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Three Good Things to Do – June 1, 2021

In the spirit of our tech-driven times, I am honored to bring you the fourth installment of  Hill-Stead’s Three Good Things to Do on this first day of June.

1Come Fly Away with Us on June 11 & 12 and July 9 & 10 for a series of gala dinners to benefit Hill-Stead. Enjoy four evenings of delicious cultural cuisine from area chefs, inspired by Theodate Pope Riddle’s extensive travels to Europe and collection of souvenir postcards. These beautiful affairs include multi-course dinners with wine pairings, top-notch entertainment, and post-reception house tours. Select to sit at a safe distance among friends or with your guest at a stand-alone table. Bask in the glory of our outdoor masterpiece, where you’ll feel as though you are in some exotic locale with the backdrop of rolling hills and a stunning sunset taking center stage. Guests who purchase tickets at the Monet’s Circle level will enjoy a Champagne reception and a tethered balloon ride (weather permitting), taking in the stunning views of Hill-Stead’s landscape and the Farmington Valley. We will gratefully recognize them in the event program.

2 Building on last year’s extraordinary success, From the Porch, our multicultural performing arts series returns this summer. Join us for the season opener this coming Saturday, June 5th, for a day of discovery with a Juneteenth celebration featuring regional Black artists, organizations, and businesses. The experiential events will run as long as the weather holds and be open to audiences of all ages. In keeping with the Pope-Riddle family’s tradition of bringing literary, musical, and educational opportunities to the community,

Hill-Stead’s From the Porch not only brings arts to the public but acts as a fundraiser for the Museum to sustain the dynamic cultural destination into the future. From the Porch, programming is listed here on Hill-Stead’s Calendar.

3Join us for Young Poets Day of the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival featuring award-winning poet Chen Chen and the 2021 winners of Hill-Stead’s Fresh Voices Poetry Competition. This outstanding program offers students the opportunity to write and perform poems suitable for presentation and publication. Since 1993, student poets from all corners of Connecticut have entered this competition. The Fresh Voices Poetry Competition is open to all New England high school students. The Festival will take place on Hill-Stead’s expansive and picturesque West Lawn. Bring a blanket, chairs, and a picnic.

A special thanks to Hill-Stead’s Fresh Voices judges, sponsors, and donors, especially the Goldfarb Family and the Ellen Jean Goldfarb Memorial Charitable Trust, with additional support from Becky & Tom Trutter.

3And, it’s full steam ahead for our Visual & Performing Arts STEAM Academy, Hill-Stead’s collaborative grant, in partnership with Farmington Continuing Education, to co-host a camp from August 2–13, weekdays from 8 am to 3 pm. We are delighted to report that the state just approved it as a special initiative that funds summer programs to serve students, grades 2 through 8, from Farmington, Hartford, New Britain, and Plainville. Children from other locations are warmly welcome to join; however, the program will not be able to provide transportation from and to these additional locations. This dynamic program offers opportunities for students to experience bold, innovative, and engaging visual, performing arts, and STEAM enrichment activities. So, please sign up your students for an extraordinary experience today.

I am eager to hear from you. Please email or post a comment to our social media channels.

Best always,

Beth Brett, Chief Advancement Officer

Director’s Message – May 21, 2021

Dear Friends, 

I think my colleagues at HillStead were taken aback by how eagerly I jumped on their suggestion of tethered hot air balloon rides for this year’s gala dinners. They had no idea that my all-time favorite wedding reception included these magical experiences. Nor did they know how badly I needed a reminder of the beautiful wonders of our world.

I am thrilled to share that they have turned this terrific idea into reality. For four evenings this summer, June 11 & 12 and July 9 & 10, one can attend the dinners and float above the treetops at HillStead—savoring the landscape’s natural beauty and supporting the museum!

This feature will be one among many elements of an evening designed to nurture our senses of adventure and exoticism. Inspired by the European travels of our founder, Theodate Pope Riddle, the June nights will bring you France and July Spain – in terms of food and wine, and even entertainment (think Flamenco dancers and French fashion for sale!).

While much has changed at HillStead in the past year, the fact that these dinners are our single biggest fundraiser has not. We, therefore, hope that you will consider joining us for a very memorable evening benefiting a great cause.

I look forward to seeing you!

For more details and ticket information, please click here.


Dr. Anna Swinbourne, Executive Director & CEO

2021 Fresh Voices Winners

Congratulations to the 2021 Fresh Voices Winners!

Enjoy reading more about these talented students. Then, please join us at Hill-Stead on June 23, 2021, for Young Poets Day to experience their poetry in person. These impressive poets will open for author and award-winning national poet Chen Chen!


Eve Brouillard is currently a senior at Rockville High School, the trumpet section leader of the marching band, and a Humanities scholar.  Eve spends a lot of time reading and writing, as well as creating more stories with friends through Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop games.  They love to seek inspiration by walking through outdoor trails as well as museums, taking photos along the way.  Eve won an honorable mention in the 2019 Scholastic Art and Writing Contest and had two works published in the Connecticut Student Writer 2020 magazine.  This year, they received the gold key in the Scholastic Awards for poetry.  In the future, Eve hopes to continue writing and publishing their original poetry.

Nora Holmes is a rising senior at Hall High School where she also runs track and cross country. She has been recognized by NCTE, The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, The New York Times, and the Connecticut Student Writers project. When she is not writing or running, you can find her laughing at her own jokes and starting debates in her history classes. 

JaMara “Mara” Jean is a rising senior who currently attends The Westover School. Mara has been writing poetry since she was in the 5th grade. During some time in the 7th grade, Mara was handpicked by a teacher to write, memorize, and perform at a Slam Poetry Show. When she began high school, she took part in her first production ever, Much Ado About Nothing. Since then, she’s acted in seven productions at her school and is currently the First Drama Head. She can thank her theatrical knowledge and ability to the many productions she has been in thus far and her poetic ability to both her teacher in 7th grade who encouraged her to write slam poetry and Thomas Juvan, who taught her everything she has learned about poetry at Westover. 

Valli Pendyala is a sophomore at South Windsor High School. She is a member of her school’s mock trial and Model United Nations teams, and she is the president of the Sexuality and Gender Alliance. Valli is also a member of South Windsor Future Leaders in Politics. Over the summer, Valli plans to attend the National Student Leadership Conference Political Action & Public Policy program. Valli is passionate about participating in the political process and advocating for issues she is passionate about, both locally and nationally. In her spare time, Valli enjoys reading, spending time with her sister, and learning about history. She is currently working for her Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts, and has previously earned her Silver Award. Valli plans to major in political science and economics.

Cindy Truong is a senior at Platt High School in Meriden and the Educational Center for the Arts, where she studies creative writing. She will be attending New York University this upcoming fall and plans to major in English. Cindy finds inspiration in her Vietnamese heritage and culture along with her Vietnamese-American experience. She’d like to give her biggest gratitude to her teachers and workshop at ECA, for being the place that nurtured her and allowed her to find her voice.

Visual & Performing Arts STEAM Academy


Hill-Stead Museum and Farmington Continuation Education join together to offer a unique summer camp experience for students, grades 2 through 8, from Farmington, Hartford, New Britain, and Plainville, August 2–13, weekdays from 8 am to 3 pm.

Please note that students from other locations are warmly welcome to join; however, the program will not be able to provide transportation from and to these additional locations.

This dynamic program offers opportunities for students to experience bold, innovative, and engaging visual, performing arts, and STEAM enrichment activities.

The morning begins at Hill-Stead with “screen-free” activities such as painting outdoors, writing poetry in the sunken garden, and dance & music classes in the Makeshift Theater. Students will also interact with Hill-Stead’s world-class collection of artworks, including French Impressionist paintings by Degas, Monet & Manet along with works by Whistler and Cassatt, Japanese woodblock prints, botanical prints by Albrecht Durer, etchings and drawings by notable artists.

Afternoons are spent at Farmington High School with a focus on performing arts such as dance, African drumming, Chinese strings/percussion instrumentation, and theater. Students will engage in art exploration through technology in activities like game design and animation, as well as traditional studio arts like clay, drawing, and painting.

Bus transportation between sites will be provided midday, along with lunch and a snack. Students should bring a water bottle.

Please note: The $25 registration fee for this program is contingent on the award of the AccelerateCT Innovation Grant through the State Department of Education. This fee is due upon registration! 

Since the current program design is contingent on grant funding, should funding not be awarded, the program design may be altered, whereas an additional $125 registration fee will be due on July 1. Registered families will receive communication should funding not be awarded and the design of the program alters before additional fees are charged.


2021 Fresh Voices Winners!

THANK YOU to all the students who participated in the 2021 Fresh Voices Poetry Competition, and to the teachers and parents who support them!

We are immensely grateful to this year’s Fresh Voices Judges: Frederick-Douglass Knowles II, Luisa Caycedo-Kimura, and Sophie Spaner.

On May 12, Fresh Voices finalists read their poetry for this prestigious panel of judges. At the conclusion of the readings, the following winners were announced:

Eve Brouillard Rockville High School
Nora Holmes William H. Hall High School
Jamara Jean Westover High School
Valli Pendyala South Windsor High School
Cindy Truong ACES Educational Center for the Arts

What’s next for the winners? On Wednesday, June 23, they will participate in a Young Poets Celebration. Better yet, these impressive young poets will open for author and award-winning national poet Chen Chen!

Fresh Voices Judges

Three Good Things to Do – April 28, 2021

I am honored to bring you the third installment of Hill-Stead’s Three Good Things to Do on this stunning spring day.

1 Speaking of gorgeous weather, we are expecting a beautiful weekend ahead and invite you to join us for May Market this Friday, April 30th through Sunday, May 2nd. Hill-Stead’s springtime fundraising event benefiting the gardens, grounds, and trails. This year, the festive happening features over 30 premium exhibitors, flowers, and unique plants perfect for Mother’s Day, children’s activities, and refreshments. The safe, socially distanced outdoor marketplace features booths with individual tents and one-way aisles for attendees to shop comfortably! Timed tickets are still available for purchase, and admission includes access to a Museum Open House.

A huge thanks to the Hill-Steaders, volunteer ambassadors of Hill-Stead, who have supported the Museum for over 25 years and help produce this signature event. We will fete them with a special ceremony to kick off the festivities on our brand-new terrace. Please look for coverage this Thursday on Channel 8’s nightly news in advance of the festivities.

2 We are delighted to announce that From the Porch is back for 2021. Deemed a “mini- Tanglewood,” this incredible initiative united a diverse and dynamic group of partners across the performing arts sphere in 2020 with an astounding 28 events, 12 collaborators, and 102 performers during the series that extended through late October. Join us for Juneteenth on June 5th, a day of discovery and celebration featuring regional Black artists, organizations, and businesses. This outdoor community event will offer visual art, food, music, and family fun activities on Hill-Stead’s picturesque grounds. Joining local cultural organizations, including The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, Kamora’s Cultural Corner, Free Center, this inaugural Juneteenth event is part of a month-long series of celebrations taking place throughout the region. The Hartford Courant took notice of the festivities, promoting an exhibit of self-portraits by Black Artists with Free Center for our upcoming Juneteenth event.

3Curious to hear about what is happening at Hill-Stead? Behind the dark cloak of the pandemic, we created something beautiful at Hill-Stead! Construction has been underway steadily since last fall. We will soon celebrate new beginnings with a state-of-the-art exhibition gallery, a new media space, a vibrant lecture hall, an elegant museum shop, and much more. In the meantime, please check out Hill-Stead’s Capital & Endowment Campaign landing page for a glimpse into our transformative renovation project. If you are so inclined, please support Hill-Stead as our cultural & education hub reaches this incredible milestone!

I am eager to hear from you. Please email or post a comment to our social media channels.

Best always,

Beth Brett, Chief Advancement Officer

Fresh Voices 2021 Finalists Announced

Hill-Stead proudly announces the 2021 Fresh Voices Poetry Competition Finalists!

Their work represents a collective of young creatives of the region. We are honored to have received so many extraordinary poems and grateful to all the teachers and parents who supported them. Our heartfelt congratulations to the following finalists:

  • Prisca Afantchao, Windsor High School
  • Caroline Bartolotta, Rockville High School
  • Julia Baun, William H. Hall High School
  • Madeleine Brouillard, Rockville High School
  • Sara Cove, Rockville High School
  • Nora Holmes, William H. Hall High School
  • JaMara Jean, Westover School
  • Kevin Delgado Manea, Weston High School
  • Lexi Mays, Westover High School
  • Violet McCabe, Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts
  • Katrina Melnik, Avon High School
  • Cali Miville, Rockville High School
  • Valli Pendyala, South Windsor High School
  • Eleanor Polak, ACES Educational Center for the Arts
  • Cindy Truong, ACES Educational Center for the Arts

Hill-Stead Museum also wishes to thank this year’s Fresh Voices readers, Barbara P. Greenbaum and Victoria Nordlund. Thank you for your thoughtful read and review of each submission and for selecting these finalists to present their poetry in front of a live panel of judges on Wednesday, May 12 at 5 pm.

This year’s Fresh Voices Judges will be Frederick-Douglass Knowles II, Luisa Caycedo-Kimura, and Sophie Spaner.


Wednesday, May 12 @ 5 pm 
The Fresh Voices finalists will read before a panel of judges; we will announce four to six Fresh Voices winners that evening. *

Wednesday, June 23
Young Poets Celebration featuring the Fresh Voices winners. These impressive young poets will open for author and award-winning national poet Chen Chen! *

Please note: *Fresh Voices winners must be available to participate in this performance!

Fresh Voices finalists will be given complimentary passes to the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, held September 10-12, 2021.

The Fresh Voices winning poems will also be featured in our online publication of Theodate, Hill-Stead’s poetry journal. And, for the first time, each winner of the Fresh Voices adjudicated reading will receive a monetary prize award!

On behalf of everyone at Hill-Stead, we look forward to sharing your Fresh Voices and celebrating poetry together!

Thank you to our sponsors and donors who make Fresh Voices possible

Ellen Jeanne Goldfarb Memorial Charitable Trust

The Goldfarb Family

With additional support from Becky & Tom Trutter


Director’s Message – March 30, 2021

Dear Friends,

The miracle of birth has arrived at Hill-Stead! We are delighted to introduce adorable Ulysses, the first of this year’s group of new lambs. (welcome to the world, little guy, we are trying to make it better for you!) With many more lambies expected in the coming weeks, we warmly invite you to come for a visit to see this natural wonder for yourselves, and if desired, to join our contest to name three of the newborns (or dedicate a trail or an outdoor bench) through our Healthy Living Campaign. Continue reading

Meet Mary Sargent

We are delighted to bring you the first edition of The Legacy Society Newsletter.

The Legacy Giving Society recognizes and thanks donors during their lifetimes for including Hill-Stead in their estate plans. Since 1998, The Legacy Society members have helped support and sustain our beloved cultural hub and the larger community it serves far into the future.

Meet Mary Sargent: The Inspiring Founder of Hill-Stead’s Legacy Society

Mary Sargent and Executive Director, Dr. Anna Swinbourne touring Hill-Stead’s newly renovated spaces

Hill-Stead has a long history of fearless females, beginning with its founder and architect, Theodate Pope Riddle. Since opening its doors, a series of inspiring individuals, many of whom have been women, have worked tirelessly to keep Theodate’s dream alive. This merry crew has linked hands across generations to serve the public, bettering the lives of others through our beloved cultural hub.

During International Women’s History Month, it is fitting to recognize former Board President and Hill-Stead champion Mary Tennant Sargent. The Legacy Society founder is passionate and proud of her work to support and sustain Hill-Stead.

For more than three decades, Mrs. Sargent has devoted herself to the betterment of the treasured institution that she describes as a hidden gem. “I love everything about Hill-Stead, from its storied history to its extraordinary setting,” says Mrs. Sargent.

The longtime resident of West Hartford has been actively involved in garden clubs for many years. She helped with the 1986 restoration of Hill-Stead’s Sunken Garden, designed by Beatrix Farrand (America’s first female landscape architect). It was then that Mrs. Sargent became smitten with both the museum and its glorious grounds. She went on to serve as President of the Board of Governors for four years from 1991-1995, the longest tenure to date.

Mary and Joseph Sargent at the 2005 Hill-Stead Gala Benefit

Mrs. Sargent attended Smith College and met her husband, Joseph Denny Sargent, at the Farmington Polo Club when she was just 17 years old. The pair would marry when she was 19 and enjoy 57 years of wedded bliss, splitting time between Connecticut and Vermont.

Along with another couple, the two helped found the Killington ski area. This once-little-known peak grew into one of our country’s largest winter sports resorts. Many treasured moments were spent outdoors with their four children on the slopes at Killington and summer wilderness trips filled with fishing and backcountry hiking, and family time at Trail Creek and Red Rock Ranch, Wyoming.

Over the many years, Mrs. Sargent has dedicated much of her free time and resources to Hill-Stead’s growth, and she is excited about the next chapter. Now on the brink of its 75th anniversary as a museum, Hill-Stead has a significant renovation project well underway. The incredible project will result in a state-of-the-art exhibition gallery, a new media space, a museum shop, and elevated educational & arts programming.

“I want to see Hill-Stead thrive and go on for the future,” says Mrs. Sargent.

To this end, Mrs. Sargent has supported both the current capital campaign and generously included Hill-Stead in her estate plans. We are immensely grateful for Mrs. Sargent’s extraordinary leadership and for leaving an indelible mark on Hill-Stead for generations to come.


Fresh Voices 2021 Judges Announced

Meet our Fresh Voices Judges

Hill-Stead is delighted to announce our 2021 Fresh Voices judges, Frederick-Douglass Knowles II, Luisa Caycedo-Kimura, and Sophie Spaner. The judges will review the poems by this year’s finalists. Please enjoy their incredible bios.

Frederick-Douglass Knowles II (left) is an educator and activist passionate about achieving community augmentation through literary arts. He is the inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of Hartford. His works have been selected as finalists for the New England Association of Teachers of English (NEATE) Poet of the Year Award. Nominated for the Pushcart Prize, has received various poetry awards, including the Nutmeg Poetry Award and the 2020 Connecticut Arts Fellow in Artist Excellence for Poetry/Creative Non-Fiction. Knowles holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Eastern Connecticut State University and penned BlackRoseCity, a poetry book. Currently, he is an Associate Professor of English at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT.

Luisa Caycedo-Kimura (center) is a Colombian-born writer, translator, and educator. Her honors include a John K. Walsh Residency Fellowship at the Anderson Center, an Adrienne Reiner Hochstadt Fellowship at Ragdale, and a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship in Poetry. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, she has received various poetry awards. A former attorney, Caycedo-Kimura left the legal profession to pursue her passion for writing. She holds an MFA from Boston University. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in The Cincinnati ReviewSunken Garden Poetry 1992-2011, RHINO, Diode, Shenandoah, Mid-American ReviewNashville Review, The Night Heron Barks, Louisiana Literature, among others. Currently, she is an Assistant Editor for the Connecticut River Review.

Sophie Spaner (right) is an 18-year-old writer, singer-songwriter, and artist from Deep River, Connecticut. She was a Fresh Voices Poet in 2017. She is currently taking a gap year and will be attending Yale University in the fall, where she plans to major in Film and Media Studies. During her gap year, she has been working as a quality control consultant for both foreign and American independent films with the international film distributor Kino Lorber. In her free time, she enjoys learning new instruments and expanding her artistic practice.