HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -- Channel 3’s next installment of 20 Towns in 20 Days heads to Hartford.
The city is known as the insurance capital of the world, but Hartford is also home to the oldest continuously operating public art museum in the country.
The Wadsworth Atheneum is surrounded by insurance and government structures, but the Hartford icon is hard to miss.
Once you go inside, you step into a timeline of historical memories that takes you back to the 1840s.
“Really 1800's realized that Hartford needed a destination. A destination for art and culture. And he was fortunate enough to have known some of the right people who were also connected to the art world and he saw the opportunity to open a museum,” explained Erin Monroe, curator of American Paintings and Sculpture.
That man and founder was Daniel Wadsworth.
The Hartford native opened the museum and curator Erin Monroe said throughout the years, they have remained open, whereas other institutions had some periods of closure.
That’s why the Wadsworth claims the title of the oldest continuously operating public art museum in the country.
“Built on the site where George Washington came to Hartford several times and there are commemorative plaques out here to think about. What was going on in Hartford in the revolutionary period, but more recently in thinking of the early modern era Salvador Dali spent time here,” Monroe said.
With five connected buildings, the giant halls are decorated with remarkable paintings, ancient jewels and even a lion sign that once alerted people travelling by stagecoach in Hartford to stop and grab a bite.
“Some of the surprising Hartford connections that you can see include what's called a tavern sign. This is really an incredible form of marketing in the 1800's that was the equivalent of the modern billboard sign,” Monroe explained.
The halls are packed with the past, but the museum is also wanting to catch up with times.
Monroe said they are working to diversify the stories they tell by featuring artists that have been hidden in the shadows because of their skin color or gender.
“There are so many new artists that are helping us make sense and have dialogue around some challenging issues whether its race, gender class. In historic art we are looking for ways to broaden the stories we tell,” Monroe said.
Another way is by highlighting Hartford’s native artists and its people. Like how photographer Dawoud Bey did in a portrait of a Hartford black resident that is featured in their gallery.
“Hartford residents. He was addressing deficiency in historical portraiture, which was typically people of wealth and people who are white,” Monroe said.
From the famous ‘Charter Oak tree’ painting that is also displayed, to getting a glimpse of a toothpick cube, the Wadsworth Museum will take you on an unforgettable adventure through time.
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