I’m a guy who likes to keep his ear to the ground about all things culture in Greater Hartford. From exhibits to plays, I’m on a constant bustle to explore and to unearth the cultural gems of our region to share and promote to our community. Amidst these voyages, I’ve heard time and time again that art and culture rest at the core of a community’s vibrancy, bringing that —WOW— factor that both defines and creates a city or town as unique and distinct.
A vibrant community appears much more obviously at some times throughout the year than others. For instance, Riverfront Recapture fills each summer with cultural events that draw thousands to simply enjoy our region’s multicultural, multifaceted identity. For instance, The Taste of the Caribbean and Jerk Festival this weekend (Saturday, August 3, 2013) will bring thousands to the heart of Hartford to celebrate West Indian culture, a heritage that Greater Hartford hosts the third largest population of in the nation. Another great example is EnvisionFest in the fall, a free, one-day festival that showcases over 100 events, activities and performances in downtown Hartford.
These examples, of course, serve an important purpose in helping forge our region’s identity and creating it as a fun, interesting place to live and work. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of just focusing on these flashy events when defining our community’s vibrancy. In my opinion, these one day cultural celebrations are really the icing to the organizations in our community that provide delicious slices of cultural cake to thousands throughout the entire year.
In my mind, Charter Oak Cultural Center immediately pops up as a place harnessing the power of the arts to create positive social change and to promote cultural vibrancy. From dance and theater to exhibitions and concerts like its annual IndieFest, Charter Oak hosts over 100 professional arts events a year without ever turning away someone who cannot afford the price of a ticket, providing a reliable, consistent source of top-notch arts programming for anyone interested. Additionally and importantly, Charter Oak also engages nearly 1,000 of Hartford’s inner-city children with arts and literacy-based programming, enriching their lives with instruction about culture both during the school year and summer months.
Similarly, The Artists Collective on Albany Avenue also serves a crucial role in supporting cultural vibrancy in our community, as well. The Artists Collective preserves and perpetuates the arts and culture of the African Diaspora, serving a predominantly low income black, Caribbean and Latino constituency. For many youth involved in its programming, The Artists Collective brings the only exposure to the arts that they’ll receive in a safe, supportive atmosphere that promotes growth and community responsibility.
So, vibrancy, although easily apparent through large-scale cultural celebrations, finds its foundation in arts and heritage organizations that empower the region with accessible arts and cultural programming and education; the organizations that transform communities with consistent, meaningful events that improve quality of life, inspire creative thinking and, in laymen’s terms, are fun!
I know there are tons more examples I could give about the organizations that help define our vibrancy and, honestly, I encourage you to seek them out on your own. Perhaps we’ll stumble into each other in our voyages. In my experience, cultural explorers have a way of running into each other both figuratively and literally. Take that as a warning to protect your glass—sometimes it’s hard for me to keep my eyes up with my ears to the ground all the time.