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Artists Give Time To Kids, Get Space At Union Station

March 18, 2006
By MELISSA PIONZIO, Courant Staff Writer

Travelers passing through Hartford's Union Station can now get an eyeful of locally produced artwork.

A new project called "The Arts Station," sponsored by the city's department of health and human services, is bringing an array of works to what has, for some time, been an empty space at the train station.

The plan is to change the exhibit every four to six weeks to include the work of different artists. The current display includes colorful paintings, collages and mixed media pieces by Hartford artists Balam Soto, Natasha Sazonovaand Lina Fishera, as well as works by local youths.

"The whole idea behind it is to have all kinds of art spaces in public buildings and in various lobbies to provide free space for local artists," said Arts Station director Alberto Bonello, who plans to secure two more locations in the city for similar exhibits.

"All the artists have to do is provide us with the artwork;we provide lighting and hang it."

Artists who participate in the program are required to donate 10 hours to a department of health and human services-sponsored youth program. They include "Back on Track," an after-school arts and technology program held at the Ebony Horsewomen headquarters in Keney Park. Artwork by students in the program is featured in the exhibit.

"A lot of art programs are being cut out of the schools because of the budgets, so we wanted to include their work and offer them programs so they won't lose the interest in art," said Bonello.

Located in Union Station's Great Hall, the exhibit is housed within two glassed-in spaces to protect the works. Featured are samples of poetry,photographs of local architecture, abstract paintings, collages made from images of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights marchers, and several glittering papier-mâché creations.

Guatemala native Balam Soto, who made the papier-mâché pieces, says his artreflects his Mayan culture. Originally a painter, he said his move to the United States enabled him to experiment with different media.

"I love to paint what is inside of me; that is where my artwork comes from, the inside;it is how I express myself," said Soto. "I like when my artwork is being seen by different people from different cultures."

Vicki Shotland, executive director of the Greater Hartford Transit District, which owns Union Station, said the exhibit is an exciting addition to the station and makes good use of a space that hasn't been utilized for some time.

Shotland said the Transit District plans to lease more space in the building to retailers. In the past, there had been kiosks set up in the Great Hall, an idea she says could work again.

"We might also like to promote bands, have radio stations come in there to provide entertainment and offer the space for upscale events like weddings," she said. "We get 300,000 to 400,000 people through there annually ... we are going to start promoting more events there."

Bonello hopes to convince the transit district board members to use art not only to embellish butto make better use of the space.

"I want to take that building and turn it into an art gallery and take that abandoned ramp upstairs [(above the exhibit space] and turn it into a sculpture garden," said Bonello. "People still walk up there and it is what you see when you get off the trains. We could create something special there and maybe offer an artists market on the weekends. "

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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