Take one look at Dwight Hatch’s photography, and you’ll see he has a keen eye for his environment. He contributed many of the pictures you’ve seen us using for MMH promotion this year, and he’ll be back, traversing our city blocks and parks, documenting the various happenings just one week from today! In this interview, he reveals how he first connected with the arts…clearly, it stuck.
What is your instrument(s)? If not a singer/musician, what is your connection to the arts? My connection to the arts stared as an early teen, taking painting lessons with my mother from a local painter. One night each week we would go and learn different mediums like oil, pastels and watercolor. I sold my first painting at 13 years old. Then I moved into photography, inspired by my brother, and I have been creating images ever since.
What do you do other than music/the arts – professionally? Hobbies? Professionally, I was a computer programmer and lead technical designer at one of the major insurance companies in the Hartford area. My other hobbies include golf, hiking, and travel.
What drew you to MMH? As a photographer, I attended a class sponsored by the GHAC. I knew right away that I wanted to collaborate as often as I could. I also go into Hartford to photograph the city’s architecture, monuments and events along the Connecticut river.
What drew you to Hartford and what is making you stay? I live very close to Hartford and attend various concerts, plays and sporting events throughout the area.
What is your favorite genre(s) of music? I like most music.
Top 3 favorite things about Hartford: The arts (GHAC, Hartford Stage, Xfinity Theatre, Riverfront activity’s like Guitars under the Stars, etc)…
What part of MMH are you most looking forward to? Contributing to year two and Shooting Basses Loaded!
Hopes/dreams/wishes for Hartford: To become a thriving city again! Full of the arts for all to enjoy!!
Megan Fitzgerald’s love of the arts runs deep. As a music lover and media professional, Megan’s life both revolves around and is surrounded by arts and culture. As someone who had already worked on Make Music Day in a different city, Megan was consistently bursting with ideas on who we absolutely had to work with for MMH Year 2. Her energy and enthusiasm for Hartford is contagious, and it reads in the following interview!
What is your instrument(s)? If not a singer/musician, what is your connection to the arts? My instrument is my sense of humor! Just kidding. While I am slowly attempting to learn ukulele and I love a good shower sing, I am neither a singer or musician. However, my life has been shaped and guided by music and I consider my consumption of it my greatest “hobby”. I have also worked in music, entertainment and media for the last 19 years because music and art are the driving forces for me to relate to the world. Creativity is everything.
What do you do other than music/the arts – professionally? Hobbies? Professionally I work in media, currently, public media – which is an important distinction for me. A solid portion of my working world has been with non-profit arts and media organizations because I believe in the power of art to influence life, not as a primary tool for commerce, in our society they’re inextricably linked. As for hobbies outside of listening to music and going to live concerts; I like to get outside in nature, I sew and create crafty gifts for friends and family, I am obsessed with tea and anything connected to learning more about higher consciousness, astrology and the wisdom of civilizations that came before us.
What drew you to MMH? When I lived in Philadelphia I was on a Make Music committee there and the performing arts center I worked for participated as a host venue. That was over six years ago so I was excited that Hartford was joining the “Make Music” movement and wanting to find ways to support and amplify local artists. I love the idea of people across the world coming together on the day of the Summer Solstice to celebrate the power of music and one another – to me, that’s what it’s really all about. People are sleeping on Hartford and some of the amazing people here, the notion that “there’s nothing to do” is simply false and the creativity is here we just haven’t figured out as a State to unify and nurture that as best we could. I think MMH and all the other Make Music CT locations are just another small step towards the awareness.
What drew you to Hartford and what is making you stay? I grew up in South Windsor, my family is from East Hartford – growing up in the burbs Hartford was the epicenter of energy (and insurance, of course) it was where there was art, music and jobs. I have lived in other cities like New York and Philadelphia but in my thirties I reached a point where it was time for me to come back and be closer to my family, watch my nieces grow up, find ways to contribute to the community that helped raise me.
What is your favorite genre(s) of music? Honestly, it just depends on my mood. I like a lot of different kinds of music – varied genres, vintage to emerging. Music is energy so selecting what to listen to goes hand in hand with what I’m currently feeling or what I need to feel – music can be a vehicle to arrive at so where do you need to go?!
Top 3 favorite things about Hartford
The people – there are great people living in this city who want to see it thrive.
That it’s small enough to get noticed and big enough to make waves.
56 Arbor Street – the creatives and businesses in that building inspire me
Fun fact: My first live concert experience was the group Color Me Bad <wince> at Riverside Park. It was supposed to be Paula Abdul at the Civic Center but I got into some trouble and my Mom refused to reward me with the concert opportunity so she sold the tickets and I learned my lesson. I have also just effectively dated myself.
What part of MMH are you most looking forward to? Hmmm, that’s tricky as I’d like to try and get to a few of the different neighborhood hubs because there are some great things happening in each corner but if I had to pick one, it’s Ashley Floyd’s event. I met Ashley two years ago and it’s been amazing to watch her learn, experiment and grow. I love what she is doing with Lyrics In Da V and the cyphers she’s been organizing. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a young creative person work hard to create opportunities for themselves as opposed to waiting for an opportunity that may never knock.
Hopes/dreams/wishes for Hartford: That people see value in the neighborhoods around this city, Hartford is so much more than downtown and the people who live here have incredible value. That people stop making their first and/or only association to Hartford as “a dangerous place”. I also hope that the city can become more connected as a whole for people who live in it and people who visit it. That local businesses can sustain and the city becomes more walkable.
Art on the Streets creates interactive experiences for the public, while also drawing attention to how the arts make us happier and healthier. We recently caught up with Art.Lab owner and operator Bri Dill, whose mission is to make art accessible to individuals of all ages, skill, and interest levels. For Art on the Streets 2019, Dill is presenting on her latest project, Modern Art & Meditation. Read on:
Can you give us an introduction to Modern Art & Meditation? Creating in any form can be meditative. Ink and paint have a hypnotic quality that promotes a meditative state allowing the creator to calm their mind while making beautiful abstract art.
What is Modern Art & Meditation’s dream project? A large scale collaboration- making an abstract piece or mural that reflects hand and mind of the artists who create it. Or a daily series of smaller works that reflect the artists’ mood and mindset based through color, movement and approach.
What memorable response have you gotten from your work? Viewers always tend to comment on the use of color. My work is inherently bold and colors used are an instinctual choice made in the moment influenced by my emotions and environment.
What are you most excited about for this year’s Art on the Streets? I am excited to make art more accessible to the community. This is a very important initiative that I try to advocate for in all my professional endeavors. I am also excited to meet new people and art enthusiasts!
Who are some Hartford Artists we should be following? The other 2 finalists in the Hartford Magazine Best of Hartford 2019 Readers Poll, Jamie La Jones & Kate Tortland – both amazingly talented women who have unique and contemporary approach to professional art making. Angelo [Elia of Edge Tattoo] is a self-taught and extremely dedicated [tattoo] artist who’s creativity, artistic vision & self-motivation has molded him into a truly amazing tattoo artist.
How do you think the Arts supports health and wellness within the community? I believe that everyone needs an outlet, an escape and an alternative form of emotional expression and the arts are exactly this. Keeps the mind healthy, the community active and exercises the brain.
In addition to being the Marketing & Communications Manager here at the Arts Council, Dan serves on the Make Music Hartford Planning Committee. As a musician, he was eager to step up and take on planning work to help make MMH even bigger and better. However, you won’t be seeing him onstage come June 21 – he’ll be busy documenting as much action as possible through our social media accounts. Be sure to follow us throughout the day!
What is your instrument(s)? If not a singer/musician, what is your connection to the arts? I grew up in a musical family – my sister, parents, and a number of relatives are musically inclined, or passionate about arts and culture in other ways. I have been singing, acting, and playing the drums (all to different extents) since I was about 8 years old. My primary instruments are voice and drums, but I can play (easy) songs on guitar/piano by ear.
What do you do other than the arts – professionally? Hobbies? I don’t do much besides the arts – as a communications professional, my job is to help tell the story of Hartford’s creative sector. Outside of work, I am a proud member of the Young Professional Advisory Board at Playhouse on Park, and play drums in a couple of local bands: Lil Sluggers and Portrait Party. After a long hiatus from theatre, I returned to the stage in Connecticut Theatre Company’s production of “Moon Over Buffalo” in March.
What drew you to MMH? My first experience with MMH was last year, when Amanda asked if Lil Sluggers was free to play on the Riverfront. The trio version of our 5-piece band quickly learned another hour’s worth of music and trekked down to the water. It was a beautiful day, and we were happy to drop in for some tunes! This year, I was asked to serve on the Planning Committee, and I could not be more grateful or excited to do this work. I can’t wait for the city to come out and play!
What drew you to Hartford and what is making you stay? My one wish for moving back home after college was to become involved in the local arts scene. My wish came true early – a month before graduating with my master’s degree, I got into The Hartford Wailers (the professional a cappella group later re-branded as CONNECT) and started playing drums in the indie folk band Orders with a co-worker at the time. However, I will forever owe my real connection with Hartford arts to Anne Cubberly and LB Munoz of Night Fall. I served as their Volunteer Coordinator in 2015 and started to meet countless other artists and creatives. That is exactly what is making me stay – the boundless creative energy of the city.
What is your favorite genre(s) of music? My taste in music is all over the place at the moment, but I generally tend to love rock, folk, jazz, hip-hop, and metal.
Top 3 favorite things about
Sense of community – you’re not just a number in a big city
Food + culture – the region’s growing food truck/restaurant culture (combined with local staples) is enough reason not to feel the need to go to the suburbs for a night out
Things to do – make the smallest amount of proactive effort and you’ll find there’s no shortage of things to do in Hartford (ex. LetsGoArts.org/ArtsMonth)
Fun fact: I have perfect pitch!
What part of MMH are you most looking forward to: I am most looking forward to is experiencing so many different genres and the joy of others taking part in free music throughout the city!
Hopes/dreams/wishes for Hartford: Hartford is long-deserving of a “destination” status. Since the beginning of time, art and artists have been at the forefront of revitalization and renaissance, and it’s Hartford’s turn for the spotlight! We’ve got this.
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.
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.
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:
Benefits for the community
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
Trendy small businesses
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!