Linking Art Through Transformative Programming
The Links support of the arts can be traced to our cultured co-founder Margaret Roselle Hawkins. Her innate artistic talent, discovered at a young age, earned her a four-year scholarship to the Women’s School of Design, later known as the Moore Institute of Art. Her passion for creative expression later led to her appointment as an art teacher and helped give root to the establishment of The Arts facet in 1964 at the 14th National Assembly.
Throughout the nation today, Links chapters partner with museums, symphonies, arts councils, educational institutions and corporations to support art programs, especially where there is a focus on artists of color. Our programs are aligned with Links’ goals to create and support opportunities to educate minority youth in the arts and present and support performances by youth and accomplished professional artists in a diversity of disciplines.
One of the Links’ Signature programs for the Arts is the National Poster Art Competition, which was initiated in 1996 in conjunction with the organization’s National Walk-a-thon. Over the years, students have produced posters depicting themes centered on healthy lifestyle choices, the benefits of walking, and making healthy choices.
Highlights of Art in Action
Poster Arts Competition
For the last decade, the Fairfield County Chapter of The Links, Incorporated has partnered with the Bridgeport Public Schools in orchestrating the Poster Arts Contest. Each year, the contest focuses on a selected topic stressing a holistic approach toward healthy lifestyles and making sure our youth realize that everyone’s life matters and is affected through the choices they make. The 2018 theme was, “Our Vision, Our Future; Healthy and Happy Communities”. The program promoted artistic expression, centering on the importance of a healthy, clean environment, a bully-free world, and an inclusive and diverse society; it also advocated students learning to think, create and draw using various artistic media. Approximately 400 students in grades 1 – 12 submitted artwork for the first level judging. More than 100 wonderful pieces selected for the second level judging were displayed at a reception exhibiting the students’ talents and creativity. While all students were recognized with certificates of accomplishment, monetary prizes and ribbons were awarded to the first, second and third place winners in four participating categories (by grade level); the first place winning artwork in each category was submitted for judging at the national level. Mayor Joseph Ganim of Bridgeport issued a Citation to the Chapter, as well as a Proclamation declaring March 24, 2018 “The Links’ National Poster Arts Competition Day”.
Annual Black History Month Cultural and Fine Arts Exhibition
The Chapter, along with a local art consulting firm, has a long standing tradition of a co-sponsored the Annual Student Cultural Art and Literary Program – Black History Art Exhibition. Most recently, we also partnered with the University of Connecticut (Stamford campus). Each year, the students’ artwork focuses on one or more themes. For example, in 2018 the exhibit reflected the students’ artistic interpretations of several themes, including: African folktales; the enduring legacy of what 21st century schools look like in terms of recognizing contributions of African American educators throughout history; the role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities; and “Our Vision Our Future: Healthy and Happy School Communities”. In total, 223 culturally diverse students in grade K – 12 participated from Stamford Public Schools, the Waterside School in Stamford, The Collaborative Center in Stamford, Brian McMahon High School and West Rocks Middle School in Norwalk, and the Norwalk Housing Authority Learning Center. An impressive 117 unique works of art were displayed in UConn Stamford’s Atrium. The students were recognized during a community reception open to the public and were presented with certificates of accomplishment. A representative from Stamford Mayor David Martin’s office made welcome remarks and congratulated the students.
Movie and Documentary Screenings
In addition to our fine arts programs, for several years, we’ve highlighted art on the screen. In 2009, the Chapter launched a three part mini-series, “African Americans in Cinema.” In that premiere series, we focused on the unlimited talents portrayed by African American in early films and documentaries through the present day. In the spirit of excellence in media arts, with an infasis on STE(A)M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Matematics) the chapter has presented two dynamic films that highlight STEM. The first was a viewing of the film Queen of Katwe, the true story of a poor Ugandan village girl who became fascinated with chess, mastered the game and ultimately became an international champion. This film demonstrated that the development of STEM skills can start and flourish at an early age, we provided an opportunity for local students to see the movie, The following year we sponsored a private screening of the film, Hidden Figures, which chronicled the story of three dynamic women pioneers – mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the US space program. After the screening, the student participants had an opportunity to dialogue with two local STEM professionals, one a senior engineer at a local company, the other a former NASA employee.
In 2018, as part of a Black History Month celebration, and in connection with a Links national Historically Black College and University (HBCU) initiative, we partnered with UConn in a screening of the documentary, Tell Them We Are Rising; The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The film, directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker, Stanley Nelson, examines the impact HBCUs have had on our history, culture and national identity. It reveals the rich history of HBCUs and the power of higher education to transform lives and advance civil rights and equality in the face of injustice. Following the screening, participants – largely high school students and their parents – enjoyed commentary from, and discussion with, a panel comprised of esteemed HBCU graduates.
Young Master Writers Program
For the past two years, the Chapter has participated in the Young Master Writers Program (YMWP), an initiative sponsored by the Eastern Area of The Links. The YMWP, designed to promote and encourage participation, pride and achievement in creative written expression, is open to high school students who participate by submitting original literary works including poetry, essays/prose or short stories. Judging is based on creativity, clarity, originality, and logical and effective organization. First, second and third place winners receive monetary awards from the Eastern Area, and their literary works are published in a compendium.