December 18, 2005
By KEN BYRON, Courant Staff Writer
With classes over for the semester and with the holidays around the corner, teachers and students at the Artists Collective threw a party on Saturday for themselves and others in the community.
Saturday was the last day of workshops for the students enrolled in the collective's after-school arts classes.
To show what they learned, students put on music and dance shows. Organizers also had readings on Kwanzaa, the traditional African American celebration based on African traditions. Kwanzaa is celebrated after Christmas.
"It's a chance for the students to show off what they've learned and it gives people who don't know much about the collective an opportunity to learn about it," said Cheryl Smith, a spokeswoman for the collective.
Smith said the celebration is an annual event and that Kwanzaa is something the collective has promoted for many years.
"With the holidays coming it's a time for us to be with our families but also to celebrate the end of our fall semester," said Dollie McLean, the collective's executive director.
Many at the party have children who are enrolled in the collective's programs.
"We came to help celebrate Christmas and support the collective's efforts introducing inner city children to culture and the arts," said Valerie Gittens, whose daughter takes classes at the collective.
Others said they came in part to support the collective and the important role it plays in the city's community.
"The collective is one of the gems of this community and I try to be supportive," said Sam Hamilton, who lives in Manchester and works for the Hartford Economic Development Corp. He said this was the first time he had attended the collective's holiday event.
In addition to performances by students, the collective invited New York City-based author Jill Nelson to give a reading from her latest work, "Finding Martha's Vineyard," which is about African Americans on the island.
"I heard great things about the collective," Nelson said. "So it was a no-brainer for me to come today."