Innovation is all around us. Sometimes you can unexpectedly find it in old typewriter factories. Formerly the Underwood Computing Machine Factory, 56 Arbor Street is a home for art studios and non-profit organizations in Hartford’s Parkville neighborhood. A massive, old elevator takes you up to the second floor where you can find Art Connection Studio, a non-profit community art center run by Vinfen, a human services organization that specializes in working with individuals with disabilities and life challenges.
On a weekday afternoon the studio is buzzing with an energy that enraptures you. Artists are working at a weaving loom, meticulously piecing together mosaic tiles, painting, or sewing Wonky Dolls of their own design. “Most of the activity is play and experimentation until some direction or method or vision becomes clear and the rest of it is the hard work of sticking with it until the work is complete. After that satisfying experience, they want to make another,” said Mike Galaburrí. Mike is an artist, art therapist and head of promotion at Art Connection Studio.
A staff of talented art therapists, facilitators and job coaches work with over 40 adult artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities and psychiatric conditions. They provide an outlet for personal, creative expression and assist artists with the development of an artist portfolio in the process. Galaburrí shared a little insight with me about how the staff goes about with their daily work. “While the staff is here to assist in the studio’s smooth running, with logistics and organization, structure and instruction, we also model healthy relationships in the work place. It’s the foundation on which this small community of artists rests.” This community is instantly felt when you observe artists seated at long tables collaborating and talking while they work.
The artists usually come to the studio two days per week. Some of them are there all five weekdays. It’s a welcoming space to visit and spend time in. “We try to keep a space where joyfulness is for the most part like the air we breath,” says Galaburrí about the culture of Art Connection Studio. That’s not to say that there isn’t hard work taking place amidst the joyfulness. Like any artist creating a work of expression, the creation of pieces can be both free flowing or a strenuous process. Works created in the studio are exhibited at the organization’s space on Arbor Street and they can also be spotted in locations around Hartford. Over the summer I saw some work hanging in Connecticut Landmark’s Amos Bull House.
Their fall exhibition, Woven, opened on September 18, 2015 with works for sale in painting, mixed media, watercolor, textile design, jewelry design, fiber arts, illustration, mosaic, as well as artisan products in wood. Artist family members, friends, community partners and curious individuals walked through the airy studio space marveling at the talent during an opening reception. Like other exhibit opening held at the studio, this was an opportunity for the studio’s artists to feel a true artist identity. No one feels any pressure to sell their work, but the opportunity to sell adds to the feeling of accomplishment for the artists.
Learn more about Art Connection Studio on their website: http://artconnectionstudio.org/ You can also find them on Facebook.