The City of Hartford’s Marketing, Events and Cultural Affairs Division in the Department of Development Services was awarded a 2013 Arts Catalyze Placemaking (ACP-3) Arts Leadership matching grant from the States Department of Economic and Community Development in the amount of $100,000 to support the iConnect initiative. The ACP program set out to invest in the state’s arts-based cultural activities and infrastructure to advance the attractiveness and competiveness of Connecticut cities, towns, and villages as meaningful communities in which to live, work, learn and play.
iConnect re-imagines the retail space and capitalizes on Hartford’s creative and commercial talents. A downtown has its strengths and weaknesses. Hartford has a thriving and growing residential and commercial base and a vibrant arts community but a glut of empty storefronts.
The iConnect project aims to re-purpose those empty, street-level commercial spaces to create temporary innovative retail and incubation spaces inspired by the creative industry that will enliven downtown Hartford. iConnect’s mixed-use storefront spaces will feature studios, retail stores, workshops, exhibits, interactive displays and forums for ongoing community conversations around the arts and other local issues.
These storefront spaces will foster connectivity and creative thinking in our community, with artists and arts organizations acting as the “innovation engine” for creative experimentation, dialogue, exchange and performance which will ultimately lead to economic growth.
Over 45 businesses applied to participate in the program – 15 were short listed based on the following goals and criteria. Four (4) retail stores were selected along with two (2) project spaces all slated to open this summer.
National Exhibitions and Archives: Glens Falls, NY
192 Trumbull St
Rock, Roll & Remember (HartfordRocks.com)—a pop-up Museum and print on demand art gallery that creates cultural collaborations between business, technology and art. Integrating comprehensive packaged history-based exhibitions, educational components, entertainment and special events will foster community spirit, cultural tourism and increased multigenerational audience participation.
Hartford Prints: Hartford, CT
42 1/2 Pratt Street
Retail store and letter press studio producing high quality paper products that blend modern typography, unique design, and offbeat composition in a fun, efficient and environmentally sound manner.
Naturally Dogs and Cats: Enfield, CT
100 Trumbull Street
Naturally Dogs and Cats will be an urban oasis for pets and their people. NDC will offer premium pet food and supplies within the city of Hartford that are all natural and made and sourced within the U.S.A. with a concentration on products made in New England. NDC will collaborate with area artists to create a line of pet attire and accessories as well as exhibit pet inspired artwork in the store. There will also be programming and events for pet owners and their people to meet and socialize with each other.
WNPR – Where We Live and The Colin McEnroe Show
231 Trumbull Street
The remote broadcast studio will be a space where WNPR listening audience and anyone curious about the radio station can stop in off the street. It is a space that will provide a window into learning about how radio shows happen, as well as an opportunity for hosts, producers, guests, audience, and others to connect. We also envision the storefront space to be used in the evenings for live radio events, panel discussions, social gatherings, art exhibits and performances. We have been in conversation with several partners, including the World Affairs Council, Connecticut News Project, and the Connecticut Forum.
State of Makers
State of Makers is a partnership with the State’s Create Here Now initiative to showcase 100 of the most innovative handmade goods made by Connecticut artists, designers and artisans. State of Makers will grow “Buy Local” initiatives statewide and found an annual Hartford showcase of handmade talent. Business workshops for emerging makers will be held in January. New Year/New Businesses workshops will teach and provide support for small business
Through a partnership with local landlords –the iConnect spaces are all provided rent free or for greatly reduced rent. If during the course of the occupancy a potential full paying tenant is interested in leasing the space – the iConnect store must vacate immediately. MECA will work with the iConnect tenant to find a suitable alternate site.