There are people who appear in Hartford out of nowhere and try to reinvent the wheel; then, there are those who have been here for decades and value the history of place.
Steve Thornton has lived here since 1973. While we chat over coffee in the West End, he tells me he thinks he’s close to figuring out where Jack Kerouac lived when the writer spent time in Hartford. You aren’t alone in not knowing about this — Kerouac’s short stay here was considered insignificant by most historians, and consequently, not recorded well.
Documenting and remembering the people’s history is what Thornton has been doing, previously on days off from work, and now, more full time since he has retired. In October he opted for a book launch celebration in lieu of a retirement party.
Before he was a union activist, Thornton says he was a peace activist and had been since high school. Not having any long range goal, Thornton spent five years working as a childcare teacher, an experience he enjoyed but knew was not what he wanted to ultimately spend his life doing.
To those who still subscribe to the stereotype of school teachers as being rigid and out-of-touch with reality, meet Joey Batts.
The 2013 (Hartford) Teacher of the Year finalist rescheduled our meeting because he needed to get Pacman inked on his calf. He jokingly (or maybe not) told his superiors that if he won, he would have gotten a face tattoo. Body modification aside, the bowtie-wearing rapper, open mic host, and English teacher stands out for other reasons. For one, he has chosen to teach at Opportunity High School, a place where students who “were given up on a long time ago” have a chance at getting a diploma instead of GED. It’s not unheard of for his students to have a pregnancy, a record, or an ankle bracelet. (more…)
If Jamil Ragland is not on the radar of those in City Hall, he should be.
Hardly a day goes by anymore when I don’t hear someone say that the City of Hartford leadership has “no vision.” Well, folks…here’s your vision.
When I asked Ragland where he wanted to go to chat, he picked a coffee shop in Downtown, saying there was no place in his Northeast neighborhood to really meet up. On a day when rain threatened, he pointed out the lack of places one can go that do not require buying something.
The alternative? That was possibly the only thing not discussed when we met. (more…)
Nina Salazar // Image ripped from her Facebook page, with permission
Countless community discussions have grappled with the question of how to revive downtown.
On Pratt Street, it’s happening.
Nina Salazar is part of this momentum.
Salazar, who says she has been a “working artist and teacher forever,” opened Studio N111 on Pratt Street last fall.
She previously had studio space at the Dirt Salon on Bartholomew Avenue and at Billings Forge on Broad Street. All spaces have their challenges, and in one of those, the lack of temperature control was what prompted her to move on.
But on Pratt Street, she can only cite parking as a major challenge. Visitors are encouraged to use the inexpensive Morgan Street Garage, but for those unfamiliar with Hartford, the two block uphill walk might seem too far. Closer parking facilities are more expensive. To manage this, Salazar says she tries to schedule classes when parking is free on the street. Some things are out of her control, however. When major events happen at the XL Center, her visitors have to compete for parking. When there are road races, the street closures also have an impact.
She’s not complaining. Pratt Street has so much going for it with its central location and current momentum of creative businesses. (more…)