(February 7, 2014)

Creative people — from actors to musicians, and poets to painters — are coming to Hartford. What draws them here? What do they need to flourish? We asked four Hartford residents active in the city arts scene to contribute their thoughts. Three of them are among the panelists in a Key Issues Forum discussion of "Hartford's Edgy Arts" on Monday night at the Mark Twain House & Museum auditorium; Chion Wolf will be the moderator.

By CHION WOLF

It used to be, when I would hear "There's nothing going on in Hartford," my blood pressure would rise, I'd wince and stay silent.

I've heard the same sentiment repeated in Windsor, New Britain, New Haven, Canton and Tolland, spoken by people of different ages, genders, races and home bases. Certainly, they all share a lack of experience in our capital city.

These days, when I hear a dismissive comment about Hartford (with less frequency lately!), I feel excited. These people have no idea! And, I get to tell them what they're missing.

The naysayers are missing Anne Cubberly and her visionary public performances. They're dismissing the existence of brave, beautiful art galleries like Real Art Ways, and Art Space. They're willingly withholding themselves from the rich educational opportunities and events offered by The Mark Twain House and Museum (it ain't just for tours anymore!), the Hartford Stage Company, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Nina Salazar's Studio N111, and Sea Tea Improv on Pratt Street. These places not only entertain, but offer classes and events that welcome the curious and the bold.

They're missing out on the remarkable, funny, driven people who regularly make Hartford into something exceptional. They have no idea what connections — business, friendly and romantic — are quickly made in this little world.

In response to "There's nothing going on in Hartford," I say that this gutsy city is just beginning to blossom, and you are welcome and encouraged to be a part of it!

Colin McEnroe said it best: "Hartford is the city that actually needs you." If you leave Hartford, Hartford will feel your departure. New York or Boston? They won't feel a thing. But if you have something to offer — especially when it comes to art — Hartford will house it, Hartford will nurture it. The ground here is fertile. Come play!

Chion Wolf of Hartford is a producer, announcer, and photographer at WNPR, Connecticut Public Radio.

FINDING ARTISTIC AUTONOMY

By KHAIIM THE RAPOET

Hartford is the home of a burgeoning arts scene because we have a critical mass of people who chose an arts career path. According to poverty statistics, however, Hartford's artisans are in danger of not earning enough to sustain, much less thrive on, that path.

My purpose is to make my art as valuable as possible, both because I'm surrounded by talented peers, and because I'm in a place where opportunities to solidify an arts career can't be taken for granted.

Artists need the ability to create original products and self-determine their value. This is not easy without local organizations that serve as a constant reminder that art is worthy of pay, and indeed necessary for every facet of our city's well being — including arts for healing, increased academic success, human relations and much more. Hartford has organizations like these, for which I'm grateful. They allow me to have autonomy in my work.

Mastery requires opportunities to learn from other experts and test one's understanding by teaching others. A few years ago, Hartford was an unlikely place to find a community of artists willing to learn from, and teach, one another. It's different now. Mastery is possible in Hartford.

Through his book, "Drive," Daniel Pink popularized studies that show monetary incentives only lead to better performance when lack of money would otherwise be a distraction. Beyond that point, financial bonuses promised in exchange for better performance actually lead to failure. Yet purpose, autonomy, and mastery lead to phenomenal success.

If Hartford's arts community continues to prosper, it will probably be due to an infrastructure that allows artists to earn above the poverty line, coupled with a network of artists and organizations who foster each other's maintenance of purpose, autonomy, and mastery.

Khaiim the RapOet of Hartford is a popular host, recording artist and poetic rap expert.

EDGY ARTS FEED ON CITY