The origins of Art Connection Studio (ACS)

When Marita McDermott, Founding Director of Art Connection Studio, came to Vinfen in 2009 as a contractor to start a woman’s group, Art Connection Studio was just a vision she shared with coworker, Jan Koopmans, a vision for something big and new. They knew it needed to be therapeutic and fun. There had to be a sense of family and chances to build connections with others. It was always the idea that the art was just a way to get people together to form connections. The relationships that formed were the most important aspect of the program. Vinfen was supportive of the vision and Marita and Jan began making plans.

It started at one of Vinfen’s residential programs. Marita taught a horticulture class with one raised bed and Jan taught weaving on two looms. There were two separate classes in the morning, the groups came together for lunch, and then separated after lunch for afternoon classes. At the start, there were only six artists. The artists began to blossom. It was thought there were many other clients who might benefit from art-making and could potentially earn an income from the sale of artworks. Soon a bigger space was needed. We found our beautiful studio in the Arbor Arts Center at 56 Arbor Street in Hartford. It had everything we wanted. Space to expand in a building in a community with other artists and professionals. Art Connection Studio’s Vocational Art Program opened in the summer of 2011 with about 20 artists and four art therapists.

Over the last 10+ years, we have grown to more than 65 artists. Art Connection Studio has shown work in over 40 exhibits. Twenty of those were within our studio and gallery. Besides exhibiting in our space at Arbor Street three times a year, ACS exhibits work in and around Hartford. Our artists have shown in such venues as Pearl Street Gallery at Greater Hartford Arts Council, The Golden Thread Gallery in West Hartford, Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, Butler-McCook House and Garden and Amos Bull House of Connecticut Landmarks in Hartford, St. Francis Center for Integrative Medicine, Rockville Hospital, Hartford Public Library, Hands on Hartford, Aetna Inc. in Hartford, Voya Financial in Windsor, and the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket, RI.