By Nan Price, Content Manager MetroHartford Alliance
Jennifer Crookes Carpenter is Vice President on the Board of Night Fall.
WHY HARTFORD? WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE?
JENNIFER CROOKES CARPENTER: I came to Hartford in 1992 to attend Trinity College. I was an American Studies major; I chose Trinity because it was a small liberal arts college in a city. At the time, the college was looking for more students who actually wanted to be in a city, study the neighborhoods, and experience Hartford as a laboratory to practice and understand what we were learning in the classroom synthesizing social justice, political science, American literature, and cultural history.
As a Trinity student who wanted to be in a city, I spent a lot of time downtown and in Parkville especially, checking out restaurants, art, and live music. I ended up staying in Connecticut after attending Trinity. I didn’t think I would ever stay here this long, but I’ve pretty much been here since 1992—and I have been in love with Hartford the whole time.
HOW HAVE YOU BECOME A PART OF HARTFORD?
JENNIFER: As a Hartford arts nonprofit professional, I’m a part of the fabric of Hartford as, I hope, a creative character people see around and someone who meaningfully connects people to each other. Not just downtown, but in the neighborhoods spending time in different pockets of the city.
A lot of that is through my enjoyment of the local food scene and my friends who live all over Hartford, but also through attending cultural events and my work since 2012 with Night Fall. We publicize our community celebration with Night Fall production posters appearing in the windows of locally owned businesses and we bring creative workshops to different Hartford parks each year, engaging our neighbors to help bring new artists and volunteers into the annual production.
So, Night Fall is one of the ways I’m part of the fabric of Hartford—and I’m really proud to be part of that. I spend a lot of time with people who create art and bring it to the community as a collaborative gift. We want Hartford to be known as a city that celebrates its diverse, talented, and beautiful artists.
Another way I’ve become a part of the fabric of Hartford is, more formally, through my recent full-time roles at Hartford Stage and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. That work was also in the nonprofit advancement field, but alongside my passion for building newer, grassroots organizations like Night Fall, at the theatre and the museum I got to represent the arts through pillar arts institutions that have far-reaching audiences, national reputations, and long histories.
In my donor relations and events positions at both organizations, I was able to help connect community members, arts philanthropists, Hartford business leaders, and other visitors from all over the world with Hartford’s incredible arts professionals and the city’s vital creative legacy.
HOW HAS HARTFORD BECOME A PART OF WHO YOU ARE?
JENNIFER: With all the things I’m involved in here in Hartford—including my relationships with friends—I’m attracted to creativity. People who make art of any kind are my favorite people. And, though some of my friends are the people who work in Hartford’s tall buildings, they’re the same people who are out supporting original music, theatre, and visual arts. I’m a professional creative person who enjoys connecting Hartford’s wide-ranging arts community to the more business-oriented community with whom we share this fantastic city.
WHAT MAKES HARTFORD UNIQUE?
JENNIFER: I like Hartford for its size! As an arts professional, I think Hartford is rich with opportunity and support, and it’s really important to continue the work of making those resources accessible to all.
I’m from Upstate New York, and I see Hartford as similar to Albany in that it’s a small capital city, so if you have an idea you can make it happen. And, in Hartford, big ideas can happen quickly because of the relative ease of meeting or reconnecting with the best collaborators for your project.
HOW DO WE TELL THE STORY OF HARTFORD?
JENNIFER: What I do as a Hartford cheerleader is put our geographic location out front. Hartford is an easy to get to place that’s rich with cultural resources. So, I think we can celebrate where we are, a vibrant hub of the Northeast United States.
We’re filled with nonprofits doing amazing things, and it’s a beautiful city. We need to make sure people are using alternative modes of transportation as much as possible and we should make it easy to walk, bike, and take the bus around Hartford for work and play.
I think telling our story is telling the beautiful stories of authentic people who are doing terrific things here on all different levels. We don’t need to start sentences like, “Hartford will…” We need to tell the story of “Hartford is…”