The Community Exchange is now open in Blue Back Square and has a variety of events scheduled throughout the month of February.
By Ronni Newton
The former West Elm space at 91 Memorial Road has been reimagined as the Community Exchange at Blue Back Square, and through a partnership with RiseUp for Arts and Charter Realty will be serving as a space to promote the arts as well as local businesses.
“We are thrilled to expand our partnership with RiseUP and offer additional activation opportunities that benefit the West Hartford community as a whole,” said Kate Terricciano, spokesperson for Blue Back Square and Charter Realty, the property’s owner. “We saw such great success with the Winter Workshop concept in Blue Back Square that it made sense to work together on more ongoing initiatives such as The Community Exchange.”
Throughout December and January, the space served as the Winter Workshop, and hosted a variety of art classes and events for people of all ages. While the space continues to be marketed for occupancy by a permanent tenant, rather than remaining vacant this temporary use provides a positive way of supporting arts and culture in the community.
During February, a series of events in honor of Black History Month will be held at the Community Exchange. Events include a family art and game day and a networking and a panel discussion for artists.
Also planned is “The Evolution of Black Hair,” an exhibit hosted by Brown Skin Women, a Hartford-based natural hair education company.
RiseUP for Arts – a nonprofit “dedicated to promoting cultural diversity and artistic expression” through innovative and collaborative installations and community events throughout the state – has curated a Window Art Gallery at the space, which will remain on display throughout the month of February, featuring the works of three local black artists Jaii Marc Renee, Trae Brooks, and Faustin Adeniran.
The first of the events celebrating Black History Month will be the family art and game day, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 18, from noon until 3 p.m. Activities will include a read-along with author and Diversity and Inclusion Advocate Charnaie Gordon in the community reading corner. Families will also have the opportunity to enjoy dominos and other games appropriate for all ages, and participate in art projects and creation of a community mural.
On Sunday, Feb. 19, from 1 until 4 p.m., the Community Exchange will host a panel discussion featuring the three Connecticut-based African American artists whose work is being showcased in the the Window Art Gallery.
The events on Feb. 18 and 19 are open to the public and there is no charge to attend. Pre-registration is required and can be completed through this link.
“The Evolution of Black Hair” will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25 and 26. The program will examine the history and art of Black people’s hair from the 16th century to current day. Also included will be “a natural hair fashion show, art, selfie gallery, symposium of professional healthcare speakers, and a great network and natural hair education opportunity,” organizers said.
The cost to attend the exhibit is $15 per person, and advance registration is required. Click here for further details and the registration form.
More information, as well as links to register, can also be found on the Community Exchange at Blue Back Square Instagram page (@thecommunityexchange.ct).
All scheduled events are made possible through the collaboration of RiseUP for Arts, Concerned Parents of Color: West Hartford – a group of West Hartford parents and others in the community “committed to promoting equity and inclusion for children of color” – and Charter Realty & Development.