Category: community

Top Ten Non-Twain Things to Do in Hartford

By , March 13, 2014 9:03 pm

Between lists written by those who can’t see beyond the major institutions and shoddily researched, outdated articles authored by someone who spent little time in Hartford and has since moved elsewhere, it seemed appropriate to revisit just a few of the things we have going on here. As we have said before, we have to ♥ Mark Twain because when you move into Hartford you take an oath swearing as much, but we know that Twain and his legacy are not the only game in town:

One bike decorated for the Real Ride

  1. The Real Ride: during times of year when snow is not on the ground, cyclists of varying ability decorate their bikes with lights, streamers, giant puppets, beads, and more, and take a ten-mile slow ride around the city, at night. The group — in the hundreds — leaves from the Real Art Ways parking lot, taking a different route each time. On one ride, a cyclist towed a trailer on which an entire drum kit was set up and played during the ride. Other rides have featured a shopping cart bike with a giant dragon head mounted on it. This is free and all ages, beginning around nightfall and ending several hours later, as the group makes stops to view fireworks, participate in a drumming circle, or watch improv. What makes this significant? The ride gets people on the streets of Hartford after dark, doing more than just running off to their cars. 
  2. Cedar Hill Cemetery: this is a place of peace and quiet, a place to see deer grazing around dusk, and a place to quietly recreate. That’s encouraged. They have hosted films, bird walks, and tours of the cemetery’s notable residents. Around Halloween, actors portray some of those residents in a lantern tour. Art, history, and nature collide here.
  3. One contestant in the Art Sled Derby, 2014

  4. Art Sled Derby: For two years in a row, people have gathered at the hill in Elizabeth Park with sleds, some simple, and some seeming to challenge the idea of “sled.” There are no waivers, no fees. And there shouldn’t be. This is one of the regular sledding hills…but there is not usually the possibility of winning a bizarre trophy made of doll parts or competing against someone riding a bed down the slope. Unlike art galleries where work is curated, all entries are viewable. Even the creations that fall apart within seconds earn cheers from onlookers.
  5. Continue reading 'Top Ten Non-Twain Things to Do in Hartford'»

New Lives/New England, Traditional Art

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By , March 12, 2014 10:16 am

Fatima Vejzovic squats in front of the çilimi weaving loom. She’s being asked questions about the process, but does not have enough English vocabulary to respond. She motions in a way that indicates everyone should kindly shut up and just watch. No interpreter needed. She shows with her hands how she counts out to thread the thick yarn to create patterns. Above the loom, a completed rug shows what this piece-in-progress will generally look like when finished.

Vejzovic, a Bosnian refugee, is only one of the artists whose work is currently on display at the Institute for Community Research as part of the New Lives/New England touring exhibit. The artists are refugees and other new immigrants living in Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont. Tapestries, bags, mittens, and lace are among the works from members of the Assyrian, Bosnian, Burmese Karen, Somali, and Somali Bantu communities.

Lynne Williamson, Director of the Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program at the ICR, said that handicrafting can be therapeutic for those who have experienced trauma. Having their works on display and creating opportunities for the public to interact with artists, she said, encourages people to view the creators in ways other than just “women in headscarves.” Continue reading 'New Lives/New England, Traditional Art'»

Engaging the Public on Transportation and Zoning

By , February 28, 2014 9:28 am

Hartford hosted zoning and transportation meetings this week as one agency launches a new plan and the other moves toward refining regulations.

DOT gives quick explanation of TransformCT at the Lyceum

The Zoning 101 event was presented by Hartford 2000 — the coalition of Neighborhood Revitalization Zones — and the City of Hartford’s Department of Development Services. Actors Cindy Martinez and Taneisha Duggan from HartBeat Ensemble were in the audience at the Hartford Public Library, adding drama to liven up what is often, but does not have to be, presented as a dull topic. All seemed to agree that HartBeat’s involvement was the strong point of the evening.

As the presentation moved along, there was frustration when City of Hartford employees were not answering resident questions. This was intentional at first, as someone’s questions were deferred from middle to the end of the planned presentation. Later, it seemed that people were talking past each other.

Local activist Hyacinth Yennie asked “What about the enforcement? … that’s the most critical of all.” The City employees agreed, but gave no hard answer about how zoning regulations would be enforced.

Mary Ricker Pelletier wanted to know who is on the team that is making the zoning changes. She received no response.

Ricker Pelletier commented that residents are often asked for input at meeting after meeting, but are not involved or informed when compromises are made. She asked, “What is the compromise process?” She was told that people could go to the new zoning website to see how people could be involved. Continue reading 'Engaging the Public on Transportation and Zoning'»

#younghARTford: Second Time Around

By , February 19, 2014 10:08 am

Enough Elephants in the Room for a Circus

Hartford is a small, diverse city. The 2010 census data indicates that 38.7% of its population identifies as black, 43.4% identifies as Hispanic, and 15.8% identify as white, non-Hispanic. The rest falls into categories of white, Asian, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and biracial/multiracial. Of course, we know these numbers do not reflect those who are not reached by data collectors; historically, blacks and Hispanics are undercounted.

Knowing this, questions were raised going into last week’s #youngHartford forum about the blatant lack of racial diversity on the panel.

Carlos Hernández Chávez, a local with a solo exhibit currently on display in the ArtWalk Gallery, posed a similar line of questions while in the audience of the Courant/Fox/HYPE-sponsored event: “I’ve been here [in Hartford] 47 years,” he said. “Hartford right now is over 50% Hispanic. How many of you are Hispanic here?” he asked the audience. A few hands were lifted. “That’s not 50%.”

Hernández Chávez said this was not about creating guilt for anyone, but this subject had to be discussed.

“How many dark faces do you see here?” he continued. “If we want to see Hartford thrive,” he said, “then “you have to look at that issue.”

But not everyone has been wiling to do that. Sidestepping unpleasant controversy is just easier for some, including those who had both an audience and a microphone but chose to use neither for the greater good.

That’s not to say that all of the panelists were complacent. Continue reading '#younghARTford: Second Time Around'»

Second Annual Art Sled Derby

By , February 16, 2014 4:20 pm

Wildaliz Bermudez kisses her husband, Ken Krayeske,  possibly one last time before he rides a bed sled down the hill in Elizabeth Park.

You don’t need a branding campaign of any sort to get people out on a snowy Saturday afternoon. What you need is a good idea, being open to having fun, and the willingness to promote a little.

For the second year, Paul Spirito organized a successful Art Sled Derby that was completely free to attend, with expenses only being what participants chose to spend on sleds and materials. No waivers, no fuss.

Supporting the “Hartford Strong” sled team


The “Hartford Strong” team said they were about resilience.

Continue reading 'Second Annual Art Sled Derby'»

Known Knowns and Unknown Unknowns: Hartford BOE Edition

By , February 7, 2014 3:39 pm

Although Tuesday night’s Hartford Board of Education special meeting had only two agenda items for public comment, you would have never known it from the hundreds of people, especially Weaver students, who packed into the Fred D. Wish Elementary School gymnasium. It was a sea of forest green hoodies. Proudly emblazed on the hoodies was the rallying cry of the night: “Weaver Strong.” In addition, Weaver students greeted every attendee with a handout celebrating the school’s achievements. Thundering drum beats in the school’s lobby foretold of a battle. Handheld placards proclaiming “Weaver Forever” were placed on every seat. Ironically, the presumed fight over the future of Weaver High School was the least contentious event of the night.

The massive turnout of Weaver students, parents, alumni, and staff was the dissatisfaction with the Board’s communication with the school’s community. The show of force was to ensure the survival of Weaver, including its traditions, history, and legacy. The issue at hand was the future move of Weaver Culinary Academy to a temporary location at the Lincoln Culinary Institute on Sigourney St. Weaver High School is slated for a $100 million rehabilitation and the entire school must be relocated to Lincoln while construction occurs.

Rumors had been swirling over the future of Weaver, but the real issue, as the school’s principal Tim Goodwin explained, was the glacial pace of the project and the numerous unanswered questions over the school’s future. The leadership of the Blue Hills Civic Association also peppered the board with questions over the developer of the Weaver site and lack of communication with the neighborhood. Continue reading 'Known Knowns and Unknown Unknowns: Hartford BOE Edition'»

Collecting Warmth

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By , December 23, 2013 9:30 am

Unlike the mullet, glittens really are the best of both worlds

It’s not uncommon to see kids trying to skate with their hands tucked into pants’ pockets. Others are not even wearing coats on blustery days.

To mitigate some of this, Winterfest is collecting hats, mittens, gloves, and scarves, in addition to ice skates in all sizes.

If you have outerwear or skates to donate, you can drop off at the skating rink in Bushnell Park, or at any of these locations:

Flipping Sense of Place

By , December 17, 2013 7:29 am


The snow did not deter folks from coming out on Saturday for a community dialogue about how our surroundings shape us. Real Art Ways hosted this event, co-presented by the Hartford Public Library.

Lourdes Correa-Carlo started the discussion by way of providing background on her art in general and her two pieces — Vigilance Structure and Inverted Structure — currently on display at Real Art Ways. While visiting her mother in Hartford, Correa-Carlo used photography to help her explore the community. She said she “started photographing in Hartford without knowing anyone” other than her family. Continue reading 'Flipping Sense of Place'»

Final Downtown North Design Meeting

By , December 12, 2013 5:13 pm

Artwork on structure walls at Heaven. It was proposed that these structures be removed or reduced in size. There were objections to the removal of this public art.

“This is about preparing an area for development,” said Thomas Deller, City of Hartford’s Director of Development Services. “Everything that’s here is being proposed as the maximum.”

The Downtown North Park Plan is funded, Deller said, by a sustainable community grant to “determine how we develop” the area “for growth and sustainability.”

As with the previous two public meetings, there were questions about who these proposed changes are for, even as the standing room only crowd was told that a steering committee included community members.

But all along, it has been evident that whole segments of the population have not been included in the planning process. At the previous meeting in October, very few residents not employed by the City were in attendance, and no regular users of New Ross, County Wexford Park were involved, even though this small park has its own Friends group. At that meeting, when I informed Tim Love, the Principal of Utile, Inc., that the park is currently used by skaters and others, and that a formal skate park was about the break ground, I was told that if this park was deemed not in the interest of economic development, the skate park could be moved.
I suggested that the parties involved in redevelopment reach out to the community.

That does not seem to have happened in the time since, but park users — including those who skate, do parkour, and use the space as a canvas for their art — caught wind of the plans to change a space without seeking their input. So, they showed up at last night’s final meeting, and they showed up in large numbers.

Regular users of Wexford, New Ross County Park — Heaven — showed up to the meeting where the park was given two minutes of discussion tacked on at the end just before the library closed.

Predictably, information about the skate park was presented last, for mere minutes, and then followed by the rushed Q&A segment. Continue reading 'Final Downtown North Design Meeting'»

In the Spirit of Second Chances

By , December 3, 2013 11:52 pm

Bruce Rubenstein and Kennard Ray                                                       Photo taken by a Dunkin Donuts patron

Want an explanation for this photo?

See the comments on the “Ban the Box: What does the law say?” article.


The abbreviated version: a document was read and misinterpreted, which is easy to do when only minimal information is provided. The person assumed to have done wrong asked to sit down and talk with the person who did the misinterpreting. An understanding was reached and opinions were changed.


That should not be an anomaly, but it seems we have a climate where the norm is for people to hold grudges and behave passive-aggressively. There are “community leaders” who, after all, model this exact kind of behavior.

Maybe it does not have to be that way. Maybe we can have grown men show a willingness to apologize and move on.

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