Meet the Class of 2022
Sosse Baker of Chester. Sosse is described as a cultural icon in Chester. With her late husband Jack, she founded Chester Gallery and made it the center for the local arts community where, for 36 years, newcomers were welcomed and introduced to the community. Sosse is an internationally known basketmaker, and she enthusiastically donates her work to charity, and has traveled to Uganda to help local makers create baskets that would be marketable to global consumers. For 17+ years, she has curated The Postcard Show featuring postcard size art by local artists. Through her ingenious Creative Challenge to Artists, which links town history with art, Sosse raises funds for the Chester Historical Society while bringing out the inner artist in others.
- Matt Conway of East Granby. Matt is a community developer, public art & placemaking innovator. He is Founder and Executive Director of The RiseUP Group. RiseUP's mission is to empower communities to imagine new possibilities. He has organized hundreds of public art projects and created significant paid opportunities for professional Connecticut artists who use public art to uplift communities. Matt launched the Creative Leadership Internship Program, a safe and creative space where youth are exposed to real life public art opportunities and are mentored working alongside professional muralists. His latest projects are The Studio CT labs which are physical creative incubator spaces in Hartford and Bridgeport and The Art Club with the goal of cultivating a creative community where artists can collaborate, learn, and create together.
- Kevin Diaz of New Haven. Kevin’s efforts in the community are 100% to keep the Afro-Puerto Rican/Caribbean culture alive. He is the Founder and Director of Movimiento Cultural Afro-Continental Inc, a community-based organization with a mission to educate people about Puerto Rico’s rich African-based folklore, music, dance, and other art forms, especially the Bomba. Bomba, which is one of the oldest musical traditions dating back to the 17th-century and rooted in slavery is a playful exchange between dancers, singers and drummers. Kevin's multifaceted commitment to Bomba artists is due to his selfless character and his vision of sharing a safe space for healing, learning and cultivating awareness, and self-esteem from one another. He has the doors open to anyone who wants to learn about the Afro-Puerto Rican culture or needs a place to strengthen their performance skills. There is no request too small for Kevin, he will always make you feel seen and heard.
- Jim Felice of Ridgefield. Jim is a sculptor, a musician and a friend to all. At his Jim Felice Studio, you will encounter a full spectrum of art works ranging from graffiti to live performances to monumental sculpture. Jim is a “go-to” individual for established artists as well as amateur, emerging and unknown artists. He founded The Trailer Box Project to showcase the work of groundbreaking artists. The Trailer Box Project approaches the art gallery as a conceptual work of art where ideas are exchanged and curator and artist work together to create immersive exhibits. Jim is equally dedicated to bringing an audience to the artists whose work graces the walls. He has created a dynamic social hub with an environment of generosity, both for artists and for the surrounding community.
- Bill Geddes of Woodbury. Bill has spent his life inspiring others through his passion for the arts. His years as a high school music teacher were inspirational to his students, yet they were just a prelude to a new and unpaid “career” that has impacted every segment of the community. Bill is the founder and current president of the Woodbury-Bethlehem Community Music Foundation, which provides financial support for music education initiatives. As founding director of the Arts Alliance of Woodbury, Bill created the Woodbury Arts Festival, Arts Meet & Greets and Arts Walks. At the height of the pandemic, when public performances of all kinds were shuttered, Bill donned a kilt and carried his Highland Bagpipes to the end of his driveway where he played daily at sunset, lifting the spirits of neighbors and others who came to listen from their cars.
- Maricarmen Godoy of Norwalk. Maricarmen is a journalist, artist manager and philanthropist. She belongs to the fifth generation of a family of musicians from Ecuador. Maricarmen began singing sacred music from an early age, and made a living as a singer while she finished her journalism degree from Universidad Central de Ecuador. She migrated to the United States in 1997 with her daughter, Angie, who is an award-winning violinist and cultural entrepreneur. As a citizen artist and cultural promoter, she saw a need to advocate for emerging artists who have are pursuing their international careers. Her community work began at the Ecuadorian Civic Center in Danbury, Connecticut and she is a founding member for what is now the Ecuadorian Civic Committee of Stamford.In 2021, she founded En Vivo con Maricarmen, a non-profit organization that uplifts Latin-American artists. Throughout the pandemic, her philanthropic work directly supported musicians, sound engineers, and video editors in times when the stages were closed and artists were in crisis. As a journalist, Maricarmen amplifies community arts and cultural events. She is an editor for La Voz Hispana de Connecticut, a Spanish newspaper based in New Haven, and the anchor of En Vivo con Maricarmen, a Spanish radio news show on 103.5FM La Voz Radio. Maricarmen is a contributor to the Fairfield County Catholic newspaper, where she writes articles in Spanish. She serves as a volunteer bilingual translator and artist liaison for INTEMPO in Stamford.
- Cristin RIvera of Niantic. Cristin is a talented designer and an all-around creative person. She designs and creates beautiful and unique clothing, femme comfort for all people. She hopes to empower individuals through fashion. Cristin is the glue that holds together The Annex, an artist space co-founded and operated by local artists for the community to shop authentically and support local artists. She is described as an individual who has endless energy and creativity. She curates storefront displays, arts shows and installations and creates new clothing lines all while working full-time and caring for her family. She has been referred to as a Superwoman who knows how to connect and grow projects flawlessly.
- Richard White of Coventry. Richard is an artist, photographer and teacher. He serves as President of the Coventry Arts Guild and has donated years of his time advocating for the arts and expanding public access to the visual arts in Northeastern Connecticut. Richard curates a large outdoor public art exhibit in downtown Coventry, spearheads the annual Coventry Arts on Main event and has mentored young people in the visual arts and design for decades. Richard invests considerable energy into animating the arts in Coventry for the betterment of residents and visitors.
- Stewart Wilson of New Hartford. Stewart has been fostering art in the community for 40 + years, founding three arts organizations, Public Image (1980-1984, NYC) and Artwell Gallery (1995-2011, Torrington). Stewart, the artist, is known for the Personas, his wrapped representatives from another dimension. He created over 31,000 Persona sculptures in human and animal form which has been exhibited in museums and galleries world-wide. The Personas have “come alive” in Stewart's latest project, Personaland – an online global arts village showcasing nearly 500 artists from 52 countries in 15 group and 37 individual artist galleries. In addition, you can enjoy movies, dancing flowers, a wishing well and challenging art games. He is known for his unflagging good humor and as a visionary artist who believes art is for everyone.
The Connecticut Arts Hero Awards will be presented on Wednesday, January 18, 2023 at 6:00 PM at Infinity Hall in Hartford, Connecticut. The event is free and open to all. Click HERE for more information.