The Artists Collective (Hartford, CT)

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    McLean standing, adjusts a saxophone for a student, sitting behind a music stand

Artist Collective founder Jackie McLean (2001 NEA Jazz Master) assisting student during the annual student showcase. Photo courtesy of the Artist Collective

The Artists Collective of Hartford, Connecticut was created in 1970 by jazz musician Jackie McLean (2001 NEA Jazz Master) and his wife Dollie, an actress and dancer, to provide training in dance, music, drama, African arts, and visual arts to children in some of the poorest neighborhoods of the city. The Collective’s professional staff of working artists structure programs not only to provide high quality arts instruction, but also to develop cultural awareness and self-discipline within the participants. As an interdisciplinary arts and cultural institution serving the Greater Hartford region, it is the only multi-arts and cultural organization of its kind in Connecticut that emphasizes the cultural and artistic contributions of the African Diaspora.

In FY 2003, the Artists Collective received an NEA Arts Learning grant of $40,000 to support music and dance workshops and master classes for students. Since Hartford Public Schools have been scaling back and eliminating their arts education programs, the Collective is one of the few community organizations filling that void. The youth who participate in the Collective’s programs are predominately African American, Caribbean, or Latino from low-income neighborhoods. For many of these children, it is their only exposure to the arts.

The classes met Monday through Saturday from September to June, with the most talented youth auditioning for the two performing ensembles and the Youth Jazz Orchestra. Dance classes included instruction in traditional African, Afro-Cuban, jazz, tap, modern, and ballet. The music classes involved beginning and advanced theory and instruction in bass, piano, reeds, violin, brass, guitar, drums, and voice. Altogether, more than 800 youth participated in the classes.

(From the 2003 NEA Annual Report)