Charter Oak Cultural Center harnesses the power of the arts to create positive social change. Our programming falls into four main categories. We provide:
- Youth Arts Institute: Charter Oak Cultural Center’s Youth Arts Institute reaches nearly 1,000 of Hartford’s inner-city children, ages 6 through 18, with arts and literacy-based classes held after-school, during-school, and in the summer, as well as evening programs for families. We provide all of this, along with nutritious meals and snacks, completely free of charge. In Hartford, 46% of children live in poverty, one of the highest rates of child poverty in the nation. In addition, and not unconnected, is the fact that Connecticut has one of the country’s largest academic achievement gaps between low and higher income students. The arts are one of the factors that can help to close this gap. Several recent studies have demonstrated that the arts can help improve academic achievement and students who are exposed to drama, music and dance are often more proficient at reading, writing, and math. Our youth programming successfully integrates the arts with academic subjects and our assessments show that on average, our students show a 54% improvement over the course of the semester in their ability to meet the State of Connecticut Arts K-12 Goals and Standards. Rather than offering young people one or two workshops or performances, we provide a sustained experience in the arts, an experience that allows our students to fully explore a medium and to reach their potential. We offer a wide variety of classes both in our historic building and through our partnerships, at several schools and community organizations located throughout Hartford. This year, the program was selected as a finalist by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, distinguishing it as one of the top arts and humanities-based youth programs in the country.
- Professional Programming: Charter Oak hosts cutting-edge, thought-provoking visual and performing arts exhibitions and performances. Our overall goal is to provide access to the arts to all who hunger for them. As a matter of policy, we offer as many of our performances and events as we can for free, keep our prices as low as possible and never turn anyone away who cannot afford the price of a ticket. In the course of a year, we present over 100 professional events that include every variety of performing art—dance, film, theatre, concerts and more. In our two galleries, both emerging and established artists from various cultural backgrounds exhibit their work.
- Social Justice Programming: Charter Oak offers a number of programs that focus on social justice and equality- raising awareness about important issues and/or serving individuals in need- all through the lens of the arts. For example, Charter Oak Cultural Center developed and launched Connecticut’s first “street paper,” entitled Beat of the Street. Beat of the Street is a newspaper created, designed and sold by individuals experiencing homelessness. Because the program has grown immensely over the past two years, we have launched three additional programs that also work to address the root causes of homelessness.
- Historic Preservation: When it was built in 1876, the temple on Charter Oak Avenue became the first building in Connecticut’s history to be constructed specifically as a synagogue. Today, as the home of the Charter Oak Cultural Center, it is a vibrant hub for the community that provides programming for thousands of Hartford and Greater Hartford students, families and individuals each year. We take pride in the history of our building, however, our organization has no religious affiliation. One of our most important activities is to maintain and preserve this historic landmark as a resource for the community and a key goal this year is to turn our focus to our historic property and begin the renovation process.
Our mission statement is as follows: Charter Oak Cultural Center, a beautiful historic landmark and vibrant arts center, contributes to the revitalization of Hartford by bringing the community together through open and equal access to the arts, through a deep commitment to social justice. The three main goals that feed the mission of Charter Oak are 1) To provide wide access to the arts for all who wish to engage in them, regardless of income 2) To do the work of social justice through the arts 3) To celebrate the heritage of our historic building and to preserve it in perpetuity.
At Charter Oak, we support art that moves the world.