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Hartford has artists. Hartford also has optimism, innovation—and a new opportunity to shine a light on artists in and around our capital city.

With a $200,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving Artists of Color Unite! advisory group, The 224 EcoSpace (the social enterprise arm of The Conference of Churches) is showcasing local artists of color in an accelerator program.

“As a community space for arts and culture, the 224 EcoSpace is thrilled to manage this program. It’s a perfect fit. Art has always been a part of our expression,” says Dr. Rev. Shelley D. Best, Director and Chief Curator at the 224 EcoSpace.

“Art does a lot to help eradicate racism. Art opens doors. Art bridges communities,” she emphasizes. “We want to empower local artists, encourage collaborations, build a regional artists of color economy—and put Hartford on the map as a vibrant community that produces and exports cultural arts.”

The Artists of Color Unite! program was developed to create a more united community that recognizes and celebrates artists of color. These artists will become cultural ambassadors who will elevate the city of Hartford, building bridges to the suburbs as an economic driver in the region.

“The goal is to dismantle systemic racism in the arts. This is an opportunity to elevate local artists of color who are creative activists,” says 224 EcoSpace Board Chair Mary Crean. “We’re excited about this collaboration and the impact we can make together.”

Accelerating the Artists

The Artists of Color Accelerate project will select 10 artists fellows who will be paired with 10 local arts organizations:

Each host organization is receiving a stipend, equity and inclusion training, and diversity group coaching. Participating artist fellows will also receive stipends, plus 10 customized workshops led by master artists and coaches and group coaching.

Teams of host organizations and artist fellows will pitch their ideas for a project to produce together after the accelerator ends.

The region’s extended artists of color community is encouraged to attend a series of 10 online seminars provided by master teaching artists from across the country. The aim is to provide our region’s entire artists of color community with insightful training—and plant the seed for future fellows.

Throughout the accelerator, the 224 EcoSpace will provide behind-the-scenes details and stories showcasing the participating organizations and each of the artist fellows. Meanwhile, the 10 artists participating will receive guidance and support from a curated network of art funders, donors, and patrons of the arts as they make their way toward the Arts Venture Capitalist Pitch Day.

At the pitch event, at least two of the pitching teams will receive $5,000 to put their project into action.

“We’re creating an engaging experience for Hartford’s artists of color. This is our opportunity to uplift and strengthen voices for community transformation,” underscores Dr. Best.

To learn more about the Artists of Color Accelerate Program visit