SPOTLIGHT: The Hartford Connection

As Global Lens 2012 comes to a close at the Hartford Public Library–our newest Global Public partner–GFI sat down with Matt Poland, CEO, to discuss how the series cultivates and supports diversity in Hartford

Matt Poland, CEO, Hartford Public Library

GFI:  This is the first year the Initiative has worked with Hartford Public Library, and we’re really quite pleased with how our Global Lens film series seems to be a natural fit for your community. Can talk you about why you approached us, to bring the series to Hartford?

Matt Poland:  The City of Hartford has a richly diverse population. Over the last 20 years immigrants and refugees have come to Hartford from all over the world. Our library is committed to creating a welcoming environment for our new arrivals and to building a receiving community that celebrates our growing diversity. Global Lens 2012 was a perfect way to use cinema to achieve our objective object to build powerful bridges in our City.

GFIWhat ethnicities and nationalities are represented in these new refugee and immigrant groups? Also, did you do any specific outreach to them, in regard to Global Lens? We notice that across the nation, certain films in the series seem to appeal to different communities…

Matt Poland:  Hartford has welcomed people from nations throughout the world, including Somalia, Bosnia, Myanmar, China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Brazil, and many others. We reached out to these communities through our American Place program and our network of branches.

GFIWe did notice that you recently received a National Leadership Grant from IMLS to promote ‘immigrant civic involvement.’ What exactly does that mean, and how is it a reflection of what seems to be the ever-evolving demographic of Hartford?

Matt Poland:  The National Leadership Grant from IMLS offered the Library an opportunity to examine the impact of creating a systematic approach to building a receiving community that is culturally sensitive to the issues faced by new immigrants and refugees. The American journey can be challenging, but the Library believes the path need not be as daunting as it seems.

GFIWhat are some of the programs or services developed via this approach? Sounds like a great idea, that can and should be replicated in other cities…

Matt Poland:  We have developed a system of deliberative dialogues that engage the receiving community and the new arrivals. We are about to launch a marketing campaign called “I Belong, You Belong” because we are on the path together.

GFIWhat is the Center for Contemporary Culture at the Library? Global Lens is presented there, along with a number of other literary- and arts-related events…

Matt Poland:  The Library opened the Center for Contemporary Culture as a flexible, multi-use space with state-of-the-art AV technology that can drive programming for a diverse audience. Cinema is a phenomenal tool to educate, delight, and entertain audiences and it serves to improve literacy in its broadest definition. Global Lens 2012 was a significant event for the Center’s first year — it can not get better.

GFIReally good to hear–it’s the kind impact we hope Global Lens will have. Any highlights from this year’s “inaugural” presentation at the Center?

Matt Poland:  We found the Global Lens series to be far more technically exciting than the “standard” foreign films from Europe. Most viewers discussed how culturally different these films were compared to the Hollywood fare that Americans are used to seeing.

GFISo, how does film, not just Global Lens, but cinema in general, fit with your overall vision for the Library and its value as a vibrant, and viable, community resource? What kind of value does the arts have for your specific community?

Matt Poland:  Cinema is part of the Library’s overall cultural literacy approach to building the spirit and resolve of an economically challenged, but spirited place to live, work, and play. Hartford Public Library helps our entire community celebrate the arts with no barriers to access. Celebrating our humanity together in film, dance, song, visual arts and more is an investment in the future of our people.

GFISpeaking of the future, what’s on the horizon for HPL?

Matt Poland:  We have just completed the building of our immigration and multi-cultural center, The American Place — a wonderful space to build community and literacy. We are working on implementing a digital teen library, YOUmedia, and Itty Bitty City, an early childhood center for the development of vocabulary and motor skills.

Jerome Myers, Public Services Director, Hartford Public Library

The Hartford Public Library joined our Global Public program earlier this year.  Jerome Myers, Public Services Director, was the driving force behind the Library and GFI working together and as the series concluded in Hartford, we asked Jerome to sum up his experience with Global Public and GFI:  

“Hartford Public Library is thrilled to be among the Global Film Initiative’s partners for the Global Lens Public Library Program. We serve a large community of new Americans, and the Global Lens Film series showcases emerging filmmakers from the home countries of many of our customers.

“We are excited about being part of the screenings. Many of our customers are experiencing foreign, independent cinema for the first time through this series, I think they will be surprised by the quality of the works, which range from the dramatic to the comic. We are looking forward to next year’s Global Lens 2013 series.”

And we are too.  See you in 2013, Hartford!




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