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Essential Art with Impact: Advancing Inclusion in East Hartford

Promoting Equity Through Public Art

In 2021, identified East Hartford as the second-highest town in Connecticut for having the most significant diversity index in the state.

To highlight the town and its residents' heritage and history, East Hartford plans to invest over $175,000 into public art projects over the next few years. Partnering with RiseUP for Arts, Connecticut’s only statewide non-profit dedicated to public art, the painted murals and planned works will proceed to celebrate the varied demographics that makeup East Hartford’s inclusive population.

“I’ve visited places in the world where a co-existing community of various cultures was unheard of — or something only seen in movies,” Micaela Levesque, East Hartford native and Drennan Pool House and Equity RiseUP artist, acknowledged.

“For me, in East Hartford, I had every type of friend — those who would celebrate quinceañeras, fast during Ramadan, and Buddhists that would shave their heads and eyebrows when a family member passed. Living here taught me diversity is something to be cherished,” Levesque detailed.

Likewise, lifelong residents and town allies harmonize with Levesque’s feelings on East Hartford.

“Being from East Hartford means being from a place where diversity is genuinely embraced and celebrated — many cultures live and thrive in our town,” Harry Amadasun, Jr., East Hartford native and Town Councilmember, agreed.

“Growing up, I had an assortment of friends — from Southeast Asia to Western Africa to the Caribbean and Eastern Europe. We have so much to celebrate and learn from one another.”

The Demographic Details

The data equally supports the locals’ sentiments on the variety of East Hartford’s people.

  • In 2020, East Hartford’s foreign-born population rose to 21.7 %, an increase of 1.8% from the previous year.

    • 13.8% of residents were born in Europe

    • 13% of East Hartford residents were born in Asia, and

    • 12% of residents were born in Africa

  • In comparison, in 2020, Connecticut had an average of 15% foreign-born residents, while the 2021 national average for foreign-born persons was 14%, as identified by the American Immigration Council.

After facts and figures were compiled and analyzed from government patterns, permits, and surveys, the United States Census Bureau reported the following East Hartford statistics:

  • In 2021, the population in East Hartford, Connecticut, was 50,731.

A Culturally Inclusive Community

  • 38.2% of East Hartford residents were Hispanic

  • 32.6% of residents were white

  • 24.8% of residents were Black

  • 6.9% identified as two or more races, and

  • 3.7% self-reported as Asian

A Love of Language

  • 40.6% of 2021 East Hartford households spoke a language other than English in the home, and

  • 29% of East Hartford adults 18 and over spoke Spanish

Spray Cans and Paint Brushes: Creating Pride and Belonging

With inspirational messages written to “Dream Like a King” alongside the portraits of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, the public artworks are produced in a town that encompasses exactly what Dr. Martin Luther King’s dreams were made of. The mural, located on Main Street in East Hartford, reminds all who pass of the Reverend’s message — that our destinies are intertwined and that, hand in hand, we must march ahead together.

“The making of the murals in East Hartford were made possible by so many people — artists, the East Hartford Black Caucus, the Department of Transportation, the Mayor’s office, paint volunteers, sponsors, citizens of East Hartford, and so many more," Tiyah Thompson, East Hartford native and art contributor to the Juneteenth and MLK mural, specified.

Residents like me were able to leave a mark on the town using their talents. The projects showed a great sense of contribution, community, and togetherness.”

Art is so important — for neighbors of all ages —” Andrea Sanchez, East Hartford native and Family is Everything mural artist, emphasized. “It allows us to engage in conversation and bring emotion to our neighborhood.”

“I hope the murals can be an inspiration,” Amadasun Jr. shared. “These murals are a testament to our commitment to community, and I believe they can bring us all closer together.”

Municipal Support for The Murals

The popularity of East Hartford public art projects has strengthened in support — from local citizens to civic leaders.

“I feel very fortunate to be an artist from East Hartford,” Levesque recognized with gratitude. “We have a mayor and town council that are supportive of the arts and trust in our abilities to creatively transform the vibe of the town.”

In true East Hartford fashion, “we’re going to do the best we can with what we have,” East Hartford Mayor Mike Walsh assured. “The community is responsive to the message, and I think if anything signifies that East Hartford is different — it’s the mural projects.”

Painting the Town and Praising its People

From bright florals on pool houses and portable Juneteenth pieces to MLK murals, football mascots, and all-female hometown heroes, RiseUP’s artwork across town inspires the community and makes a captivating contribution with impact.

On a purpose-driven mission to make meaningful change in Connecticut, RiseUP and East Hartford have previously produced the following mural displays:

  • Dream Like a King — Racial Equity Mural # 1

    • Artists: Lead artist Michael Rice with assistance from East Hartford locals Josh Morgan and Tiyah Thompson

    • Location: Main Street

    • Pictured: “Dream Like a King,” butterflies, and the faces of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King

  • East Hartford Racial Equity Mural #2

    • Artists: Michael Rice and East Hartford local Micaela Levesque

    • Location: Under the Founders Bridge

    • Pictured: Hometown heroes Odessa Terry, Melody Currey, Amisha Patel, Rosa Cruz, and Mary Johnson

  • Home of the Huskies

    • Artist: Michael Rice

    • Location: Pratt & Whitney Stadium

    • Pictured: “Welcome to the Rent” & “Home of the Huskies” with UConn mascot Jonathan charging through the concrete canvas

  • Family is Everything

    • Artists: Joey Batts and East Hartford local Andrea Sanchez

    • Location: On the corner of Forbes and O’Connell

    • Pictured: “Family is everything” with Sanchez’s brother, his wife, and their two children (all East Hartford residents who live half a mile down the road from the mural)

  • Drennan Pool House Mural

    • Artist: East Hartford local Micaela Levesque

    • Location: McAuliffe Park, Drennan Pool House

    • Pictured: The first of a planned series, the mural displays bold and bright florals covering the side of the building

  • 2022 Juneteenth Community Mural

    • Artist: Designed by East Hartford local Tiyah Thompson and painted by the East Hartford community

    • Location: Portable art piece

    • Pictured: The word “Juneteenth” formed from ambiguous red, green, and yellow silhouettes

Reflecting a Hometown & Reviving Hope for Residents

When talking to East Hartford town leaders about the lasting impact of the murals, Connor Martin, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, represented the new generation of residents in East Hartford. Initially born in Hartford, Martin has spent much of his life as an East Hartford resident.

“The murals are a great way to celebrate our diversity,” Martin confirmed.

“Things are changing, and they have to change because our population has changed. Our community will not move forward until we bring diverse residents into the conversation — until we give them a seat at the table and provide a platform where they feel heard and have a hand in what’s happening in East Hartford and how it’s moving forward.

“The people in East Hartford want artwork that reflects their culture. We give residents a platform to express that, and ultimately that’s what the murals do; they allow the different ethnicities that East Hartford has to say, ‘Hey, this is also my home, and this is my mark that I’m leaving on East Hartford.’ It's been very positive for our community,” Martin stated. “East Hartford is changing; it’s on the up-and-up — it’s a special place.”

With East Hartford’s cultures and colors reflected onto brick and concrete canvases, splattered and sprayed on bus stops, under bridges, and on the side of buildings, the soulful murals are making representation a reality — allowing East Hartford residents to not only feel seen but celebrated.

“Through the murals, a collective sense of social belonging is created, and we will continue to highlight East Hartford’s rich diversity while elevating its vast and interesting history,” Amadasun Jr. affirmed.

“East Hartford is right in the heart of Hartford County, and we want to be a shining example to our neighbors and beyond how to embrace and empower inclusive communities.”

Together, RiseUP and East Hartford are creating murals that advance opportunities for talented local artists, spark conversations, captivate community identity, and strengthen streetscapes with substance. With colorful paint, and a promising vision to imagine, include, and invigorate, the community collection will help to transform the East Hartford experience.

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