By Brenda J. Miller SUMMER 2009
…Age, a dynamic public art collaboration between Greater Hartford cultural organizations, will be unveiled May 14, 2009 along the walkway between the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and Hartford Public Library. Created under the banner of the national Age in America project, the exhibition represents a conversation on the issues of age and aging between generations of artists, poets, and community members. The final outcome showcases the unique contributions of participating organizations working together.
The …Age exhibition is presented by the Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library and The Amistad Center for Art & Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum in partnership with the Hill-Stead Museum Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford, and Hog River Journal. …Age is a component of Age in America, a national demonstration project organized by Libraries for the Future with support from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Age in America is designed to demonstrate the potential for museums and libraries, working together both locally and nationally, to strengthen public understanding of aging within a historical and cultural context. Hartford is one of three sites in the nation selected to participate in this project.
…Age takes a look at the phenomenon of intergenerational interpretation and adds a dose of artistic expression. Poets, artists, and oral-history participants were invited to look at one of six historical objects from the Hartford Collection or The Amistad Center and to record their thoughts and feelings about it. The artifacts were: a 1971 Hartford Times photograph; the front page of The Hartford Courant from July 21, 1969; the 1922 book Grimm’s Fairy Stories; shackles; a drawing of a slave ship; and the painting “I Am A Man” by Charly Palmer.
The project began with the selection of 12 participants, representing a range of ages and diverse backgrounds, from The Amistad Center’s Teen Advisory Group (TAG) and adult members of the Greater Hartford community. They were then paired, a teen with an older adult. The teen, working with a facilitator, chose one of the artifacts, and both teen and adult were asked to respond to that object. Their responses were videotaped. Their reflections, informed by their differing ages and experience, offered sometimes drastically different interpretations of the same object.
In the next phase of the project, six poets viewed two of the videotapes and a photograph of the related artifact and wrote a poem about each. In the final phase, the poems, photograph of the artifacts, and videotaped responses then were sent to graphic art students at Hartford Art School, who were charged with creating large-scale banners. The students were given the creative freedom to artistically interpret their personal responses to the materials.
The results will be on view May 14 to August 28, 2009 along Main Street, and an exhibition of the artifacts, poetry, and videotaped narratives will be on view in Hartford Public Library’s Hartford History Center. An opening reception will be held Thursday, May 14, from 4 to 6:30 p.m., beginning in front of the Wadsworth Atheneum on Main Street and moving into the Hartford History Center for a program and opening reception. The reception and exhibition are free and open to the public. Banners placed along the Alfred E. Burr Memorial portion of the walkway are courtesy of the Ella Burr McManus Trust. Banners were printed and produced through the generous support of Nutmeg Exhibits CT.
Hartford Public Library’s Hartford History Center, 500 Main Street, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 1 – 5 p.m., and by appointment. Parking is available on the Arch Street parking deck adjacent to the library. For more information call (860) 695-6297 or visit www.hplct.org/hhc.
Brenda J. Miller is curator of the Hartford Collection and manager of the Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library. She lives in Simsbury.