HARTFORD – Hartford has its arts offerings, but with much of it having a Eurocentric theme, they don’t necessarily tell the stories of the Black and Latino people who live here, says the Rev. Dr. Shelley D. Best, a visual artist.
Best, director and chief curator at The 224 EcoSpace in Hartford, recalled a powerful message she once heard from Real Art Ways Executive Director Will K. Wilkins. “If we don’t hear the stories of all people, then we are missing the story of our place and our community,” Best recalled Wilkins saying.
Now The 224 EcoSpace is going to give 10 artists of color the chance to showcase their talents and, Best said, become cultural ambassadors who will build bridges to the suburbs through a project titled the “Artists of Color Accelerate” program.
The project is being funded by a $200,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, recommended by its Artists of Color Unite! Advisory Committee.
The 10 successful applicants will be paired with 10 local arts organizations as artist fellows, where they will receive stipends and customized workshops led by master artists and coaches. Each host organization will also receive a stipend, equity and inclusion training, and diversity group coaching.
Participating organizations include: The Amistad Center for Art and Culture (in partnership with the Wadsworth Atheneum of Art), The Bushnell Performing Arts Center, Charter Oak Cultural Center, HartBeat Ensemble, Hartford Opera Theater, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Night Fall, Playhouse on Park, Real Art Ways, and Spectrum in Motion.
Teams of host organizations and artist fellows will pitch their ideas for a project to produce together after the Accelerator ends. The winning artist and organization will receive $5,000 each to put their project into action, organizers said.
Best said the program will also help artists navigate the business side of the art world. She said too often artists are offered exposure for their work, but no payment.
“We will be teaching them how to monetize their practice and not feel bad about it,” Best said.
In addition, the public will get a reality-TV style peek into the experiences of the artists as they go through the program, Best said. There will be interviews with each of the participants so viewers can get to know them. The hope is that those who watch will “fall in love with them and want to see them do well,” Best said.
Best said she hopes the participants are of all ages. “We’re trying to have a diverse age range,” she said. “I’m 58 and don’t want it to be over when I turn 60. Older people have value too.”
In addition to placing the fellows, the program will also provide access to a series of 10 online seminars for an extended group of artists. Those participants may want to become fellows in the future, Best said.
To apply, go here. The deadline is April 29. Best said the program should be in full swing by June, ending in November.