At Your Service: Hartford Arts & Heritage Jobs Grants 2014

Funded by the City of Hartford and managed by the Arts Council since 2009, The Hartford Arts & Heritage Jobs Grants supports arts and heritage programming and projects that generate or retain jobs, support local business and drive economic activity. Since its inception the Jobs Grant program has retained more than 30 jobs, expanded more than 45, created over 650 (FT, PT and Temp), added over 170 youth employment positions and resulted in more than 5.5 million in visitor audience spending. In 2011 it became a national model for using the arts to impact the local economy, winning the Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award.

And here’s a great example of this: The Mark Twain House, a major tourist attraction, continuously does a wonderful job of creating new and exciting programs and exhibits so that not only will out of town or state visitors make a point of stopping in, but local residents will want to return numerous times throughout the year. As compiled from Katherine Turner, Grants Manager, “As a result of its many public offerings, The Mark Twain House & Museum served more than 70 thousand people last year. Its visitors came from all fifty states and dozens of other countries.” This in turn creates spending locally for food, lodging and other local attractions. A win/win for the City of Hartford!

With the in-depth look into socioeconomic status of the past through Masterpiece’s “Downton Abbey” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” the upstairs-downstairs dichotomy has never been more fascinating. Hartford Arts & Jobs Grantee, The Mark Twain House & Museum has recognized this and will be launching a new series of public programming in 2014 entitled, “At Your Service.” These programs will include new interactive tours, a special exhibition, lectures, a book discussion, education programs for students and teachers and the opening of an additional room to be included in tours.

During the run of “At Your Service” the exhibit will showcase photographs, documents and historic artifacts to give a glimpse into the everyday life of real people who worked in the household. The servant tour will feature actors portraying these individuals as well as the issues they faced on a daily basis as members of the working class in the late 1800’s. The exhibit will focus on 4 long term employees of the Clemens family:

  • Patrick McAleer, the family’s coachman who had emigrated from Ireland.
    Katy Leary MTH
    Katy Leary, personal maid at the Mark Twain House for over 30 years
  • George Griffin, a former slave who served as the family’s butler. It is believed that he was an influence on the character “Jim” from Huckleberry Finn.
  • Rosina Hay, German immigrant and nursemaid to the Clemens girls.
  • Katy Leary, Mrs. Clemens’ personal maid.

The exhibition will be on display from March 14th through September 1st and I’m excited to not only experience it firsthand but also see the economic impact it has on the community. I hope that you will stop in (use your Let’s GO Arts card!) and learn about the lives of Patrick, George, Rosina and Katy.

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