Connecticut artists receive state grants “to pursue community projects”

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“The Artists Respond Grants Program provides direct funding to artists in Connecticut to pursue community projects that use the arts to address social issues, current events and community needs,” describes the Arts Office. “Projects must take place in Connecticut and be artist-centric initiatives who use the arts to inspire, empower, educate and transform our Connecticut communities. “

A total of $ 207,500 was awarded to local artists, with a second batch of winners notified in mid-February.

We spoke to a few of the $ 5,000 winners to find out what the grant means to them.


Ricardo Reyes is one of four Bridgeport artists who received an Artists Responds state grant.

Courtesy of Ricardo Reyes

Ricardo Reyes, who also passes by Rick reyes, straddling two cultures. Born in BridgeportHe moved to Puerto Rico when he was young, but he and his family returned when he was a teenager. While Puerto Rico is an American territory, life there is very different from that of Connecticut and he says he is proud to be of both places.

Guitar-playing singer-songwriter, Reyes is involved in several musical projects but is best known as the band’s frontman, The Cosmic Jibaros, a Latin rock fusion band in Bridgeport.

With the grant, Reyes wishes to expand the American Songbook and highlight Latin American musical contributions as well as the similarities between “Latin American” music and traditional American folk music. It is something that he wanted to develop for a long time.

“I am very grateful that this grant allows me to take this further,” he said, explaining that he loves (and plays) all kinds of music and said that a lot of American folk music, from bluegrass to mountain folk music, remind him of the folk music he grew up with and listened to as a child in Puerto Rico.

“I started to think about how similar the feeling was… from the outside they could be seen as very different, but they have a lot in common,” he said. “In this crazy world today, everyone is focused on – and wants to emphasize – how different they are. I wanted to show how similar we are.

Norwalk filmmakers Leigh and Jason Morfoot in Stamford on September 2, 2020.

Norwalk filmmakers Leigh and Jason Morfoot in Stamford on September 2, 2020.

John Moore / Getty Images

Norwalk Leigh and Jason Morfoot Filmmakers use their grant for their film currently named “School district”, which was filmed in the last school year amid the pandemic in Stamford; its objective is to highlight the integration as well as the work of educators. Growing up in New Canaan, the experiences of filmmakers in the School of Diversity were quite different, and “we thought letting a large audience see what a diverse school system looks like would help fuel thinking,” said Leigh. “We also feel that public education has a bad reputation and it is an opportunity for people to really see and appreciate the work in progress.”

American Baroque conductor Kevin Sherwin from New Haven uses its grant money to expand the participation of area schools in Carnegie Hall’s Link Up program, which introduces the orchestra to students in Grades 3 to 5 by including them.

“What probably struck me the most was that the Carnegie Hall program started music education early on in a child’s music education,” he said. “This program is designed for kids to play the recorder, but with music like Dvorak, Stravinsky and Aaron Copeland, it invites kids right from the start and gives teachers a way to give kids an early passion for music. ‘orchestra and classical music. ” The program is already in Connecticut in the North Haven, West Haven and Wallingford areas.

Aisha Nailah is one of four Bridgeport artists who received an Artists Responds state grant.

Aisha Nailah is one of four Bridgeport artists who received an Artists Responds state grant.

Courtesy of Aisha Nailah

Aisha Nailah from Bridgeport applied for the grant to be able to support a residency / study program that she has developed. “The ‘Exploring Art through the African Diaspora’ residency allows students to discover techniques and masterful styles through African-American, Caribbean and African artists to whom they are not generally exposed as part of their art program at public school, “she said.” This is important to me because too often our programs neglect the range of artists from the African diaspora in favor of a more Eurocentric vision, teaching them as as masters as if there were no others to accomplish or master the same thing. “

This view, she believes, leaves some children of color believing that there are things that they can’t accomplish because they just haven’t seen themselves in those places and positions. “We know from evidence that there is a transformative power in seeing yourself in someone who has done great things,” she said.

Iyaba Ibo Mandingo is one of four Bridgeport artists to have received an Artists Responds state grant.

Iyaba Ibo Mandingo is one of four Bridgeport artists to have received an Artists Responds state grant.

Courtesy of Iyaba Ibo Mandingo

Originally from Antigua, emigrated to the United States in 1980 at age 11, storyteller Iyaba Ibo Mandingo, also based in Bridgeport, said, “It is a great honor to receive this grant. As an immigrant child whose love of art was nurtured here in Connecticut, this grant will allow me to continue my 28-year mission to continue working with children in urban communities, and inspire them to discover their creative personality as I was inspired as a boy. ”He said his first artistic influences came from his grandparents, a tailor and a seamstress who first introduced him to colors, patterns and tap into his imagination. He published a collection of poems, “Sins of My Fathers”, and his solo piece “Self Portrait unFramed”, had six weeks sold out on Broadway after returning from a tour of South Africa and Nigeria.


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