Art Without Walls or a Local Zip Code

Hartford Museum Passport by Brian Cook
A prototype of the Hartford Museum Passport by Brian Cook

That Brian Cook left Connecticut is not unusual. The media has been fixated on how many people in his generation are moving out of state. Where Cook is unique is that he continues to actively contribute to the arts and culture of Hartford, which is more than some artists do while living just a few blocks over the city line.

If you have been to any venue with a pulse in the last few years, you’ve seen his work.

What also sets him apart is that he rejects the idea of himself as a professional artist, and says he has no ” plans to be one.” The result of this perpetual hobbyist mentality seems to be pure, unpretentious art. There’s no ego getting tied up in the work. There’s no distraction triggered by the schmoozing that frequently takes the place of actual creation. Cook could teach the professionals a thing or to about being earnest and getting a real kick out of one’s work.

As for his artistic background, Cook describes it as an organic process: ” I had an artistic mother and grandmother, and have always enjoyed doodling, writing poetry and sculpting in the sand. […] About two years ago, having learned to use Photoshop as part of my job with a web startup, I began making flyers for some friends in Sea Tea Improv, Hartford’s beloved comedy troupe. I enjoyed doing it and got some positive feedback, so I tried to get better. I love Hartford, and want to use design for positive social impact. My first foray in this direction was an imaginary metro map for Hartford, with proceeds going toward Connectikids. I see the Hartford Museum [Passport] as a next step in this direction.” During this past snowy winter, when so many schools and businesses were having to shut down for several days due to the stormy weather, La Paloma Sabanera — a small, independent coffee shop — was under particular strain. Many of the shop’s customers are state employees, so even on days when La Paloma Sabanera was open, business would lag if the state closed or dismissed early. The proceeds of a poster Cook created especially for this “third place” would go to the store’s “snowy day fund” to help keep the business afloat.

Now — besides creating posters for events  and beloved local coffee shops — Cook is trying to get funding for a project designed to encourage museum attendance by Hartford youth. The Hartford Museum Passports are themselves part art, part bribery. With each museum visit, the passports would be stamped, validating the experience and incentivizing future ones.

The inspiration for this project is twofold. The museum passport itself comes directly from the way that an actual passport serves as a type of diary. Cook says, “I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot, in Asia, Europe and the Caribbean, and always loved the appearance, language and symbolism of passports, and varying aesthetics of stamps from country to country. I actually look at my old passports fairly frequently, remembering visits by the stamps.”

Though he does not say it, a passport signals permission. It says, this is who I am and I can go anywhere. It provides tangible proof that a person can go places beyond his or her imagination. Continue reading “Art Without Walls or a Local Zip Code”

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Yarn Bomb of Peace

An article in last Wednesday’s New York Times confirmed that yarn bombing is all the rage right now. The photo above shows artwork that appeared recently on the converted pay phone outside of La Paloma Sabanera, but local artists have been leaving work around Hartford for some time now.

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June’s Going to be So Boring

Looking for something to do?

The Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Film Festival begins on Thursday, May 26th and runs through June 4th. Screenings will happen at Cinestudio on the Trinity College campus. Individual tickets are $9; discounted passes are also available for three shows and the entire festival. On June 3rd, you can check out GAZE at Real Art Ways from 5:30-8:30. This is a free gay happy hour, which fits neatly into the film festival schedule. You must be thinking, “Isn’t Pride during June as well?” Traditionally, June has been the time for gay rights celebrations and actions because of the Stonewall riots. While the major events in New York and San Francisco remain scheduled for June, the local “rally,” which has mainly been an apolitical festival in recent years, is moving to September. Maybe there will be fewer sunburns.

Anyway, you’ll have to be a decider on June 4th, or be ready to do a lot of event-hoppin’. From 5-7pm you have the chance to donate to the St. Genevieve School in Haiti and have a dinner of Haitian cuisine. The Taste of Haiti fundraiser will be held at the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry. After getting your fill of Caribbean food, you can take a ten minute walk north to the Fr. Thomas Geokler Social Justice Fundraiser, which will be held at Sacred Heart Parish on Winthrop Street from 5-8pm. The pasta dinner (suggested donation of ten bucks) will be followed by a presentation about how to support the Youth Ministry.
There will be a fundraiser for the Hartford Jazz Society from 6-10pm at the Asylum Hill Congregational Church. How does one raise funds for jazz? With jazz. There is a suggested donation of $25, but they say that nobody will be turned away for lack of funds. From 7-9pm there will be a tribute to James Brown at the Riverfront Plaza. And,from 7-11 pm at St. James Episcopal Church in West Hartford, there will be a dance party fundraiser for Hartford Catholic Worker, which is a Catholic community in the North East neighborhood dedicated to “nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and forsaken.” If you feel bored on June 4th, you might just be a boring person!

The Puerto Rican Day Parade will be on June 5th.

You can see what the mayoral candidates have to say for themselves on June 8th at the Hartford Public Library. This goes from 5:30-7:30pm, with refreshments available during that first half hour.

You can help the CT Science Center celebrate its second birthday at the Liquid Lounge on June 10th. This party from 6-10pm is for adults 21+ only. Do you know what that means? No guilt for elbowing some defenseless child out of the way so that you can play Mindball.

Februarys Liquid Lounge at the Connecticut Science Center
February's Liquid Lounge at the Connecticut Science Center

On June 11th, some of us will be celebrating the High Holiday of Continue reading “June’s Going to be So Boring”

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Show Some Respect!

“Question: Isn’t street harassment the price you pay for living in a city?
Answer: No, local taxes are the price you pay for living in a city.”
Continue reading “Show Some Respect!”

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Bike Rally

Today is Bike Day which wraps up Bike Week, but there are still a few days left to Bike Month. This morning, far earlier than anyone should even be up out of bed, a group of about a hundred cyclists rallied at the Capitol.

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