay your paper and peel up to get your unique artwork.

Journey Writers, Inc.
Words are important. Just a few words can tell us so much. Create your own story using only six words.

Judy Dworin Performance Project
An interactive storysharing opportunity with the Judy Dworin Performance Project. In connection to JDPP’s upcoming production, (US), you can share stories about your dreams for the world.

New Britain Museum of American Art
Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the magic of color mixing as they create their own individual color field paintings, learning brush techniques and classic color theory while exploring the endless possibilities of color mixing.

Noah Webster House
All word nerds are invited to channel their linguistic excellence in an epic Scrabble challenge. Play on the giant Scrabble board and compete to create the most exceptional word of the day!

Queen Ann Nzinga Center
Make your own maracas, learn the history of the instrument and take them with you to keep your music-making alive. Join the drum circle to accompany the drummers with your new instrument!

Poetry on the Streets
Poetry on the Streets is an interactive exhibit designed to engage pedestrians in writing and painting an original poem based on a word chosen from a “jar of emotions.”

Theaterworks
Design your own “gingerbread” version of TheaterWorks. What do you look like inside TheaterWorks?

If that wasn’t enough, there will also be live music by guitarist Jason LaPierre at 1:00pm!

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‘Music Moves Hartford’ Hits the Streets in Song

Music Moves Hartford, led by Music Director Dianne Rechel

Hartford is home to a variety of organizations serving communities in need, and places of worship like Christ Church Cathedral is no exception. Not only is it the home of the MANNA/Hands On Hartford’s soup kitchen, but it also serves as the residency of Cuatro Puntos, a non-profit organization dedicated to intercultural dialogue and universal access through the performance, writing, and teaching of music. In addition to performing classical and contemporary pieces throughout the state, the Cuatro Puntos Chamber Ensemble frequently works with other organizations, such as last year’s collaboration with American School for the Deaf, celebrating 200 years of American Sign Language.

While the ensemble performs in the ground-level chapel, a new musical group has been taking shape in the soup kitchen downstairs. Every Wednesday before food is served, anyone and everyone are welcomed to a multi-purpose room equipped with couches and a piano. This musical group, named “Music Moves Hartford,” was formed primarily for those in our community experiencing homelessness and food insecurity. The group began rehearsing in April after Cuatro Puntos was looking for more ways to fulfill their mission. “[It is] important to use music for means greater than itself,” executive director Kevin Bishop said. “Forming a choir helps build a sense of community, purpose, and joy. Now, people have opened up and they’re coming up with their own ideas.”

David MacBride introduces his idea for their new collaboration

Music Moves Hartford was modeled after the Dallas Street Choir, and it’s the only ensemble of its kind in the state. Music Director Dianne Rechel starts rehearsals with breathing exercises and vocal warm-ups before quickly launching into a repertoire consisting of mostly American Songbook classics. They’ll be working with guest composer and Hartt School of Music faculty member David MacBride on an original song that they’ll also perform in a music video. Over the coming weeks, MacBride will be taking contributions from the choir and setting them to an original melody. According to MacBride, these contributions can range from single words to full paragraphs, certain sounds, even favorite genres of music. The central theme of the piece will be the idea of “home” and celebrating Greater Hartford. This theme could not be more relevant for the choir, considering how transient its population can be. Their first performance will be at a memorial service for a fellow choir member who sadly passed away, and had been singing with the group since the beginning.

The goal of Music Moves Hartford is to allow choir members to express themselves, resulting in a feeling of accomplishment. Their weekly informal performance for the soup kitchen also helps recruit members, and now a second group meets at South Park Inn every Tuesday evening. Bishop hopes to eventually bring the two groups together for a special performance. In the meantime, the downtown choir’s first big performances are scheduled for November 2nd at Christ Church Cathedral, where they’ll be performing MacBride’s composition. You can also check them at I Am An Artist Day at Old State House Plaza on September 12 from 11:30-1:30pm!

Picture courtesy of Cuatro Puntos

For more information on Music Moves Hartford and Cuatro Puntos and to find out how you can help, please visit their website at www.cuatropuntos.org.

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Summer in the City 2018 Finishes with Capital City Pride

As one of the hottest and most humid summers in recent history comes to a close, we’re looking forward to capping off an incredible season of Summer in the City with Hartford Pride! Learn more about CLARO INC, the organization behind the festival and what its president, Charlie Ortiz, is most looking forward to on September 8.

GHAC: How long has the Celebration been in existence?

CO: Hartford Pride is a committee of CLARO INC. (Connecticut Latino Achieving Rights & Opportunities) a 501 C3 non profit organization. CLARO INC., which was established in 2003 and was formerly a committee of Love Makes A Family. In 2013, the committee of Hartford Capital City Pride was born when Mayor Segarra requested the support from CLARO INC. to lead the committee with the support of the City to reenergize Pride. This is our 4th annual event, last year we had our biggest turn out of 6,000 people attending PrideFest. (www.hartfordpride.com)

GHAC: How has the event grown or changed over the years?

CO: Each year the event continues to grow with a growing attendance and each year we aim to make it more inclusive. We also have a magazine OUTINCT.com that is our safe place for the LGTBQ+ community.

GHAC: Why do you think people keep coming back?

CO: In part there is a loyal group of “old timers” who support the event this year. Also we are making an effort to have a stronger connection with other LGBTQ+ organizations.

GHAC: What is your favorite part(s) of the event?

CO: At a certain time during the day we reach our maximum attendance and seeing so many members of the LGTBQ+ community and their supporters taking part in the event is definitely the climax and taking pictures of supporters and the community. One of the objectives is to bring the community together, so for me and the committee, having a good turnout is the payoff.

GHAC: Why do you think this event important to Hartford, and what makes it a Hartford event?

CO: Hartford and its residents have a strong history of supporting LGTBQ+ rights and marriage equality. Following our tradition of being the Constitution State, this festival celebrates our history and role in LGTBQ+ equality. The event also serves as a place to share resources, network and support our youth.

GHAC: What does the future of the event look like – what are you looking forward to?

CO: A celebration of diversity that is entertaining, provides an opportunity to celebrate the LGTBQ+ community, and offers an opportunity for the entire community to learn of resources available. To offer our youth a safe place to freely express and celebrate their identities.

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We hope you enjoyed this year’s Summer in the City as much as we did, and we already can’t wait until next year! Don’t forget to tag us on social media:

Summer in the City: #summerinhartford
Instagram: @summerinhartford
Facebook: @summerinhartford

Greater Hartford Arts Council: #letsgoarts
Instagram: @letsgoarts
Facebook: @greaterhartfordarts
Twitter: @letsgoarts.org

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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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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Sign up for the mailing list and check out the full event line-up for Summer in the City, and be sure to tag us on social media!

Summer in the City: #summerinhartford
Instagram: @summerinhartford
Facebook: @summerinhartford

Greater Hartford Arts Council: #letsgoarts
Instagram: @letsgoarts
Facebook: @greaterhartfordarts
Twitter: @letsgoarts.org

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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