Charter Oak Cultural Center Sees Opportunity in Dollar-for-Dollar Match

For those familiar with the remarkable work of the Charter Oak Cultural Center, time is running out on a unique opportunity to support the dynamic organization’s exceptional community initiatives.  An anonymous donor has agreed to match contributions made to support the work of Charter Oak, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000 - through the end of this month. That means every contribution made by January 31 will be doubled.  For an organization that is brimming with distinctive and impactful programming ideas but often scrambling for sufficient resources, it is a chance to see more dreams become reality.

Charter Oak Cultural Center, a magnificent and historic landmark and vibrant arts center on Charter Oak Avenue just off Main Street in Hartford, contributes to the revitalization of the city by bringing the community together through open and equal COCCaccess to the arts, through a deep commitment to social justice. The three main goals that characterize the organization’s mission are:

  • To provide wide access to the arts for all who wish to engage in them, regardless of income
  • To do the work of social justice through the arts
  • To celebrate the heritage of our historic building and to preserve it in perpetuity.

To realize that mission, Charter Oak provides over 1,000 underserved Hartford children with free, sophisticated arts classes and regularly makes professional performances – dance, theatre, concerts – and film and visual arts exhibits accessible to all.  In addition, Charter Oak recently started Connecticut’s first “street paper,” a newspaper written by people who are or were homeless. They’ve also introduced other educational and employment opportunities for those without homes. Their Youth Art Institute has been selected as a finalist by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, distinguishing it as one of the top arts and humanities-based youth programs in the country.

Charter Oak is seeking public support to allow them to take full advantage of what they’ve described as an “incredible offer” and “huge opportunity.”  Interested individuals can make a secure gift online, or mail a check to Charter Oak Cultural Center, 21 Charter Oak Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106.

There is more information about Charter Oak’s programming, which falls into four main categories, on the organization’s website.  The programs areas include:

  • Youth Arts Institute:   Reaches nearly 1,000 of Hartford’s inner-city children, ages 6 through 18, with arts and literacy-based classes held after-school, during-school, and in the summer, as well as evening programs for families.  The classes, along with nutritious meals and snacks, are provided free of charge. The youth programming successfully integrates the arts with academic subjects and assessments show that on average, participating students show a 54% improvement over the course of the semester in their ability to meet the state’s Arts K-12 Goals and Standards.
  • Professional Programming: Charter Oak hosts cutting-edge, thought-provoking visual and performing arts exhibitions and performances. As a matter of policy, they offer as many performances and events as possible for free, keep prices low and never turn anyone away who cannot afford the price of a ticket.  In the course of a year, they present over 100 professional events that include every variety of performing art—dance, film, theatre, concerts and more.  In two on-site galleries, both emerging and established artists from various cultural backgrounds exhibit their work.
  • Social Justice Programming: Charter Oak offers a number of programs that focus on social justice and equality- raising awareness about important issues and/or serving individuals in need- all through the lens of the arts.  For example, Charter Oak Cultural Center developed and launched Connecticut’s first “street paper,” entitled Beat of the Street, designed and sold by individuals experiencing homelessness.
  • Historic Preservation: When it was built in 1876, the temple on Charter Oak Avenue became the first building in Connecticut’s history to be constructed specifically as a synagogue.  Today, as the home of the Charter Oak Cultural Center, it is a vibrant hub for the community that provides programming for thousands of Hartford and Greater Hartford students, families and individuals each year.  The historic landmark is maintained and preserved as a vibrant resource for the community.

Learn more at or 860.249.1207.



Building a New American Dream to Keep Young Professionals in Connecticut

Connecticut  is close to the bottom in retaining skilled, educated young workers.  The state's 28% drop in that demographic group between 1990 and 2010 ranks third in the nation.  Only Maine and New Hampshire lost more young adults during those two decades.  While the loss of population in the 25-34 year-old cohort is in part a national phenomenon (that age group tends to move around) being close to the top of that list - in the past decade alone, Connecticut still ranked 7th in the nation in population loss in that age group - is not good news for the state's future growth and vitality. A series of proposals to slow and ultimately reverse that trend, which together are described as "A New American Dream," have been crafted by 135 adults in their 20's and 30's convened by the Partnership for Strong Communities, a state organization working to develop healthy neighborhoods and to create more affordable housing opportunities for workers, young professionals and families.  (More signatories are welcome.)

Among the elements included in the four page document, which highlights interest in becoming more involved in civic and community life, and "more densely populated settings where everything we need is nearby, allowing us to drive less and spend more time working or living,"  is that "what young adults want is compatible with what most people want - a decent place to live that we can afford, aesthetically-pleasing surroundings, interesting things to do and a sense of community."  Said the 135 signatories to the document, "we want the American Dream, too - we just see a different one."