The hottest spot in Hartford right now is the Hartford Public Library.
Does this mean I am getting older or nerdier? Iím not sure. In any case, I am continually impressed by how much I benefit from a place that does not charge a fee at the door.
Buying a home (or, to be more accurate, anticipating buying a home) has required me to become a tightwad. In some aspects of my life, this has been effortless. In others, itís been more difficult. I enjoy the diverse restaurants in the city and I admittedly get a buzz from bookstores. While my own cooking absolutely pales in comparison to places like Barca, Masala, and The Russell, my book cravings can be equally sated by borrowing as by buying.
Obviously, there are more rental items than just books. I have not taken as much advantage of those as I could, but realistically, I probably should not indulge too much in passive entertainment like films.
What really draws me to the library are the community events, such as the recent Board of Education Candidates Forum. I like that there is an avenue for locals to express their opinions beyond City Hall or in Letters to the Editor. There is more opportunity for discussion at this kind of venue. I often run into friends and other folks I know at these forums.
A highlight of my year in 2008 was the sari fashion show held in the library. I know that the One Book program has been very popular, though I have yet to participate in it. When a non-fiction book is selected, maybe I will join in. Anyway, I noticed that the most recent One Book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is actually available on audio, which is a nice option for people with lower literacy who might want to participate in this.
What I like about the library is that I am always discovering new areas of the building. The third floor is especially good in this way. Through the childrenís area there are conference rooms. Opposite the childrenís wing is a collection of randomness. This is where the Hartford History Center is located. I was a bit intimidated by the room because there is a fancy sign-in procedure. The staff were welcoming, though, and volunteered to orient me with the room.
Further down the hall from the Hartford History Center is the ArtWalk. When I wandered through there, I noticed a few things. First, it was silent. Secondly, there was one person besides myself in the area. Third, itís really cool to be able to look at artwork and out into Main Street at the same time. The library website describes the gallery as:
ArtWalk at Hartford Public Library offers one of the largest and most stunning exhibition spaces in greater Hartford and the opportunity for visitors to view art in a magnificent setting in their own community. The state-of-the art gallery rises above Main Street along a glass wall that floods the space with ambient light during the day and appears to glow as a jewel box at night. Exhibitions will offer an array of art experiences that reflect a variety of media, styles, and cultures in the art world, providing diverse viewing experiences, and allowing for many tastes. Art work is displayed on ďfloatingĒ wall sections that allow the visitor to discover each piece while never seeing the whole exhibition from one vantage point. Because of the unusual cable system in place, one of the most unique aspects of the ArtWalk is that any wall and lighting configuration or arrangement can change with the nature of every new exhibition.
Currently on display, as of yesterday, are works by Stanwyck Cromwell. His work is a variety of oil, mixed media, colored pencils, collage, and assemblage. The colors he uses are bright. The works on display are also for sale, so if anyone is wondering what to get me, you know, with the holiday season approaching and all, any of his paintings or collages would be fabulous.
From the ArtWalk gallery, I could see pieces of the mural for the American Mural Project.
What would take the Hartford Public Library from crush status to true love would be if they reopened the cafe area. While I have been good so far about not cracking open my mug of hot chocolate, I am not sure how much longer I can suppress my coffee and chocolate needs in the library. See, my book addiction aggravates my mocha addiction. When I am appeasing one, I need to appease the other. My track record for not dousing books with liquids is solid; Iíve broken many a spill with items of clothing and bags. Any damage incurred could be added to my overdue book tab.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
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