The Institute for Community Research (ICR) will host the traveling exhibit New Lives/New England from February 24 through April 11, 2014, at the ICR Gallery, 2 Hartford Square West, 146 Wyllys St., in Hartford.  An open house featuring art, music, dance, demonstrations and food of refugee groups will take place at ICR on Saturday March 8 from 2-5 PM.  At this event visitors will be able to join in Bosnian dancing, hear Somali Bantu chant, see Burmese Karen weavers working on their looms, and sample foods from all these cultures. The exhibit and open house are free and open to the public.

New Lives/New England highlights refugee and new immigrant artists now living in Connecticut, Vermont, and Maine. The exhibit explores the role that traditional arts play in helping these groups maintain a sense of community while building a new home in New England. On display are hand woven carpets, clothing, baskets, decorative arts, wall hangings, and musical instruments made by skilled traditional artists living in Hartford, Connecticut; Burlington, Vermont; and Lewiston, Maine.  The artists – several of whom are related although living in different states – are Burmese Karen, Somali, Somali Bantu, Bosnian, and Assyrian. All are recent arrivals to the U.S.

The exhibit has been developed through a collaboration among the Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program (CHAP) at ICR, the Vermont Folklife Center, and Cultural Resources, Inc. in Maine, and will tour to all three states.

For many members of refugee communities now living in New England, practicing their familiar arts of weaving, knitting, basket making, lace making, music, dance, and storytelling helps them to cope with the trauma of the genocide and displacement their families have suffered. For seven years, ICR’s Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program has worked with newcomer artists to encourage the continuation and sustainability of their traditional arts. Our project has helped to improve English skills, involve the artists in American society, and support their families.  Several of the artists across New England have been teaching their art forms to young people, helping to pass on traditions in their new homeland.

Lynne Williamson, project director, encourages members of the public to attend the event:  “This exhibit provides a chance for visitors to meet these talented artists, learn more about their cultures, and try some of their art forms.  Sharing their traditions, which they love to do, forges strong connections between these new neighbors and public audiences. “

The exhibit is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Greater Hartford Arts Council through contributors to its United Arts Campaign and the United Way Community Campaign, the Connecticut Office of the Arts/DECD, the Aurora Foundation for Women and Girls, the Connecticut Humanities Council, and the Institute for Community Research.

For more information about the exhibit and events, please contact Lynne Williamson at 860-278-2044 x 251 or; also visit our websites at and
Photographs are available for media use.

The Institute for Community Research is an independent, nonprofit organization that conducts applied research and community enhancement programs to promote equal access to health, education, and cultural resources. Its Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program encourages and promotes traditional artists and their communities through an active process of documentation, technical assistance, and public presentations to bring their work and the history of their communities to new audiences. Support comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connecticut Office of the Arts/DECD, and the Greater Hartford Arts Council as well as several foundations. For more information please visit our websites at and