Dan Deutsch

“A Unique Entity:” Arts Center East Capitalizes on Versatility

Across the river in Vernon, Arts Center East stands in a quaint white colonial-style building. Built in 1927, the structure was originally used as a school and then as offices for the town Board of Education, but by the end of the century had become worn down and unusable. Through the efforts of town residents, Vernon received a state grant to renovate the historic building, and in June 2012 it was reincarnated as an arts center.

Seven years later, Arts Center East is a vibrant and active community arts organization. On top of gallery space for regional and local artists, the center offers dozens of classes and workshops to students of all levels and hosts live music and theater productions. Their Artisan Gift Shop provides a space for local artists to display and sell their work. Executive Director Jennifer Kowal uses the phrase “unique entity” to describe the center. “We mean different things to different people,” she said, “and we have a little of something for everyone.”

This summer is an exciting one for Arts Center East. The center has spent the beginning of the year working with a consultant in order to grow and improve the Artisan Gift Shop, which will bring “exciting changes and opportunities to this part of [the] organization and the local and regional artists [they] represent,” according to Kowal. In addition, the Academic Artists Association is holding their national exhibit at Arts Center East for the seventh year in a row. The show, the 69th Annual National Exhibition of Traditional Realism, is on exhibit June 2 through June 23. In July, a Mixed Media exhibit entitled “ANIMALIA” will be going on display, and a coinciding “Pet Boutique & Animal Craft Fair” will occur in August.

“It’s an opportunity to explore what sets you apart from others [and] allows you to see the world through someone else’s experiences.”

Arts Center East is also adding new classes to their repertoire in the coming months. This summer, artist Shauna Shane will be teaching drawing and watercolor classes, and the center is introducing a colored pencil class and their highly-anticipated ceramics program in the fall.

Kowal reiterates the importance of these classes and exhibits for the community. “Arts can express what you feel is important, and what brings joy to your life,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to explore what sets you apart from others [and] allows you to see the world through someone else’s experiences, and this is important given the ever-changing global society we currently live in.”

She adds that art can mean different things for different people, depending on how they choose to experience it. “Whether art is a part-time hobby or a life-long pursuit, whether individuals are active participants, or prefer to be spectators, the arts provide people a means of personal expression,” she said. “Many of us have jobs, relationships, or responsibilities that require certain behaviors or roles to be taken on. I see the arts…as an outlet from these roles and responsibilities.”

In the future, Kowal says that they would love to renovate the attic of the building into a designated theater space or another classroom, but for now she invites everyone to come to a class, exhibit, or performance, and if there is something an individual is interested in that is not currently offered, to reach out. “Art is found in every culture, dating back to the earliest recordings of human existence,” she said. “Arts Center East’s mission is to advance the arts for all. You may not be able to understand someone’s written or spoken language, but you can certainly understand their messages through artwork.”

Supporting organizations like Arts Center East 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.

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Faces of #MakeMusicHartford: Ashley Floyd

Honk if you like Hip-Hop! Ashley Floyd is no stranger to amplifying local artists. Not only will she be hosting the Hip-Hop Cypher spotlight event, but you might get a chance to spit a verse for “Lyrics in da V,” a lyrical talent showcase she hosts in her car.

photography: Mike Marques

What is your instrument(s)? If not a singer/musician, what is your connection to the arts?
I host music cyphers for local artists and I host a YouTube channel called “Lyrics In Da V,” which gives artist such as rappers and singers an opportunity to provide a freestyle or vocals to showcase their talent while gaining exposure. 

What do you do other than music/the arts – professionally? Hobbies?
During the day I work as an Individual Day Supporter after that I like to hang out with my friends, go shopping, and watch YouTube. 

What drew you to MMH?
A great friend of mine called me and told me about MMH, I honestly knew nothing about MMH until she gave me information about it while giving me an opportunity to be a part of MMH.

What drew you to Hartford and what is making you stay?
I lived in Hartford my whole life, all my family and friends are here. I just love Hartford because it’s small and wherever you go, you always know someone!

What is your favorite genre(s) of music? 
Hip-Hop, Rap, Pop

Top 3 favorite things about Hartford:

  1. People
  2. Benefits for the community
  3. Bushnell park

Fun fact:
I love to see others succeed!

What part of MMH are you most looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward to everything, I love music so just seeing others come together for the same interest is amazing.

Hopes/dreams/wishes for Hartford:
I really hope that the younger generations in Hartford come together as one because I know most of us have the same goal and that is to succeed!

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Faces of #MakeMusicHartford: CO:LAB

Hartford is full of individuals who have their hands in many pots – Rich Hollant and Zoe Chatfield of CO:LAB are just a couple of them.

Almost immediately upon moving their brand communications firm from a Parkville loft to the former Goodwin branch of the Hartford Public Library, they opened Free Center, an event space housed within CO:LAB that they open up for community-driven events. One of these events just happens to be Make Music Hartford, where they’ll be acting as the South End Music Hub from 11am-5pm. Inside the space, visitors will be able to view the PRIDE Community Art Exhibition. Additionally, the Hartford Public Library bookmobile will be parked outside from 12-3pm.

photography: Mike Marques

What is your instrument(s)? If not a singer/musician, what is your connection to the arts?
Rich – I play mostly guitar (and other string instruments) and write music. I song well enough for folk music. I’m also the Chair of the Commission on Cultural Affairs.

Zoë – I sing in two groups – You’re Not Listening! Brass Band and Bandshes. I’ve also just grown up with the arts being a central part of my life. Both my parents are artists (my mother is a visual artist and my father is a musician) and have made livings at different points of their lives teaching their craft as well as selling artwork/playing gigs.

What do you do other than the arts – professionally? Hobbies?
R: Professionally, I run a brand communications firm, CO:LAB, that works on community impact. I have a lot of hobbies… the one I’m thinking of now is I’m a photographer… though I guess I do that professionally as I am about to have my first museum exhibition.

Z: Besides music and work for CO:LAB and Free Center, I enjoy writing (songs, prose, poetry, creative nonfiction, and have started to try my hand at screenwriting). I’m also currently working on a graduate certificate in GIS (Geographic Information Systems).


What drew you to MMH?
The Hartford area has so many talented people. We love supporting events that highlight local talent and also encourage people who may not consider themselves musical to appreciate and participate in music.

What drew you to Hartford and what is making you stay?
R: When my first kid was born, we lived at the edge of the world… in an urban frontier neighborhood in Boston. We came to the Hartford area because it’s super safe and has a great quality of life. I’m still here because, through active participation, the folks I’ve met here have made a place for me… told me I belong and I matter. Gosh—that’s all you can ever wanted from a place, isn’t it?

Z: I have family connections to Hartford (my parents met at Hartford High; my grandmother and father both still live in the city), and have spent my youngest years, high school years, and college breaks here. After I graduated, I applied to jobs all over, with the idea in my head that I’d work somewhere else for a while and eventually end up back in Hartford because it’s my home base. I ended up getting a job here though and don’t see myself leaving any time soon. I’m happy with the work we’re doing and love the community I have here.


What is your favorite genre(s) of music?
Z: I don’t know what I’d consider my favorite genre but I go through phases of listening to certain types of music, specific artists, or eras of genres. Right now, I’m really enjoying 60’s/70’s (and some 80’s) rock (like the Velvet Underground, the Zombies, etc). Although, a month ago, I was really enjoying Janelle Monae and Ariana Grande’s new albums.

R: God! Don’t do this to me. I listen to what Zoë doesn’t listen to. Then, I fully expect we’ll just switch.


Top 3 favorite things about Hartford
First, the people. Hartford is full of people who are passionate about the work they do and the city they live in. There are so many people in this City that inspire us to keep growing and learning. Second, there are so many beautiful things in such a small city – like the parks and the Wadsworth; it’s pretty amazing how many historic and public attractions we have access to in Hartford. Third, the Hartford area has some pretty great food. Very rarely are either of us disappointed by the restaurants around here.


Fun fact
We’re not as tall as we appear in pictures.

What part of MMH are you most looking forward to:
We’re looking forward to being a hub. We’re working on getting other things to our space during our music hours so that there’s multiple things to bring people in and for them to enjoy. We’ve already confirmed the Hartford Public Library Bookmobile to stop by for a few hours, and will have a community art exhibit celebrating Pride month on display as well.


Hopes/dreams/wishes for Hartford
You know… the hopes/dreams/wishes for Hartford don’t belong to us. We have intentionally put ourselves in the position of supporting the hopes/dreams/wishes of the vibrant, engaged, talented people here.

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Faces of #MakeMusicHartford: Nelson Bello

Nelson Bello has certainly made the rounds. As an alumnus of both the original Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and a student of Jackie McLean, Nelson has made a career out of collaborating. In addition to being an active recording artist, he serves as both accompanist and bandleader in several groups in the regional Latin Jazz scene. His energy on and off the stage is contagious (as illustrated below), and his undying passion for arts advocacy and education proved to be invaluable in planning Make Music Hartford!

Catch Nelson on June 21 at 1:30pm at the Park Street Branch of the Hartford Public Library for one of our spotlight events – a drum circle, co-led with fellow percussionist and educator Jocelyn Pleasant! Did we mention music runs in the Bello family? Nelson’s son Nigel will be joining the drum circle as a featured performer.

photography: Mike Marques

What is your instrument(s)? If not a singer/musician, what is your connection to the arts?
I’m a percussionist and have been part of The Hartford Conservatory (which is no longer around), the Original Artist Collective under Jackie McLean, and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, when it was in front of Buckley High.

What do you do other than the arts – professionally? Hobbies?
I live off the music and teach in the evenings.

What drew you to MMH?
Amanda’s invitation is what drew me in, and I love what’s being done for the arts.

What drew you to Hartford and what is making you stay?
I’ve lived in Hartford all my life.

What is your favorite genre(s) of music?
Latin jazz, hip hop and anything with percussion.

Hopes/dreams/wishes for Hartford
My hopes and dreams for Hartford are simple. We need more grants and establishments that would support good music and arts. Us artists cannot work for low fees.

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Improving State of Mind: An Interview with Poetry on the Streets

Poetry on the Streets (POTS) is an interactive poetry writing exhibit created in 2017 by Melanie Faranello. We briefly spoke with Melanie who is gearing up to participate in this year’s Art on the Streets. Find out what Melanie has been up to below:

Can you tell us what Poetry on the Streets has been working on recently?

Poetry on the Streets is continuing to set up around downtown Hartford in various locations during the week. Over the winter, I visited a college class at Westfield State U which was a fun change of pace. A few favorite spots for POTS are along Main Street, the bus stop in front of the Hartford Public Library, Bushnell Park, and Pratt Street. I’m also working on preparing for Poetry on the Streets’ first gallery show. It will be held at Charter Oak Cultural Center and will showcase the poems people have written alongside their photographs. I’m excited to share the collection—beautiful expressions from so many different people who have engaged with POTS over the past two years. I hope the gallery show will highlight the common human experience we all share.

What is Poetry on the Streets’ dream project?

My dream project for Poetry on the Streets is to travel to different cities, set up POTS and collect poems from people all across the country…actually, from all over the world! Also, a big coffee table book: a compilation of people’s poems with their photographs. I’d read a book like that. Sometimes, I flip through the hundred or so poems I’ve collected and find one that speaks to me that day in an emotional way. My dream is to keep going and engaging as many people in as many places as possible.

What memorable response have you gotten from your work?

A big part of what keeps me committed to the project is the response people have after interacting with Poetry on the Streets. People feel better! There is a palpable sense of release after writing their poems. They want to be heard. They want to share themselves — their voices — they want to connect. This truth has become so apparent. Surprisingly, the majority of people want to leave their finished poems with me rather than take them. They want others to read them. They want to share their words. The responses are individual, but the overall feeling of improved mood and state of mind are the same.  

The responses are individual, but the overall feeling of improved mood and state of mind are the same.  

What are you most excited about for this year’s Art on the Street?

 I love Art on the Streets. It brings such an eclectic vibrant energy to Hartford and draws people together through art, music, dance, writing, crafts…I’m most excited about seeing all the different exhibits…the postcards, mixed media, printmaking, and spoken word are wonderful, and I’m looking forward this year to seeing the weaving project as well as the dance, meditation, and of course, the bands. It’s an amazing force of creativity that brings the city together in such a unique and inspiring way.  

How do you think the Arts supports health and wellness within the community?

The Arts support health and wellness within the community by providing a creative outlet for emotional expression. Engaging in the arts (music, visual art, writing…) has been proven to reduce stress, help people cope with trauma, and improve both mental and physical health. Working as a teaching artist with young people in Hartford, I’ve seen the impact the arts can have directly on youth and teens in terms of feelings of empowerment, creating positive self-image and awareness of their voices as ones that matter and have the power to create positive change. Connecting the arts with community organizations can be a powerful way to impact wellness within a community.

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Faces of #MakeMusicHartford: Savana Jones

Savana Jones lives for movement. As a dancer, choreographer, teaching artist, and avid live music fan, Savana is well versed in the language of the performing arts. Don’t miss her one-of-a-kind collaboration with a live funk band on Make Music Day for “No Mercy,” a heart-pounding, foot-stomping hip-hop class of raw adrenaline at Arroyo Recreation Center at 3pm.

photography: Mike Marques

What is your instrument(s)? If not a singer/musician, what is your connection to the arts?
I’m a professional Dancer, Choreographer and Entrepreneur. 

What do you do other than music/the arts – professionally? Hobbies?
I love to eat, workout, travel, spend time with family and friends, and support live music!

What drew you to MMH?
The opportunity to reach a new/different audience and introduce them to Dance. Giving people a chance to get to know me and what gives me purpose in life. Dance is and can be intimidating but with the right instructor (like myself), it’s my responsibility to relieve the student of that pressure of ” being perfect”. We must first learn awareness of our bodies (movement) and understand the “why” and “how” our bodies move that way.

What drew you to Hartford and what is making you stay?
Well I was born here and I’ve made so many personal and business relationships, that I see myself planting and growing my business here. Hartford definitely has potential for artists to have a platform and no matter where I go, no matter how long I may live there, my home will always be here! 

What is your favorite genre(s) of music? 
That’s a very good but tough question!

Old school/ Soul music!

Top 3 favorite things about Hartford

  1. Public Transportation 
  2. Trendy small businesses 
  3. Bushnell Park

Fun fact:
I’m a Daredevil and I love that rush of being up in the air, so I have a true love for the “Aerial Arts”. Its a divine feeling being on top of the world! 

What part of MMH are you most looking forward to?
Connecting with new artists and making memories. Seeing what others are bringing to the table will be fun as well. Support, support, support! 

Hopes/dreams/wishes for Hartford:
More light to be shined upon the positivity that’s in our city. More events and activities that will bring our community together and make us stronger. We need the arts! 

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Summer of Portraiture at the Wadsworth

-The following article was submitted by the Wadsworth Atheneum-

In June, three portrait centered exhibitions will be on view at the Wadsworth. Kicking off the summer of portraiture, Giorgione’s La Vecchia has arrived in Hartford from the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice. The Renaissance painting rarely leaves Italy and the Wadsworth is one of only two cities in the United States to host the masterpiece. Very few works are attributed to Giorgione, La Vecchia is one of the precious few. The hyperrealistic portrayal appears to have been painted from life but the sitter’s identity and meaning remain elusive. It hangs in a new gallery space designed for an intimate experience with the singular work of art. Get to know La Vecchia while she’s stateside during a Gallery Talk on June 19 at 12:30pm and a lecture on July 10 at 6pm.

Giorgione, La Vecchia, 1502-08, oil on canvas. Gallerie dell’ Accademia, cat. 272, © G.A. VE Photo Archive, Courtesy of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities – Gallerie dell’ Accademia, Venice.

Opening June 6, Tom Burr | MATRIX 182 | Hinged Figures features Tom Burr’s installations – a vastly different treatment of portraiture. Unlike Giorgione’s realism, Burr presents us with iconic figures from queer history and Modernism using materials including plywood, books, notecards, tinsel, and a Chanel dress. The works will be shown in the Wadsworth’s MATRIX Gallery, a period room, several collection galleries, and at the Austin House. Hear from the artist at a Gallery Talk on Thursday, June 6 at 6:30pm during Art After Dark, and curator Patricia Hickson on August 29 at noon.

Tom Burr, Chicks (detail), 2008. Plywood, wool balusters, vintage 1970s Chanel dress, vintage turntable, record and album cover of Four Saints in Three Acts by Virgil Thompson and Gertrude Stein. Private collection. © Tom Burr. Courtesy of SculptureCenter, New York; Tom Burr, One foot in the grave (reclining), 2010. Natural wood, hinges, postcard, soil. © Tom Burr. Courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, New York.

Near the end of the month Be Seen: Portrait Photography Since Stonewall explores how artists have used portrait photography to challenge, subvert, and play with societal norms of gender and sexuality in the 50 years since the Stonewall riots. Be Seen features prominent contemporary artists such as Mickalene Thomas, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Zanele Muholi, and seminal photographers Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, and Nan Goldin. Experience the exhibition with curator Patricia Hickson in a Gallery Talk Friday, June 28 at noon.

Mickalene Thomas, Racquel with Les Trois Femmes, 2018. Chromogenic print. The Douglas Tracy Smith and Dorothy Potter Smith Fund, 2019.3.4. © Mickalene Thomas.

In conjunction with Be Seen, June films include “The Happy Prince” and “Before Homosexuals”; June 27 at 7pm, June 28 at 2pm, and June 30 at 2 pm.

For a complete listing of our programs, films, and events visit our website www.thewadsworth.org

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Faces of #MakeMusicHartford: Stephen Cusano

Local musician and entrepreneur Stephen Cusano has made a name for himself, both on and off the kit. In addition to playing drums for multiple bands, Cusano is the founder and owner of Parkville Sounds, a one-stop shop for musicians, students, and recording artists who need everything from a studio to rental equipment.

Last year, Stephen hosted the Dueling Drums spotlight event outside of his studio on Bartholomew. This year, he’s stepped up as a planning committee member and the Parkville Neighborhood Music Hub organizer! Parkville Sounds will be hosting Dueling Drums, an open jam session, the Parkville Pickles (the studio’s new youth rock ensemble), and The Dance Collective, starting at 3pm.

photography: Mike Marques

What is your instrument(s)? If not a singer/musician, what is your connection to the arts?
Professional drummer

What do you do other than the arts – professionally? Hobbies?
Love going to baseball games, traveling, exploring new food/drink

What drew you to MMH?
Amanda Roy is the bomb. She approached me with this idea about a year ago and I’ve been in ever since! 

What drew you to Hartford and what is making you stay?
I received my bachelors’ degree in Jazz Studies at The Hartt School of Music / Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz in 2015. I’ve been in love with Hartford; the artists and the food that surround this city since my freshman year. My peers working and striving to make Hartford a better place has been what’s keeping me going. 

What is your favorite genre(s) of music?
Plain and simple…I love all music. 

Top 3 favorite things about Hartford:
– Large variety of authentic foods
– Tight knit community 
– You can do you in Hartford. There are endless possibilities to do what you desire. 

Fun fact: 
I have a cat named Harper

What part of MMH are you most looking forward to?
Excited for the whole day! We are hosting a jam in the Parkville neighborhood from 4-8pm. The first ever Parkville Sounds’ Rock Ensemble will be performing at 6pm. 

Hopes/dreams/wishes for Hartford:
Bring back the Whalers.

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HSO Kicks Off Hartford Arts Month with Renowned Compositions

Leonid Sigal

-The following article was submitted by Hartford Symphony Orchestra-

We are thrilled to team up with Hartford Arts Council to promote Hartford Arts Month!

We’ll be kicking off the month with Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 5 from May 31 – June 2. This pivotal work moves from tragedy to celebration, and its fourth movement, a declaration of love for his wife Alma, is his most renowned composition. Beethoven’s rich “Triple Concerto” features a dynamic interplay between soloists and orchestra, and showcases two of HSO’s gifted musicians- Leonid Sigal, concertmaster and Margreet Francis, pianist. We are also pleased to give a warm welcome to our guest cellist, Wendy Warner. Wendy is one of the world’s leading cellists, praised by Strings magazine for her “youthful, surging playing, natural stage presence and almost frightening technique.”

Join us for our pre-concert talk, led by Music Director Carolyn Kuan and Hartford Symphony Orchestra musicians as they offer engaging presentations about the works, the composers and historic perspectives of the concert that lies ahead. This 30 minute pre-concert presentation will take place in the concert hall one hour prior to the performance.

Margreet Francis

…If you need even more persuading, we’re collaborating with CPTV for our Friday, May 31st performance of Mahler 5! The concert is going to be filmed by a CT Public camera crew as part of an exciting video project, which we will unveil in the coming months. Those who attend the performance will have the exciting “behind the scenes” opportunity to see the film crew in action, and may even be part of the final product!

Get your tickets at hartfordsymphony.org.

Wendy Warner

We hope you’ll spend your Friday, Saturday or Sunday with us!

**Special offer: Let’s Go! Arts members get 2-for-1 tickets to the Friday, May 31 and Saturday, June 1 performances of Mahler 5!

And don’t forget to visit LetsGoArts.org/ArtsMonth to keep an eye on the exciting events happening throughout the month! #hartfordartsmonth

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Hartford Arts Month is Here!

Celebrate Creativity. Celebrate Hartford.

The Greater Hartford Arts Council and City of Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin have partnered to declare June, Hartford Arts Month. Hartford Arts Month is a joint, city-wide effort to emphasize the importance of the arts and celebrate creativity in the Capital City.

“Hartford has an incredibly rich and diverse community of artists working in every medium,” said Mayor Luke Bronin. “We hope everyone takes advantage of the hundreds of opportunities to watch, hear, and interact with our arts community during Arts Month. I want to thank the Greater Hartford Arts Council for recognizing the value of a strong art scene — and for working with us to bring these events under one banner and organize such a terrific month-long showcase of art in Hartford.”

 “With hundreds of arts and cultural events taking place in Hartford during the month of June, it’s the perfect time to highlight the important impact the arts have on this community,” said Cathy Malloy, CEO of the Greater Hartford Arts Council. “We appreciate the Mayor’s partnership on this initiative and are proud to help raise awareness of the incredible events taking place every single day in Hartford.”

Everyone is invited to join in the celebration by visiting the Hartford Arts Month webpage, which includes hundreds of performances, exhibitions, classes, festivals and activities taking place throughout the month of June. For example, visitors will find event listings that include:

Puerto Rican Day Parade & Festival del Coqui
June 2. Noon. Bushnell Park

Art on the Streets
Tuesdays. 11:30am – 1pm. Pratt Street / Thursdays. 11:30am – 1pm. State House Sq

Juneteenth Family Day
June 8. 10am – 5pm. Amistad Center for Arts & Culture

Make Music Hartford
June 21. All day. 100 FREE musical events throughout the City.

Greater Hartford Latino Festival
June 22. Noon – 7pm. Church of the Good Shepherd Lawn.

For additional event listings and information about Hartford Arts Month, visit LetsGoArts.org/ArtsMonth.

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