Performing Hartford: Advocating for Hartford’s Artists

3 min read

Hannah Smith ’26

Staff Writer

One of the many events orchestrated during the Bicentennial Spring Symposium was “Performing Hartford: Advocating for Hartford’s Artists.” Led by Deborah Goffe and Rebecca Pappas, this session focused on the struggles independent artists face while trying to make a name for themselves within the arts community.

“Performing Hartford” was organized to act as a group discussion rather than a lecture. In order to accomplish this, everyone was seated in a circle with a microphone moving around the room for people to first introduce themselves to establish a community of their own, sharing their names and one of the people responsible for getting them where they are today in the art world. The discussion was based on the Urban Institute’s study titled “Investing in Creativity” that structures all the ways in which artists need support, so that it is possible for art to be their full time job.

The categories are validation (award artists for the work they’re doing), demand/markets (relating to supply and demand, audience interest in art that can translate into financial compensation), material supports (including employment, cost of living, insurance, equipment and so on), training and professional development (teaching and learning more from artists throughout their careers), communities and networks (create community) and information (meaning resources that artists can look into to find all the information listed above).

To foster this communication, everyone in attendance was sent out into the hall after about 20 minutes of discussion to find paper on the walls labeled with one of the six dimensions from the “Investing in Creativity” study. People were encouraged to walk around and write down any ideas they had on how things could be better for artists and what we can do to get there. Examples included “institutions need to listen to artists and the community’s demands versus institutions forcing artists and the community to conform to their demands” as well as “finding a consistent, physical space to create community with dance and theater.”

Once people were given enough time to write down their thoughts and talk to other members of the Hartford art scene, everyone was welcomed back into the circle to express their grievances regarding work issues, lack of funding, grants, promotion, financials and so on. Building off of each others’ ideas, the group was able to talk through what our next steps should be concerning government involvement and what needs to be done in order to allow artists to grow within their fields. There was also an emphasis on getting people of color the resources they need to develop their work, including a list of places to apply for grants and further their progress.

To conclude the event, Executive Director of the Austin Arts Center and Artist-in-Residence in Theater and Dance Deborah Goffe reminded everyone to keep talking because the conversation is never ending and it is all about progress. So long as people are talking about what needs to be done, brainstorming new ideas and speaking to the right people, events like “Performing Hartford: Advocating for Hartford’s Artists” are worth the time.

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