I was from here. Then I went away for 11 years (Boston, NYC) but my art pals kept in touch. I came back to visit for art openings. This was back when the Colt Building still had artists living there, live-work space. I did my year+ in New York and decided to come back to be amongst artist friends and old pals. I stayed and opened my studio (323 at 56 Arbor Street) a few years later.
My favorite things about Hartford are the architecture, history, scale, proximity, and the seasons.
When I have friends in from out of town, I take them on an architectural/historical tour I put together. Some of the usual suspects: Mark Twain House, Bushnell Park and the Memorial Arch, Colt Building and Mozzicato’s.
Some of my favorite restaurants have been around for a while (Tapas, for one) and new ones pop up often enough to try (Masala but it’s no longer exactly “new”). I’m a vegetarian, so it can be a challenge, but I usually figure out a way to find something to eat. Mozzicato’s cafe is a gem!
As an artist, I enjoy going to places with atmosphere, high or low-culture, doesn’t matter. Hartford has many places that fit.
I’m a regular at Real Art Ways on Arbor Street! They’re my neighbors, so I drop in on RAW quite a bit. Especially for Third Thursday/Creative Cocktail Hour, art openings, movies and performances.
I spend a great deal of time walking around Cedar Hill Cemetery (the buildings at the gate were designed by the same man who designed the Memorial Arch (among other things), Hartford architect George Keller). I like to walk around and look at things, so Cedar Hill is wonderful in any season. The trees and plantings are really spectacular in the Spring and the Fall, though. Katherine Hepburn, JP Morgan and many of Hartford’s founding families are buried there.
I try to go to the Wadsworth Atheneum often, usually First Thursdays. The Wadsworth is a draw for obvious reasons. Also, I have friends who work there and I like to see what they’re working on and the results of their hard work. It’s all behind the scenes stuff most people don’t think about, but the way the exhibitions are put together, the lighting, signage, all of that is interesting to me as well as the art.
Mozzicato’s is a family favorite. And a great people barometer. I can usually tell I’m going to hit it off with someone if they appreciate it was much as I do. I went there with my parents when I was a teen. My dad would always get a rum baba and mom would get a ricotta canoli. I keep going back, now decades later. I am one of countless others who think it is a great place to relax and meet up with friends or take a date. It’s casual and romantic. I enjoy stopping in to have a cappuccino, maybe a Strega (made in my people’s homeland, Benevento), some gelato, or get some cannoli filled to order to go. Cash only!
Tisane is good when I’m in the mood for tea. I really like the lighting in there (lighting is very important to me) and it’s not too small you feel like you are right on top of other people, and not so vast you get lost. They have a fireplace, so it’s another cozy romantic spot in town.
I don’t go out to clubs and bars as much as I used to. Events like the jazz festivals in the summer, Open Studio Weekend and art openings at Artspace are some reasons to come downtown. I used to live on Columbia Street and would walk around downtown after a big snow storm, sometimes at night. The city would slow down and any sounds would be muffled under a blanket of snow. Peaceful. The Travelers tower on a foggy night is amazing.
I have fond memories of moving into my apartment on Columbia Street, it was terrific for many reasons. I always loved that street and I was so happy to find a nice little apartment there and a have great landlord, Russ! When I discovered I could see the fireworks (downtown) from my back deck, I was really happy. When I lived in Boston, I also had a great view of the fireworks set off for New Year’s and Fourth of July. It made me feel part of the city, a real city dweller.
I now live outside of Hartford but have kept my art studio on Arbor Street in Parkville. I used to live two minutes down the street and would come to the studio any time of day or night, very convenient. Now it takes a little more effort, but I still enjoy it and the proximity to everything Hartford has to offer. And I’m right next to Real Art Ways, an art hub of Hartford, of course! Visit Colin’s website here.
HARTFORD.COM NOTE: Colin Burke was one of 9 artists selected to create temporary art installations for The Awesomest Art Thing Ever.