State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development/CT Office of the Arts

Funding Received: 2013
Multiple, CT
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
January 8, 2014

Waterbury City Hall

Like many of our communities, Waterbury, CT is attempting to change the perception of itself, as well as the perceptions of others, about the health and well being of the community by creating a unique, sustainable, signature event. November 29th and 30th (Black Friday and Saturday) marked the launch of State of Makers, a statewide artisan pop-up featuring more than fifty Connecticut artisans, musicians, and artisanal food vendors displaying their offerings in the stately and elegant Waterbury Town Hall.

Following the CHN model, we began by identifying new leadership in Waterbury eager to develop a statewide network of artisans and worked with this leadership, introducing them to proven, creative municipal leaders, to create a shared event that places artists and art at the center of planning, execution and activity.

State of Makers Black Friday

We set out to ensure that new local leadership is in place and will remain a part of the CHN team dedicated to building larger events that can be “popped up” in any CHN community in the state. This helps to positively define our artists and artisans as an economic force within our municipalities and convinces people that a place can have a different and better future.

Waterbury City Hall, one of the grandest examples of Georgian Revival architecture on the East Coast, recently underwent a thirty million dollar renovation, yet few people beyond municipal employees and the occasional resident visiting for permits and the like have experienced this stunningly beautiful asset in this transitioning city. This contributes to a mix of uses and people that makes places more diverse, more interesting and more active, thus making spontaneous interaction more likely. Intensifying and mixing activities creates the promise that visitors can stumble onto the fun, mingle with other people, or happen upon opportunity.

The leadership team also partnered with the local theatre, the Mattatuck Museum, and the Main Street program to help market the event and received financial assistance to defray expenses through the community foundation.

Many Connecticut artists have been working with CHN since its inception and are dedicated to our network, participating in the event with their video projections, music, and art wares, bringing the State of Makers to an interactive level that allowed visitors to see Waterbury with new eyes and enthusiasm. This ability to pop up or flash mob crowds of artists and artisans is something we will be refining and utilizing extensively in 2014. This fosters connections among people and across cultures. The relationships built among diverse groups of people create safer, more open places that create more opportunity and foster a sense that everyone is welcome.

CHN mentors and builds leadership in place to continue the work initiated by CHN and to make it sustainable.

The Shiffer Sisters and their recycled innertube bracelets at State of Makers

State of Makers also confirmed that there is a new American Craftsman movement aborning; coupled with the fervent “buy local” sentiments expressed during State of Makers this is emerging as a force to be recognized and harnessed for the good of our artisans, places and populace.

The power of unlikely coalitions
Using Waterbury Town Hall as an elegant setting for the first statewide artisan event illustrated the power of working closely with municipal governments as we had demonstrated in the precursor to CHN, the City Canvas Initiative.

Below are unsolicited comments submitted by several of the artisans at State of Makers:
"It is the perfect way to not only showcase what an artist is passionate about, but also what this State can produce. I heard many times in two days how people usually got their preserves from Maine or Vermont; well they don't have to go that far to get high quality preserves anymore since Connecticut has many wonderful orchards and farms to provide me with quality fruits and vegetables. I may not have a storefront but I am right in their backyard!  This market lets us network with people from all over, and exchange goods and services, and even to get new ideas. Connecticut does not have to have the reputation of being hostile to small businesses, and events like this one can prove it!"

"Fantastic work creating the best artisans fair ever. It was a hugely successful event with constant traffic, great vendors, entertainment and libations for everyone who came. We had terrific sales and make some good contacts for future exhibits of my work and sales of my photographic prints."
Georgia Sheron

"City Hall is an absolutely spectacular building to hold the event. I think that every person there commented on its beauty."
Laura Luther, Olive My Skin

"A HUGE thank you to the State of Makers for their tireless efforts of putting on an amazing event!! The elegance & beauty of the Waterbury Town Hall was brilliantly chosen to showcase some of CT's most talented artisans.  It was an honor participating in such an incredible event!!"
Stacey Wood, David Soule - Whole Harmony Tea

" . . . The attendees I spoke with were universally excited to come to the market, and ready and willing to support local artisans. Thank you so much for believing in us and working so hard to help us get our work out there!"
MaryLynne Boisvert, Bethany Homecraft

"The State of Makers Artisan Market was held in a stunningly beautiful place and the steady stream of visitors and buyers was a real prelude to the holiday season. The organization was very accurate, and great efforts must have been put in letting the word out given the high number of visitors. The music added to the pleasant atmosphere of the event and food was excellent and welcomed. A sincere "bravi" to the organizers."
Sergio Wood Turning

-- November 6, 2013, State of Makers Black Friday Holiday Artisan Market, Connecticut Lifestyles Magazine

--November 7, 2013, Crafting a season of Bazaars, Waterbury Republican American

-- Waterbury Region Arts & Culture Collaboration, Holiday Artisan Market in Waterbury 

-- November 18, 2013, Waterbury Republican American Photos