Jim Krueger stands under I-84 in Hartford.

Jim Krueger stands under I-84 in Hartford.

Growing up in West Hartford with an interest in architecture and city planning, Jim Krueger often wondered why engineers and city leaders decades ago designed a major interstate highway that cut right through the heart of Hartford, separating the city’s downtown from surrounding neighborhoods and making it easy for drivers to zip right through the capital city without so much as a second thought.

In a new podcast, “The Road That Killed A City,” Krueger examines how the construction of I-84 in the mid-20th century transformed and divided Hartford, creating challenges that the city still deals with to this day.

Krueger, who studied journalism at Penn State University, did much of his research for the podcast at the Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library.  And one of his interviewees was Hartford Public Library board member Steve Harris, a lifelong resident of the city’s North End who saw firsthand the transformation of the city.

“I did some general interviews but the Hartford History Center had lots of documents from people at that time that stated, pretty bluntly, what they were trying to do,” Krueger said of his research. “These legal documents, state documents, they really show people’s intention at the time.”

The podcast project was a labor of love for Krueger, who began work on it in the fall of 2019 and completed the six-episode series in late 2021. He said he hopes it gives listeners an understanding of how some of the challenges Hartford faces were created by short-sighted urban planning and top-down decisions from city leaders who didn’t consult with the residents whose lives they were upending.

“The highway really made it so that people living in the suburbs could literally drive over the poor neighborhoods in Hartford that have kind of been forgotten about,” he said. “When you don’t see something or deal with something head on, when you can just kind of drive past it, regardless of how close you live to it, it’s not your problem anymore and I think that has created a really big lack of empathy for the city.”

Krueger said he was surprised to discover frank discussions by planners in documents at the Hartford History Center about how the highway would not only help Hartford connect to its growing suburbs and stay competitive with other, larger cities, but also achieve the effect of separating downtown from neighborhoods seen as less desirable.

Robert Moses, an urban planner from New York who served as a consultant on highway and development projects in Hartford, wrote in a 1949 planning document that locating the highway through the “slum area north of the business section would be preferable.” The change demolished much of the city’s low-income housing and created a physical barrier between Downtown and the diverse, working-class North End that exists to this day.

“This is the opportunity to accomplish at once slum clearance, rehousing and business and industrious development,” Moses wrote.

“I think I went out to make a podcast that was solely about bad city planning, a botched city planning job, I didn’t know how much race would be tied into it,” Krueger said.

For more information about the podcast, visit www.theroadthatkilledacity.com.


Throughout the month of February we’ve been highlighting books, music and movies to celebrate Black History month in our weekly newsletter.

As the month comes to a close, here’s a list of what we featured. The books are available in our catalog, and the movies and music are available on Kanopy and Freegal — just input your library card!

Want to get great book suggestions like these weekly in your inbox? Subscribe to the Hartford Public Library enews.



Between The World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates
No. 1 New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Winner

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.

“Powerful and passionate … profoundly moving … a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today.” — New York Times

The language is visceral, eloquent, and beautifully redemptive. This is required reading.” — Toni Morrison


How We Fight For Our Lives

by Saeed Jones
Winner of the Kirkus Prize
Stonewall Book Award

Haunted and haunting, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir about a young, Black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires and fears.

“A moving, bracingly honest memoir that reads like fevered poetry.” — New York Times

“Powerful. …. Jones is a remarkable, unflinching storyteller, and his book is a rewarding page-turner.” — Publishers Weekly


Angel of Greenwood

by Randi Pink

A piercing, unforgettable love story set in Greenwood, Oklahoma, and against the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

“I hope teachers assign this in schools and librarians turn it face-out on the shelves. American kids need to know this history to be good citizens.” — NPR

“…this novel brilliantly juxtaposes a lighthearted story of young Black love with a deft reminder that such beauty has often been violently seized from Black people, and that these instances deserve remembrance.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review


An American Marriage

by Tayari Jones
New York Times Notable Book
2019 NAACP Image Award-Outstanding Literary Work
Oprah Book Club Selection

An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward —with hope and pain — into the future.

“A moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple.” — Barack Obama

“Haunting. … Beautifully written.” — New York Times Book Review


A Brief History of Seven Killings

by Marlon James
Winner of the Man Booker Prize

This masterful and inventive novel is a fictional exploration of the murder attempt on the life of musician Bob Marley.

“Thrilling, ambitious. … Both intense and epic.” — Los Angeles Times

“A tour de force. [An] audacious, demanding, inventive literary work.” — Wall Street Journal


Sing, Unburied, Sing

by Jesmyn Ward
New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year

This is a majestic, unforgettable novel about family past and present told from the voice of a young man trying to find his way.

“This book is so good that after you read it, you will want to read it again.” — Sun Herald

“Very beautiful.” — Vox


Somebody’s Daughter

Ashley C. Ford
New York Times Bestseller
The 21 Most Anticipated Books of 2021 (Time)

An extraordinarily powerful memoir: the story of a childhood defined by the absence of her incarcerated father and the path we must take to both honor and overcome our origins.

“This is a book people will be talking about forever.” — Glennon Doyle, No. 1 New York Times bestselling author

“The writing is so richly observed and so suffused with love and yearning that I kept forgetting to breathe while reading it.” — John Green, No. 1 New York Times bestselling author


The Sweetness of Water

Nathan Harris
New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

A beautifully written and compelling story about the unlikely bond between two freedmen who are brothers and the Georgia farmer whose alliance will alter their lives, and his, forever

“Beautiful… An instant classic… This book is profound.” — Wall Street Journal

“The Sweetness of Water leaves a lasting and multifaceted impression: It’s warm and absorbing, thought-provoking and humane.” — NPR



I Am Not Your Negro

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” — James Baldwin
Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this film explores the history of racism in the U.S. through Baldwin’s recollections and own words. BAFTA Award for Best Documentary, 2018. Nominated for Best Documentary Oscar, 2016.
“One of the best movies you are likely to see this year.” — New York Times
You can watch the trailer HERE.


The Central Park Five

From award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns, The Central Park Five tells the story of the five black and Latino teenagers who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989.

“…a vivid, involving documentary. The story it tells is a wrenching one, but it never succumbs to hyperbole or sensationalism” — NPR


Beyond the Lights

This is an epic and beautiful movie filled with music, romance, comedy and at the center is the celebration of female empowerment. Written and directed by award-winning director of Love & Basketball Gina Prince-Bythewood.

You can watch the trailer HERE.

“I haven’t been able to shake this movie, or Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s performance, since I saw it two months ago. This is a fantastic film. Drop what you’re doing and see it.” — RogerEbert.com


Saturday Church

This musical coming-of-age tale about a young man exploring his true identity won the 2017 Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival.

“…It is a disarmingly and consistently sensitive movie that remains engaging.” — New York Times



Mary J. Blige

All hail the queen of hip hop and soul.

We did not get enough of Mary J. Blige at the Super Bowl. Lucky for us all we can download her music free on Freegal.

“Believe in yourself when nobody else does.” — Mary J. Blige



Etta James

Etta James is an icon.

“Etta James’ powerful, versatile and emotionally direct voice could enliven the raunchiest blues as well as the subtlest love songs” — New York Times


Alicia Keys

Why not experience the amazing artistry of Alicia Keys?

Revisit her second studio album Diary of Alicia Keys, the one that the New York Times says “confirmed her place in musical history.”

“Everything’s gonna be alright.” ― Alicia Keys




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February 16th, 2022

Hartford Public Library strives to create safe and welcoming spaces for our community, and for our staff. We are all deeply saddened and distressed that one of our valued front-line employees was assaulted earlier today while performing his duties as a safety officer. We are working with our colleagues at the Hartford Police Department to identify the person or persons responsible. Our commitment to our staff and public is unwavering.

We believe this assault to be an isolated incident and do not believe there is any danger to any other library employee or customers at this time. The Downtown Library was closed for the remainder of the day out of an abundance of caution and to aid the Hartford Police Department in their investigation.

Hartford Public Library values all our staff and understands the challenges they face working on the front lines to deliver vital services to the Hartford community. We continually work with UConn and the City of Hartford to ensure the safety of our buildings for our staff and customers.

Our thoughts are with the employee who was harmed and we wish him a speedy recovery. We are also thinking of all of our employees and the public we serve who were impacted by this distressing event and will be providing them with the support they need.

A solar-powered charging bench outside the Camp Field Library.

A solar-powered charging bench outside the Camp Field Library.

A grant from the Connecticut State Library has helped fund the installation of a solar-powered charging bench outside the Camp Field Library.

The bench features four rapid-charging USB ports that allow visitors to charge their phone or tablet, all while within range of Hartford Public Library’s free Wi-Fi.

It was installed in November and usage is expected to increase during the warmer months. The bench is powered by a solar panel attached to the rear.

The project was funded by $3,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds that were awarded to Hartford Public Library via a competitive grant process organized by the Connecticut State Library. A total of $2 million in ARPA funding was distributed to libraries across the state.

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The transition to the digital age at the nation’s oldest continuously published newspaper is the subject of a new series of oral histories produced by the Hartford History Center at the Hartford Public Library.

The Hartford Courant: From Print to Digital Oral History Project includes 19 Zoom interviews with current and former staffers at The Courant that were conducted in the Spring and Summer of 2021 and sheds light on the adjustments, challenges and successes of the Hartford Courant during the last years of the 20th century and early decades of the 21st century as it entered the digital age and transitioned from being a primarily print media outlet.

“The Hartford History Center holds the Hartford Courant print edition bound volumes spanning the centuries; this resource maintains its value and relevance even in the electronic age,” said Brenda Miller, Hartford Public Library’s executive director of culture and communications. “The history of The Courant is a Hartford story, with deep roots in this community, and we prize our role as the repository for such an extensive print collection. The Print to Digital Oral History Project carries the story forward for an ever-evolving medium.”

The interviewees include four former publishers, as well as a mix of editors, reporters and photographers and web specialists. All interviews are available on the Connecticut Digital Archive.

“These oral histories of the people involved in the Courant’s transition to the digital age offer a new, unvarnished behind the scenes look at that transition,” said David S. Barrett, former editor and vice president of The Courant. Barrett, chair of the Hartford Public Library Board of Directors, assisted in the planning and implementation of the project and conducted several of the interviews.

“We pull the curtain back to illuminate the tumultuous years at The Courant as it built its digital presence,” he said. “I would like to thank Hartford Public Library for giving me the opportunity to work on this important project. And thank you as well to the folks we interviewed, who gave so generously of their time and spoke so candidly about their careers at The Courant. These interviews will allow us to chronicle a period of Courant history through firsthand storytelling.”

Barrett, who worked at The Courant for 27 years, including three as the paper’s top editor, said working on the project was a valuable learning experience as his departure from The Courant came at the very beginning of the transition to a digital platform and he had little firsthand experience with the transformation.

In addition to Barrett, interviews for the project were also conducted by Lauren Schafer, a student in the University of Connecticut’s Encore!Connecticut program that assists corporate and public sector professionals as they transition to opportunities in the nonprofit sector.

While the advent of the internet age allowed newspapers like The Courant to share their stories with a global audience, it deeply cut into revenue from classified advertising as people turned to free services like Craigslist to list job opportunities, apartments for rent or cars for sale. And the rise of online shopping and subsequent decline of brick-and-mortar retail impacted advertising revenue as well.

“One of the things I suspected that was confirmed to a degree, and this was not unique to the Hartford Courant, was The Courant took too long to understand the digital world was a money-making opportunity, an opportunity to make money in a new way,” Barrett said. “The Courant offered its content [online] at the beginning for free, as did most newspapers in the country.”

With their news available online for free, increased competition in a crowded media environment where newspapers were one of just many sources of news and newsrooms shrinking due to annual declines in advertising revenue, print newspaper circulation sank at a rapid pace. According to figures from Pew Research, total weekday circulation of U.S. daily newspapers was 55.8 million in 2000, 44.4 million in 2010 and just 24.3 million by 2020.

Weekday circulation at The Courant was about 216,000 in 2000 and about 135,000 in 2010, according to reports published in the newspaper those years. The Alliance for Audited Media reported The Courant had a weekday print circulation of less than 52,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Newspapers across the country have struggled mightily to replace lost revenue from print subscriptions with new revenue from online ads and digital subscriptions.


“We initially gave our news to someplace like a Yahoo or a Google for free because it allowed more people to see it,” Nancy Meyer, who worked at The Courant from 2006-2014, including two years as publisher, said in one of the interviews. “We relied probably on page views versus  expanding our audience and ensuring that that audience paid for that content. … If we could go back and do something a little different, maybe we shouldn’t have given it away for free. Maybe we should have set a target at that point earlier, but we were experimenting. The fact is little was known at that point. Today I’d say we might’ve gone back and done that differently.”

While the transition to the digital age may have hurt newspapers’ bottom lines, it undoubtedly provided new opportunities for journalists and an enhanced user experience with the advent of photo galleries, videos, data visualizations, interactive maps and timelines and other multimedia features to accompany reporting, as well as new ways for reporters to engage with their audience. And metrics let reporters and editors get a real-time view of what stories were popular with readers and helped to shape news coverage.


“I think that we can meet information needs in a way that maybe we couldn’t before,” said Megan Merrigan, who as The Courant’s director of audience engagement heads up the organization’s digital efforts. “We could reach more people, we could hear from more people, we could include more voices in our coverage. I think all of that is valuable and positive things that have come from digital distribution of the paper. … There’s a lot of really smart people across the country working in this space that are doing really amazing things. We’re all at a reckoning and figuring out how we can be sustainable, how we can do what we love doing, how we can fulfill this mission, but I’m really inspired by all the smart people working to solve that problem. That gives me hope and that makes me optimistic.”

Barrett said other interesting discussions that came up in the interviews included the increased pressure in the digital age to publish stories quickly to the web – and the challenges that brought – as well as the impact of social media and how it has contributed to the distrust of journalism.

“We learn from history, and so to chronicle the fits and starts of The Courant’s transition to the digital age through interviews with a variety of people who got in on the ground floor in the late 1990s and early 2000s, that really provides valuable perspective on that change,” he said.

Editor’s note: Hartford Public Library Communications Manager Russell Blair was a digital producer, reporter and editor at The Courant from 2012-2021.

Hartford Public Library has received a $145,000 grant from the Gawlicki Family Foundation to expand its Leap Into Learning early literacy program to home child care providers in Hartford neighborhoods.

The new effort, which is being piloted in 2022-23, will bring eight hours of weekly programming per month to eight child care providers in the city. In addition to directly engaging with the children at each site, trained staff will share best practices in early literacy with child care providers and families and provide them with the resources needed to create their own libraries. Families and child care providers will attend Family Literacy Nights at Hartford Public Library locations that will include a meal, storytelling, story reading and take-home books.


“This generous gift will allow us to bring early literacy instruction and resources directly to our city’s children in their neighborhoods as well as sharing best practices to positively impact children’s long-term reading outcomes with parents and caregivers,” said Hartford Public Library President and CEO Bridget E. Quinn. “We know reading skills are a key part of kindergarten readiness and look forward to the potential of this new pilot program.”

Leap into Learning is the program of services Hartford Public Library offers for children ages birth through five, along with their parents and caregivers, to ensure all children in Hartford are prepared to enter kindergarten ready to learn.

“We are excited to support the Leap Into Learning Day Care Outreach program which will support Hartford’s youngest children on their path to a successful education by developing their critical early reading skills,” said Mary and Ted Gawlicki, co-founders of the Gawlicki Family Foundation.

Hartford Public Library is recruiting a project manager to oversee the new program. Information about the job is available at www.hplct.org/about/job-openings/job-openings

20,318 Grief Illustrations & Clip Art - iStock

Conversations around death, grief, addiction, suicide and mental health are always difficult ones, especially when it involves children or teens who may have lots of questions that don’t lend themselves to easy answers.

That’s why the staff at Hartford Public Library have put together this resource guide that includes books, videos, websites, local organizations and more that seek to help young people understand loss, drug addiction and other difficult topics. We hope these links will be of use to families in our community. Books that are hyperlinked are available for checkout in our collection.

Support and Resources for Children

Books for Young Children 

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies

Big Cat Little Cat by Elisha Cooper

The End of Something Wonderful by Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic

Where Do They Go? By Julia Alvarez

I Remember Miss Perry by Pat Brisson

I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas

The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Azúa Kramer

The Memory Box: A Book About Grief by Joanna Rowland

The Dandelion’s Tale by Kevin Sheehan

The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup

Ida Always by Caron Levis

Bird (drug addition/loss) by Zetta Elliot

When My Daddy Died I … by K. J. Reider

I Lost Something Very Special by Husna Rahman

The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr

A Kids Book about Grief by Taryn Schuelke

A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret Holmes

A Kids Book about Trauma by Megan Bartlett

A Kids Book About Suicide by Angela N. Frazier

A Kids Book about Depression by Kileah McIlvain

A Kids Book about Addiction by Nicole Lendo

Books for children ages 8-12

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm 

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas

Belle Prater’s Boy by Ruth White

The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller

Nest by Esther Ehrlich

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Video series for Children about Parental Addiction:

Sesame Street in Communities: Parental Addiction – Meet Salia


Lending a Hand


Karli and Salia Breathe Deep


It’s Not Your Fault


Helping Children Cope with Death

Helping Kids Grieve


Helping Children Cope with Grief


The Healing Library


National Alliance for Children’s Grief



Support & Resources for Teens

Local resource: Wheeler Clinic Youth Mobile Crisis Intervention ServiceThink of it as Library On Wheels but for youth mental health services. They’ll bring the van anywhere in Connecticut for youth mental health counseling and crisis intervention.

Digital Resource: Wheeler Clinic Resource Library topic guides

Teens in Crisis

1-800-273-TALK (8255) – suicide hotline

13reasonswhy.info – self harm and suicide

Crisis Text Line https://www.crisistextline.org/ Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime to connect with a crisis counselor. Also available through WhatsApp and FB messenger. 

National Sexual Assault Hotline https://www.rainn.org/ 24/7 Call 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or chat

Bethe1to.com  – suicide

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/?_ga=2.55438818.892972002.1642803349-1524369767.1642803349

The Trevor Project  – chat, call, text crisis support for LBGTQIA + youth https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help/

“Say Something” Anonymous Call Reporting System for Students – 844-572-9669 or 844-5-SAYNOW
The Say Something Anonymous Reporting System is available 24/7 to  allow you to submit secure, anonymous safety concerns to help someone who may hurt themselves or others.

Turning Point https://turningpointct.org/ – mental health support


Talking to Teens about Fentanyl


Teen Addiction Services

Hartford Healthcare – Rushford Teen Addiction Services


Join Rise Be: Warmline


Teen Substance Use Resource Guide


Wheeler Clinic CT Clearinghouse 


Opioid Use Disorder  – Opioid Treatment in CT


Youth Recovery CT – addiction recovery peer support


Opioid Treatment Facility Locator


CT Network of Care: Grief Support


Teen Books

A Kid’s Book About Death by Taryn Schuelke

Death Is Stupid (Ordinary Terrible Things) by Anastasia Higginbotham

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

Paper Heart by Cat Patrick

Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year by Demi Lovato

Hey Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka 

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opioid Epidemic by Sam Quinones

(Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health by Kelly Jensen

High: Everything You Want to Know About Drugs, Alcohol, and Addiction by David and Nic Sheff

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Early Departures by Justin Reynolds

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Family Support & Education

Substance Use & Addiction

Sesame Street in Communities webinar:

How Parental Addiction Affects Young Children


Parental Addiction: Healing Families Together


Parental Addiction: Responding with Care


Parental Addiction: Supporting Families in Recovery


Learn to Cope


Learn to Cope: Grief resources


Narcan training video


Live Out Loud


Drug Free CT


Substance Use Disorder Resources for CT Residents


Teen Alcohol and Drug Use



CT Network of Care: Grief Support


CT Children’s Hospital: Helping Your Child Deal with Death


CT Children’s Hospital: Talking to Kids about Grief


National Alliance for Children’s Grief: Programs in CT


Talking to Children about Death


Resources to Recover: A Family Website – The Den: For Grieving Kids


Mary’s Place: A  Center for Grieving Children and Families


Resources for HPS Families: Supporting Your Child Through Grief and Loss


FullName_Color_Logo-e1508945960309hpl logo tansparentThe-Andrew-W.-Mellon-Foundation


Greenhouse Studios at the University of Connecticut, in partnership with several leading libraries and archives, including Hartford Public Library, has been awarded a grant in the amount of $805,000 over two years from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant will support the continued development and outreach of Sourcery, a mobile application that streamlines the scanning of remote of archival materials, provides better connections between researchers and archivists, and offers new and more equitable pathways for archival research.

Sourcery is an open-source web application that expands access to non-digitized archival sources. The app, developed by Greenhouse Studios and supported by the non-profit Corporation for Digital Scholarship (CDS), is accessible on any device connected to the Internet. Sourcery provides archivists with a streamlined reference scanning workflow, payment processing services, and analytics on document requests. It provides researchers with a single interface for placing document requests across multiple remote repositories–a practice that has taken on new urgency during this time of limited in-person access to collections. At present, researchers can request a document from three of four partner repositories: Hartford Public Library, Northeastern University Library and the University of Connecticut Archives & Special Collections. The fourth partner repository, Folger Shakespeare Library, will be available for requests upon its completion of a full renovation in 2023. During the grant period, the team at Greenhouse Studios will extend Sourcery’s reach to archives around the world.

“In Hartford Public Library’s Hartford History Center, we work to democratize the research process. We are excited to be included in the Sourcery project, as one of four institutions in the country chosen and the only public library to be participating,” said Brenda Miller, Hartford Public Library executive director of culture and communications and manager of the Hartford History Center. “We look forward to exploring how this dynamic collaboration will support our reference capability and the public we serve.”



Building on work done during the planning grant and in response both to feedback from archivists and researchers and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, the additional funding will enable the Sourcery team to facilitate widespread institutional adoption; work with partners in libraries and archives to support the development of the application’s feature set and user experience; implement Sourcery in a way that recognizes ethical and labor issues in the archives profession; and build a robust user base among the research community. As a part of this effort, Northeastern University Library will host an in-person design charette for institutional stakeholders in the Spring of 2022, during which the team will solicit feedback and advice from colleagues in the library and archives community. In addition, the grant will enable interoperability of Sourcery with other CDS-supported projects, including Zotero, Omeka, and Tropy.

Archives interested in using Sourcery to improve their reference scanning workflows and researchers interested in trying out the app can sign up or learn more at sourceryapp.org/join-us.

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Hartford Public Library has received a near-$25,000 grant to launch a program to provide professional development opportunities for immigrant women entrepreneurs in Hartford. See the news release below from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving for more information.

Latino Endowment Fund at the Hartford Foundation Approves Grants to Support Latino Entrepreneurship and Social Justice

Members of the Latino Endowment Fund (LEF) at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving have approved grants to the Hartford Public Library and Know Thy Neighbor totaling nearly $50,000. These grants support initiatives providing professional development and entrepreneurship for Latino immigrant women, social justice and Latino resident engagement.

“Hartford Public Library’s Mujeres Emprendedoras is a critical program to support the growth of female entrepreneurs in the heart of Hartford. Know Thy Neighbor is a growing program that brings hope, partnership and community when we need it most,” said LEF Steering Committee Chair Delpha DiGiacomo. “The strength of the Latino Endowment Fund is in supporting programs that positively impact and bring progress to our communities.  I am so excited to see how these two programs continue to impact our community with the support of LEF.”

Hartford Public Library’s (HPL) Mujeres Emprendedoras (Entrepreneurial Women) program has received a $24,960 grant to provide professional development for immigrant women entrepreneurs to create and showcase their works of cultural significance. Located at HPL’s Park Street Branch. The project will offer Spanish language workforce development support by supplying a space, childcare, and Spanish-language financial education to further their entrepreneurial goals. Project objectives include developing small business incubation by removing barriers that prevent immigrant women from making their entrepreneurial efforts profitable, primarily due to a lack of resources and capital.

“The Hartford Public Library is excited to have been selected to receive the grant from the Hartford Foundation’s Latino Endowment Fund and start project Mujeres Emprendedoras (Entrepreneurial Women),” said Hartford Public Library Customer Experience Officer Leticia Cotto. “This grant will support and enhance work that is inherent to the Hartford Public Library’s mission around economic and workforce development, community collaboration and engagement and the creation of avenues for social and economic mobility.  These resources will help Hartford Public Library and local artists in the Arte Popular Collective strengthen and continue the momentum of community revitalization in our new location; the Park Street Library @ the Lyric.”

Know Thy Neighbor’s (KTN) Advancing Racial and Social Justice in Hartford’s Latino Community program is an effort to bring together Hartford residents (Latinos and others) with police and other City agencies to build relationships working collectively to create community-driven change. KTN will hold bi-weekly meetings in Clay Arsenal, Frog Hollow, and a new neighborhood with a large Latino population. Meetings will initially be held online but will resume in person as soon when it is safe to do so. KTN will recruit and train new facilitators, use resident liaisons to grow KTN leaders, and implement actions resulting from idea generated through dialogue. A portion of the grant will be used for KTN to become a 501c3 and develop a new website.

“We at Know Thy Neighbor are so excited and grateful to have been chosen as a recipient of a grant from the Hartford Foundation’s Latino Endowment Fund,” said Know Thy Neighbor’s Executive Director Yanira Jeter.  “This will be a wonderful opportunity to bring together Hartford’s Latino community and others to build relationships and take collective action, resulting in positive, community-driven change.  The grant will enable Know Thy Neighbor to contribute to changing the culture in Hartford and advancing racial and social justice.

“I am so proud of the fact that the Latino Endowment Fund is supporting these organizations that directly impact the Latino community,” said LEF Steering Committee Vice-Chair Barbara Fernandez. “We look forward to working with them on their innovative programs to improve the life and economic prosperity of all Latinos in our region”

The Latino Endowment Fund was founded in 2003 by Latino leaders in Greater Hartford to increase philanthropy in their community and to strengthen nonprofits working to improve the quality of life for Latino residents. Members examine issues affecting the Latino community and recommend grants from the fund to address those issues.

For more information, contact Susan Dana at 860-548-1888 or sdana@hfpg.org or go to www.hfpg.org/latino.

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding towns. Through partnerships, the Foundation seeks to strengthen communities in Greater Hartford by putting philanthropy in action to dismantle structural racism and achieve equity in social and economic mobility. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $849 million since its founding in 1925. For more information, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.

ArtWalk artist Michelle Thomas of Hartford.

ArtWalk artist Michelle Thomas of Hartford.

By Tricia Haggerty Wenz

Hartford artist Michelle Thomas will be the second featured artist of ArtWalk’s 2021-22 season and her exhibition, The Adornment Series: Images of Empowerment, opens Friday, Jan. 7, with a reception from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Below is an interview with Thomas ahead of the show where she discusses her background and how she approaches her art.

Tell me about your path to becoming an artist.

I’ve been an artist my entire life. I recall in kindergarten completing my work as fast as I could to have free time where I would go directly to the easel in the classroom. I can still see the newsprint paper and smell the red and purple tempera paint. From then on I would make space to create wherever I lived.  At 16 with my very first paycheck, I purchased my first drawing table.

In the early days of your artistic journey, you joined the military.

You know, I can’t even recall how I came to the decision to join the military, but I can recall my decision to become a medic. The philosophy of that field resonated with me. When you are in battle and someone is injured, it is your duty to care for them, whether or not they are perceived to be the enemy. You take care of everyone; it is the best of humanity. After 13 years as a medic, I began working in public affairs which brought me back to my art. I was trained in graphic arts, photography and videography. All set the stage for my future career. I was able to see the world and retired after 21 years.

At the end of 2010 you retired and you embarked on an extraordinary journey.

The routines and regiment of military life were so ingrained in me I needed to somehow break free and find my creative voice once again. I needed to free my spirit and embrace fully my art once again. So, I began a year of silence. For all of 2011 I did not speak a word.


During that year I was a mom of two young children and worked as an art teacher at a Montessori school.  It was a year of self-discovery and understanding and connecting with humanity on such a deeper level. Language can be such a barrier to connecting with others, by removing speaking I was able to really see the people I was interacting with — to really focus solely on them. I developed a heightened sense of picking up body language and visual cues.

It was like a cleansing for me. At the end of the year, I was able to get back to the freedom of being. It was a pivotal, life-changing experience for me.

ARTWALK postcard_THOMAS front

Tell me about this exhibition: The Adornment Series: Images of Empowerment

This is the fourth and final part of a series I have been working on titled Visually Re-Writing Re-Written History and the series is about my journey as a Black woman.  Black identity has been torn apart and ripped to shreds. This series is about reclaiming that identity through my art.

Tell me more.

I spent so much time reading and trying to understand how slavery has affected Black Americans for centuries. I am struggling to understand how people can oppress others.

I found out recently through my dad that I am Nigerian. I thought about how much slavery and oppression took away from me and all of Black Americans.  This final part of my series is all about reclaiming and celebrating who we are.

The faces in this work are captivating.

Each face informed the direction of the art. I started with a vision but as I got deeper into the work, I found the art led me in the direction it needed to go in. Although it is a series, I treated each piece as an individual and they became who they were destined to be.

What do you hope people take away from this exhibit?

I hope that everyone, and particularly Black women, walk away knowing that they are worthy, that their history matters, that they are enough. I hope they can have the strength to share their story, to rewrite their history. We all have that tape in our head of negative thoughts and stories. Change that and choose what you feed your soul with. I know now that I am grand, I am beautiful, and I can be anything I want to be. And I want to share that message with others.

How has creating this work changed you?

It many ways it has completed an important journey for me. Through rewriting my history, I have reclaimed my Nigerian roots.  For my entire life butterflies have been an important symbol for me. The butterfly is what I use in my art logo. I recently discovered that Nigeria has the largest number of species of butterflies. Discovering this connection to my roots has been so beautiful and empowering to me.


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