The Hartford Party Starters Prevail, Despite A Break From City Hall
Some changes for one of Hartford's most effective boosters
July 13, 2010
Neil Brewer is more or less the face of the Hartford Party Starters Union, the city’s good-times activists with a mission to breathe life into Hartford’s image. It’s been well over a year since the HPSU started booking reputable indie, DJ and dance acts to play in venues like Sully’s, Mad Dawg’s, and the Wadsworth Atheneum (Andrew W.K. played there in the spring, Neon Indian last winter), and next week the party collective has arranged for a mini music-fest at Bushnell Park, featuring Janelle Monáe, to celebrate (for free) Hartford’s 375th birthday. They’ve successfully moved and shaken the capital, and things only seem to be continuing full-steam ahead. Only thing is, Brewer, who up until recently was assistant to the mayor for Eddie Perez, lost his job after Perez, convicted of corruption, resigned in June.
Brewer’s access to city resources and connections has boosted HPSU events, tapping into city arts funding and support. While Perez was still mayor, the city gave the HPSU a check for $3,000 to help pay for the Monáe show. Brewer says the mayor’s office was more than willing to contribute, given the success of the Andrew W.K. show. When the HPSU approached the Office of Cultural Affairs, their initial attempts to secure funding were “answered with concerns over the office’s budgetary limitations,” Brewer says in an e-mail. With research help from the mayor’s office, Brewer says, he was able to “locate enough unencumbered money in the OCA’s budget,” and the HPSU was granted $5,000 for the event.
Brewer’s a smart, driven dude, and he said recently by phone that he’s not worried about the loss of his job affecting future success for the HPSU.
“Ideally, we’d like to continue to work with the city and continue to have them share their resources,” he says. “But it’s not necessarily that I had any unique connection. Working there, I was more aware of some of the resources available that might not be apparent to someone else.”
Like all of Perez’s staff, Brewer was asked to hand in a letter of resignation once former City Council President Pedro Segarra succeeded Perez as mayor. Along with his resignation, Brewer submitted a letter asking to be appointed director to the Office of Cultural Affairs. Segarra did not respond, and Brewer was let go.
“NPR does reports every week about how young people are leaving the city because it doesn’t meet their needs,” he says. “Maybe this isn’t a priority among the [new] administration right now … but I think it shouldn’t be overlooked.”
Brewer’s not sure what’s going to happen next.
“I may have to take a job somewhere else,” he says. “I just graduated with my master’s and I have [to pay my] student loans. … If there’s not a place in Hartford for me to do that, I have to look elsewhere. You can just count me as one of the younger people” who’d be driven out of the city. “That’s not my most ideal situation, but it’s a reality. It’s the same reality facing all the young people who graduated from college to go pursue stuff that’s not available to them here.”