Luis Cotto is a busy man. In addition to serving on Hartford City Council and raising his one-year-old child, he recently opened Hartford’s newest performance venue, The Studio @ Billings Forge.
Located at 563 Broad Street (next to the Firebox Restaurant), The Studio @ Billings Forge will host musical acts, readings and film screenings.
The Studio held its first show on Friday, January 16. It’s next concert will be a performance by trumpeter Jason Palmer and his quintet, The Mavericks, on Friday, February 27, at 8:00pm.
Cotto is looking to bring less mainstream entertainment to The Studio by booking acts, in part, through Myspace and Facebook, websites where artists can better reach out to existing fans and attract new ones. “There’s a kind of void in Hartford for anything not popular,” he said. “We need more variety.”
Cotto hopes to provide a performance space for many different kinds of musicians, including folk tradition, Latin American, and world music groups, but especially jazz groups, continuing Hartford’s rich jazz tradition.
His hope is that in such an intimate setting, the artist and the crowd will feed off each other’s energy and produce a unique and enjoyable experience. “The musicians are the main focus,” says Cotto. “The Studio is a concert setting, so they don’t have to compete for the audience’s attention like they would in a bar. They’ll say to themselves, ‘These people are actually paying attention,’ and will play better and withmore passion.”
Cottowould also like to have writers come to The Studio to read their work, especially writers that emphasize social justice. He also wants to show films like independent documentaries with a focus on family and children.
The Studio’s first non-music event will be a discussion by author José García about his book, Up to our Eyeballs: How Shady Lenders and Failed Economic Policies are Drowning Americans in Debt, which will be held tonight, February 19, beginning at 6 pm.
“As Hartford’s between Boston and New York City, I think we can bring young and up-and-coming artists to The Studio,” said Cotto.
He hopes that these artists will attract different communities within Hartford to The Studio where they can enjoy each other’s company as well as the performance. “I just want to offer another entertainment option,” he explains. To make The Studio accessible to as many different kinds of people as possible, Cotto said he’s keeping prices low, charging no more than ten dollars a ticket.
As hard as he’s working on this project, Cotto said he’s working harder still on city council. When asked how he thinks his first year as a councilman went, he replied, “I’d grade myself higher than average. I’m happy. The immigration ordinance got national exposure and the Office of Cultural Affairs is receiving more attention.” As of now he’s still undecided as to whether he’ll run for another term. “It’s still three years away, so I’m not sure. I might just leave it to younger and hungrier people. It’s good to get new blood in the council,” he added.