By Nan Price, Content Manager MetroHartford Alliance
John Bourdeaux is Vice President of Advancement at the Connecticut Science Center.
JOHN BOURDEAUX: We moved to Hartford eight years ago. Before that, we lived in Northwest Connecticut, way out in the middle of nowhere. We wanted to move somewhere more urban, so we looked at a lot of different places—Atlanta, where I’m from; Buffalo, where my wife is from; Chicago, where we met; and we looked at Hartford.
When we put it all side by side, Hartford had absolutely everything we were looking for. It surprised us. But we realized if we wanted a beautiful home, access to great jobs and nearby cultural institutions, and a place that would support us in how we wanted to raise our family, Hartford had everything we wanted.
HOW HAVE YOU BECOME A PART OF HARTFORD?
JOHN: I’ve become a part of Hartford by working in the nonprofit community in particular. I try to bring more people into relationships with all the phenomenal cultural institutions and nonprofits and people helping each other in Hartford. I’m a connector and I love bringing people with similar interests together.
One of the things I like about Hartford is that people are increasingly enthusiastic about weaving their threads together. I like being a part of the weaving process and helping people recognize their common interests. By doing that, I’ve learned so much about so many different things going on around Hartford.
HOW HAS HARTFORD BECOME A PART OF YOU?
JOHN: We live in the West End of Hartford. We work in Hartford. We volunteer in Hartford. We go to church in Hartford. We’re proud to say we’re from Hartford and we’re shameless Hartford boosters.
I love the fact that we came to Hartford as people who were not from here and were invited to participate in loads of things—the Connecticut Science Center, the Hartford Symphony, Night Fall, the Hartford Stage, Asylum Hill Congregational Church. If you have even a modicum of willingness, you can be a part of Hartford in a way that will be really rewarding. And it’s been really rewarding for me.
WHAT MAKES HARTFORD UNIQUELY HARTFORD?
JOHN: What makes Hartford unique is that there’s this beautiful history of where the city has been and there’s a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and catalytic activity happening right now. And, there are so many ways to key into that. I don’t know if that makes Hartford unique, but it does make it a unique moment for Hartford. Organizations here are either a part of Hartford’s history or mining that history to create our future in a way that I find both exciting and optimistic.
HOW DO WE TELL THE STORY OF HARTFORD?
JOHN: Hartford has a history and a narrative that’s still being written. Not surprisingly, a lot of Hartford naysayers are not engaged. Or they’re speaking about things from a statistical or fear-based mindset as opposed to a relationship-building and optimistic mindset. I think optimism is a choice and I feel badly for those who don’t choose it.
So, what can we do to change the narrative? We are telling our stories about the successes we have here. I will not personally participate in a talking down about Hartford and I will call people out on it. I’ll engage them in a conversation about it and ask: What don’t you like about Hartford and what are you willing to do about it?
WHERE DO YOU SEE HARTFORD IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS?
JOHN: I see a city that is ever more vibrant. I see a city that is able to answer a lot of people’s needs around more dense living, because I think living closely together and being connected—not just connecting, but being actually connected—is an important part of our story and a part of our future.
So, my hope for the future of Hartford is, when people sit down to talk about the story of Hartford, that they’re talking about the work we’re doing here in the city, not just around business and industry, but around community building. Business and industry are important, but business and industry require communities and contexts to thrive. I think that’s really important and I hope Hartford continues on the path we’re on.