Artistic Spirit to Stir in Ados Israel

city arts on pearl
Not too long ago I was telling a friend about the Ados Israel Synagogue building on Pearl Street. Insofar as I could tell, it was not being used for anything, and I was lamenting this, especially since the former Congregation Beth Israel has become a successful model of what a house of worship can become when the community demands more space. The site of the oldest synagogue in Connecticut has become the Charter Oak Cultural Center, where one can enjoy a range of events from Laotian dance to a feminist seder to punk shows. The former Ados Israel Synagogue is in a good location near Bushnell Park, bin228, and TheaterWorks.

Yesterday, TheaterWorks announced its latest visions for downtown, including that it has “assumed day-to-day operational oversight and management” of Ados Israel. Sections of the press release follow:

Steve Campo, the Hartford-born founder and executive director of TheaterWorks today announced a plan to reconfigure an entire section of Downtown Hartford and to permanently designate the company’s facility, as well as an adjacent facility, as resources for the arts.

The plan calls for TheaterWorks’ property at 233 Pearl Street to be legally bound in-perpetuity for use by non-profit arts and arts related organizations. Title to the property would eventually convey to an existing arts caretaker (perhaps the Greater Hartford Arts Council) or a new foundation, the sole purpose of which would be to oversee and protect this arts resource.

Steve Campo stated: “We are currently working with attorneys from MacDermid, Reynolds & Glissman to establish a comprehensive legal structure that will assure TheaterWorks’ long-term future in the community and which will guarantee that each of the non-profit organizations in our building will have the right to remain there for as long as they choose, and at the nominal rental rates they currently enjoy.”
TheaterWorks and principals of the SLAM Collaborative also unveiled an elaborate presentation that comprehensively visions an interconnection of TheaterWorks’ City Arts on Pearl with the adjacent property, the former Ados Israel Synagogue at 215 Pearl Street.

Between the two historic Pearl Street properties an outdoor performance venue and garden provide pedestrians an enticing entry point leading towards a verdant walkway that terminates at Bushnell Park.

Robert F. Pulito, a principal of SLAM stated: “Recognizing the abundant activity that exists in the Asylum Street area, it makes sense to create a flow-through that utilizes the one block Haynes Street connector between Asylum Street and Pearl Street. From there, we’ve envisioned an inviting green space between 233 Pearl Street and 215 Pearl Street that would serve as outdoor performance space for multiple arts organizations that are currently tenants of TheaterWorks’ facility. Moreover, a gently sloped, garden like walk-path that uses natural materials and a subtle palette, would convey pedestrians directly into the heart of Bushnell Park, Downtown Hartford’s greatest asset.”
Under this arrangement, TheaterWorks will supervise and make
improvements to the property, while facilitating use of space in the building for many of the arts organizations that are tenants of TheaterWorks’ own facility next door.

TheaterWorks will provide supervised no-cost use of interior space at 215 Pearl Street for tenants of 233 Pearl Street, along with free use of a number of parking spaces for bona-fide non-profits.

Steve Campo, Founder and Executive Director of TheaterWorks stated: “It is my hope that by committing our own energies to an ongoing process of incremental improvements and upgrades to 215 Pearl Street we will ultimately bring it to a point where, with the support of key funders, it can be acquired and transitioned into a fully active resource for the arts.”

TheaterWorks also issued a “Call to Artists” in order to develop a long-term visual solution for the expansive, highly visible lower west wall of 215 Pearl Street. Steve Campo stated: “The right treatment will become a permanent element of the streetscape we are developing and will coordinate with the Master Plan being put forward by TheaterWorks and SLAM.”

In addition, over the Labor Day Weekend TheaterWorks completed a broad aesthetic upgrade to the Pearl Street District, which has been in planning for several months. Concurrently, a major sculptural work by Hunter Craighill was installed in the Main Lobby of TheaterWorks’ City Arts on Pearl.

Exterior upgrades, undertaken in collaboration with Hartford Business Improvement District include:
– banners and flags (designed by Connecticut artist John Defeo)
– refurbishment of Pearl Street’s bus shelters
– repainting and refurbishment of general infrastructure
– new plantings and signage
– removal of outdated and non-functional visual clutter
– respectful disposition of dead trees on Haynes Street

Michael Zaleski, Executive Director Hartford BID stated: “I believe that in TheaterWorks carrying out this simple but transformative improvement of its own neighborhood, others will see that similar grass-roots efforts may hold more real promise than the `tear-down / over-build’ cycles that have characterized Hartford’s previous efforts at regeneration.”
Several special tenant programs that align with TheaterWorks’
Downtown Hartford Arts Master Plan were announced today. These special services for arts organizations that occupy TheaterWorks’ City Arts on Pearl are intended to enhance synergy, interaction and resource sharing among multiple non-profits.

Among the items announced, a heavily subsidized bistro-style lunch from bin228 Panini and Wine Bar will be offered to tenants and their guests Monday through Friday from 12:30 – 2 p.m. in TheaterWorks main level Gallery of American Art.

In addition, TheaterWorks announced the expansion of free-of-charge common space privileges to its arts tenants, which will now include the Gallery of American Art as well as TheaterWorks’ own top floor soundproofed rehearsal facility.
TheaterWorks is expanding free public hours for its Gallery of American Art, which is run in association with the New Britain Museum of American Art.

Unfortunately I could not make it to the media event yesterday morning, so there may be details that I have missed. Frank Rizzo’s article has some additional information.

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