The Studio @ Billings Forge Draws Avid Crowds To Concerts
March 07, 2009
Hartford's newest arts space opened its doors in the dead of winter, during the worst economic downturn in generations. What initially appeared to be a classic case of bad timing has begun to look like the triumph of an underdog. In less than two months, The Studio @ Billings Forge has attracted sizable, enthusiastic audiences to seven distinctive events, and with minimal fanfare and expenditure.
How to account for its promising start, at a time when many businesses are struggling to stay afloat? The Studio, at 563-565 Broad St. in Hartford's Frog Hollow neighborhood, is run by Billings Forge Community Works, a nonprofit organization that oversees the adjacent Firebox Restaurant, the Center for Community at Billings Forge and a seasonal farmers market.
Programming curator Luis Cotto, a first-term Hartford City Council member, is former manager of La Paloma Sabanera, a popular café and bookstore just a few blocks away on Capitol Avenue.
The Studio was hopping last Friday night, when trumpeter Jason Palmer and the Mavericks presented a high-energy jazz performance for an attentive, diverse crowd. The acoustics of the room are such that only minimal amplification was needed.
During intermission, Cotto spoke about the venue's booking strategy. By offering an eclectic array of high-quality arts events at affordable prices, he said, The Studio hopes to foster an audience that will be enticed to return to enjoy new creative experiences. He intends to continue focusing on presenting local and regional poets, dancers, musicians and authors, drawing upon the large talent pool between Boston and New York.
Although the space doesn't have an elevated stage, a hardwood floor has been installed to accommodate dance performances. Portable chairs allow for a variety of seating options. Large windows on three sides of the room afford ample light for daytime activities, including yoga and dance instruction.
The walls are bare, but Cotto said an artist on the staff soon will enhance the Studio's aesthetics. He plans to add films to the roster of events, once blinds have been hung. The venue's mission, as stated on its Facebook group page, is "to nourish creativity and promote cultural exchange and learning through the performing and visual arts."
Refreshments are not yet a part of The Studio experience. The nonprofit overseer is developing what it calls "a food-to-table cooking program." This ambitious project will include a bakery, garden and cooking school at the complex. Food prepared on-site will be served at The Studio. In the meantime, patrons are encouraged to stroll across the parking lot to the Firebox for appetizers and beverages.
On April 3 and 4, The Studio will collaborate with the Hartbeat Ensemble and the Hartford Office of Cultural Affairs to present "Self: The Remix," performed by DJ D Double, a hip-hop storyteller.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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