Community Connections: Wadsworth, Library Up For Major Award
Hartford Courant Editorial
March 05, 2013
Decades ago, neither the Hartford Public Library nor the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art had much of an impact on Hartford, if truth be told. The former was a gloomy, uninviting place; the latter was criticized by some for being more oriented to its suburban supporters.
Today, both institutions have changed so dramatically that they have been named finalists for a prestigious national award for community engagement. The library and the museum are among 33 finalists across the country for the National Medal, awarded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services for "significant and exceptional contributions to their communities." The only other Connecticut finalist is Yale's Peabody Museum in New Haven.
The designation is great recognition for inspired community outreach. When the library embarked on a $42 million renovation and expansion in the 1990s, it was with the promise that it would become an intellectual and cultural center of the community, and the promise has been kept. People go to the library not only to get books and CDs, but to get jobs, gain computer literacy, become citizens, learn English, do homework, and attend concerts, readings, lectures and political forums.
The Wadsworth also has opened its doors to the city. The museum's Community Engagement Initiative, begun in 2008, includes a host of programs including hands-on art-making on free Second Saturdays, partnerships with community organizations and an artist in residence program that pairs groups such as the Asylum Hill Boys & Girls Club with well-known artists to create projects.
So, good for the Main Street neighbors — and it can't hurt that the Institute for Museum and Library Services is the main conduit for federal money to libraries and museums across the country.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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