Started by two women in 1934, the West Hartford Art League has grown into a regional arts organization that offers year-round classes, monthly exhibitions, and events that make art accessible as we take art out of our galleries and bring it into the community.
We owe our start and the vision to have an organization where artists could meet, learn and become inspired to Mrs. Rebecca Field Jones, a sculptress and painter, and Mrs. Gertrude Patterson, a portrait painter and art teacher.
In 1934 they approached the town for a meeting space and were given the “West School” - which we still use for classes today at 87 Mountain Road. The brick red schoolhouse became a gathering place and through potluck suppers and volunteer work, plumbing and heating were introduced to the building. As the Art League continued to grow, children’s classes and exhibition opportunities were added.
Fast forward to 1976 and the Art League needed more room. They approached the town again and salvaged a second historic building, the Woodruff Allen house, which was built in 1752 as a farmhouse and acquired by West Hartford in 1943 as a caretakers house for the town’s golf courses. We negotiated a nominal lease in exchange for funding the buildings renovation.
Ten years later, the town offered the adjacent Buena Vista Clubhouse to us for use as a second gallery and classroom facility. We renovated this building as well for additional classroom and gallery space. The Clubhouse, along with the Saltbox and School House now comprise the Art Leagues grounds. Restored and operated by the Art League, they are all part of West Hartford’s Historic District.
Started as a volunteer based organization, the Art League now employs a staff that includes an Executive Director, registrar, gallery assistant and book-keeper and is supported by the work of the many volunteers who help hang our exhibits, staff our fundraising events, sit on our Board of Directors, and serve on our committees.
Our monthly exhibitions are free and open to the public and include work by local, regional and national artists. Our membership has grown to over 700 members from 51 communities in Connecticut.
We encourage young artists, and donate gallery space annually to the West Hartford Public school system for ArtBeat, an exhibition of artwork of students in kindergarten through 12th grade. We offer a $1200 scholarship every spring to a graduating senior in the region who is going on to an accredited art school or University to study art.
We are committed to supporting our community and started ArtWalk in 2004 in an effort to take art out of our galleries and make it more accessible. This annual exhibit, which adopted a new format in 2011, displays work of local artists in West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square and offers community art projects to children and adults.
As part of our Art In Public Places program, we have placed large scale works of art by CT sculptors Charles Perry, Tim Prentice, Peter Busby and Karen Petersen on public land in West Hartford. A new sculpture by Philip Grausman, Susan, was installed on loan in September of 2012.
The West Hartford Art League is a 501 (c) 3 organization.