With the imminent approach of Summer Solstice—a precise planetary moment when the Earth’s tilt reaches its zenith—I take solace in knowing that I am part of a global community. It happens at an exact moment; it is the same moment everywhere on Earth. We cannot take it back; we can only move forward together.
On this day (June 20), we invite you to come to Hill-Stead and step outside with us at the moment of the Solstice. To pause, be present, and mindful in this powerful and challenging moment in our collective history.
With utmost conviction, we acknowledge our responsibility to fulfill our founder’s intention for Hill-Stead, namely that it serves to enrich and educate our local citizens and the greater public. We exist for all members of the public and seek to build a strong, healthy community that, among many things, is inclusive and embraces equality. And we believe that the arts have the power to unite, an ability that is now more important than ever.
Taking this to heart, not only igniting dialogue but moreover, putting actions behind its words, Hill-Stead is launching From the Porch, a multicultural performing arts series. Building on the successful indoor events and nationally acclaimed Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, the vibrant and inclusive programming of this new series – with music, dance, theater and more – will take place outside on our gorgeous grounds, several nights per week. We will welcome audiences of all ages, and strictly follow the state and local regulations for distancing and safety.
We are also, in this kickoff, celebrating both our identity as the brainchild of an extraordinary woman, and the importance of 2020 as the 100th anniversary of women acquiring the right to vote in the United States. Yet even as we celebrate, we acknowledge that this reform was flawed, as voting rights were not accessible to all women equally in our country. Barriers such as poll taxes and literacy tests fostered unequal and discriminatory voting practices.
To welcome summer on the evening of June 20, our dear friend and neighbor, singer-songwriter Kristen Renehan will sing an acoustical concert from the front veranda. Jim Mastrianni will accompany her on guitar.
Then, on June 26, Tammy Denease, an accomplished performing artist and storyteller, will be performing as Sarah Margu, a captive on the Amistad. She proudly brings the lives of significant, yet “hidden” women in history to life. Tammy received the gift of storytelling from her great-grandmother, a former enslaved person who lived to be 125, and grandmother, who lived to 100.
We are equally delighted to bring to the stage that same night, Elizabeth Lyra Ross, who will dazzle us with her magnificent song. Elizabeth is the first African American female member of The U.S. Army Band and Chorus. Since completing her enlistment, her international career has included the opera roles of Aida, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, Santuzza, and both Bess and Serena in Porgy and Bess. Elizabeth has performed with the Metropolitan Opera and she has been nominated for an Emmy Award on the Live from Lincoln Center Series.
Throughout the summer season, Hill-Stead will collaborate on specific events with other arts organizations from Opera Connecticut to dance companies led by Judy Dworin and Sonia Plumb. In doing so, we will provide a venue for these neighbor institutions, knowing they cannot host their performances indoors now. Our aspiration is simple: by linking our hands and sharing our resources, we nonprofit cultural institutions can together create a lively and sustainable future.
And if the weather allows, we will continue this series into the autumn, to bring to our community as many enjoyable and enriching experiences as we can. During colder days, be ready to sit in the audience wrapped in a blanket or wearing your winter coat!
Throughout the pandemic, we have kept our grounds and gardens open to all every day. Now, you can be there for us by supporting this vibrant summer series, which will simultaneously serve as a fundraising effort for our beloved Hill-Stead. With your support, we can join together to be part of this shared endeavor to bring the arts back to the community.
To find details of the series events, please visit our calendar. It will grow as we move through the summer!
I look forward to greeting you personally when you arrive for a performance.