Connecticut’s arts and culture institutions are some of the best assets that our state has to offer. They are an economic driver, a partner to our school systems, and one of the main factors for people deciding to move or stay here.

As we think about a vision for the future of our state and region, it’s important to consider how the arts fit into that plan. The arts are more than a nice diversion; when used effectively, they can help solve problems, reduce disparities and change the perception of a city.

In this episode of Disinvested, we speak with leaders of large and small arts organizations to figure out how the arts can do even more for our state.

Listen to Episode 6: Arts & Culture:

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Chip McCabe, Director of Placemaking and Events for the Hartford Business Improvement District: “When you look at cities who have grown either in actual population or they’ve grown in “hipness…”  They used arts and entertainment as a keystone to the foundation of how they were going to rebuild and remodel their city and change perceptions of how people from the outside looked inward on their cities.”

David Fay, President and CEO for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the largest arts organization in Connecticut: “I like to call the arts “the gymnasium of imagination.”  It’s in the arts experience that the human being can really stretch their imagination, which is not just about enjoying the arts, it’s about really working on that side of your brain.  This is something that’s not just a nice amenity to have, but it’s really an important part of our human advancement.”

Julia Pistell is the Managing Director and founding member of Sea Tea Improv: “We get a lot of folks who initially think that taking an improv class is about being funny, having fun, or being a star. But what improv is really about, is about being a great listener, being flexible and adaptable, about collaborating and communicating really well … All of these skills are extremely important for any workplace.”

Bonnie Koba, Senior Program Associate for the Connecticut State Office of the Arts: “So besides the idea of arts for arts’ sake, the arts are important in developing character, in helping people know how to work on a team, in changing perceptions, in communicating thoughts and ideas, in opening up emotions, and engaging students.”

Dr. Constance Devereaux, Associate Professor and Director of the MFA of Arts Administration Program at the University of Connecticut: “…Artists are natural problem solvers.  They’re natural leaders.  What we really want is for artistic people to be out in the world doing whatever job they want to be doing to earn a living so that they’re part of our community.”

Naomi Arroyo: UConn student, focusing on therapy through the arts: “…The only reason that I really do love the arts is because it’s a therapeutic form for me.  I get to express myself.  I get to dance, I get to sing, and I get to be whoever I want to be in a play.  So I was like, why don’t we use this as therapy.”

Faithlyn Johnson, Founder and Artistic Director at Act Up Theater in Hartford: “Knowing that people are people, whether race, color, religion, knowing that people appreciate beautiful things in art.  Art exposes you to the world.  It gives you a world in the middle of your hands that nobody can take away.”

Dr. Thomas Loughman, Director and CEO of The Wadsworth Atheneum: “The Wadsworth is the nation’s oldest public art museum:  “Access as a principle is an expectation of the public in the twenty-first century. They don’t want to just know that somewhere, something exists that does this. They want to experience it and they want to be a part of it. …In the end, the museum belongs to everyone.”

Ana Valentin-Jackson, Interim Executive Director and founding member of Cultural Moasica: “Cultural Mosaica promotes Latino culture and heritage in the community. It is important because take a look at what Hartford and what the region looks like.  We are very diverse.  We have communities from every spectrum and from everywhere in the world pretty much.  We need to be able to serve everyone and also learn from each other.”

Chion Wolf, WNPR personality and Hartford resident: “You have to hear it from the people who are going through it, and the people who are most marginalized have the clearest view of what the truth is, of what’s really going on in this world … If we don’t amplify these voices, if we don’t put a light on these voices, if we don’t absorb that, it’s our loss, it’s our loss forever.”

Here’s a FULL TRANSCRIPT of Episode 6