Countless community discussions have grappled with the question of how to revive downtown.
On Pratt Street, it’s happening.
Nina Salazar is part of this momentum.
Salazar, who says she has been a “working artist and teacher forever,” opened Studio N111 on Pratt Street last fall.
She previously had studio space at the Dirt Salon on Bartholomew Avenue and at Billings Forge on Broad Street. All spaces have their challenges, and in one of those, the lack of temperature control was what prompted her to move on.
But on Pratt Street, she can only cite parking as a major challenge. Visitors are encouraged to use the inexpensive Morgan Street Garage, but for those unfamiliar with Hartford, the two block uphill walk might seem too far. Closer parking facilities are more expensive. To manage this, Salazar says she tries to schedule classes when parking is free on the street. Some things are out of her control, however. When major events happen at the XL Center, her visitors have to compete for parking. When there are road races, the street closures also have an impact.
She’s not complaining. Pratt Street has so much going for it with its central location and current momentum of creative businesses.
Right now, she said, “it’s just me” behind her studio, but the organic growth on this little street has aided networking. Both Sea Tea Improv and Downtown Yoga have collaborated with Studio N111. When the street was closed to vehicular traffic for HodgePodge — an open air market — last fall, Salazar was able to bring her community weaving project outside where there was foot traffic.
One of these collaborations will take shape this summer. Studio N111 is teaming with Downtown Yoga to offer Youth Classes: Art & Yoga. The art classes will be for ages 3-5 and 6-8, one hour per week for four weeks. While the children are painting and making 3D art, their parents will be taking yoga a few doors down. To make this work though, Salazar says she needs to get 10-15 people to commit so that the pricing package remains reasonable.
The studio offers drop-in classes and the advantage of this type of learning environment is that professionals and dabblers alike can benefit without needing to make the lengthier commitment required of semester-long classes. Salazar says “I can work with professional artists and peers,” but can also work with those just seeking to have some fun. She likes, “being able to open people up to something.”
That something ranges from making masks to felting to altering books. She has offered classes in theory, painting, pastels, still life, illustration, pen and ink, and more. The Life Drawing series uses live models to explore themes like perspective, gesture, and form. Salazar wants to do a wire sculpting class and is open to suggestions for future offerings.
Students, she said, stay involved after classes end. When it came time for her to work on the set for CONNetic Dance‘s Dracula or create trees for the Trashion Fashion Show, students stepped up to help out.
Currently, she is waiting to see if she will be awarded a grant. If received, this will enable her to expand to offer corporate programming, like “creative luncheons.” She also wants to offer classes for the elderly. These would take place in the elderly housing centers and offer anything from watercolors to collages.
Some of these classes would require hiring other teachers. Salazar says she always ensures that other teachers and models get paid first. This may seem like a given to some, but in arts and entertainment, those providing a service are often asked to work for free.
Art “permeates every facet of our life,” she says. Whether it’s “what we’re wearing” or “how we lay out our resume.”
Salazar says we “need to think outside the box, approach problems from different angles,” and art teaches that.
Studio N111 is located at 75 Pratt Street, Suite #301. Salazar can be reached at 860.610.9080. The studio offerings can be seen on Facebook. If she gets the grant, she will be able to also have a website and someone to assist with marketing.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.