Middletown – Arts in the River City

Photo by David P. Bauer




The town where the residents don’t hate the traffic on Route 9 nearly enough, because a stop at the only two red lights on the state road, less than a mile from each other, gives commuters the chance to glance at the sunrise over the river, the fog veiling the river, the Arrigoni Bridge rising majestically over the river. The town where murals and artwork adorn restaurant windows and shop walls on Main Street. The town where residents phoning City officials ask to be placed on hold so they can hear local musicians on recordings, and visitors to City Hall can see paintings, photographs, sculpture and fabric arts by local artists when they go to pay their taxes and parking tickets.

Middletown is home to poets, writers, musicians, artists of all kinds, and a wide range of residents – natives, transplants, academics, students. It’s a diverse population – and a small world. There are many collaborations on projects and promotions.

Cooperation and camaraderie flourishes. untitledThe recently appointed Poet Laureate was not expected to be well enough for a scheduled reading at Russell Library – and poets and members of the public showed up to read her work for her. dic chion marcellaPoets, actors, children, and performers of all types are called by email and Facebook posts to recite, declaim and cause a ruckus at ArtFarm’s annual fundraiser, the Shakespeare Slam. Local musicians are called to play in the Circus Orchestra at Oddfellows Playhouse’s Children’s Circus – years after they (and their children) have “graduated” from the summer program. The Russell Library has to cancel the “dog whisperer” program – word gets out by Twitter.


Often, the need for speed necessitates promotion by social media. Artists and arts lovers from Middletown and surrounding areas are brought together through all forms of social media from email chains to Facebook and Twitter to Meetup. Most of the TBT front_12town’s arts venues promote their events through Facebook and on their websites.

The Buttonwood Tree hosts events of all kinds and welcomes music and performance lovers from all over New England. As one of the cornerstone arts organizations of Middletown, it’s tied into the nightlife of the City, especially of the North End, and hosts jazz performances, comedy groups, open mics, community groups, homeschool classes, and a myriad of other events. Though it has an extensive fan base, The Buttonwood Tree relies on free and low cost promotion and communication, and social media is an ideal ways to get their message out.

The Middletown Commission on the Arts produces Arts2Go with support from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Arts2Go calendar is mailed to City residents, but the website lendslogo itself to a more intensive presence. The website promotes readings, performances,  exhibits and and other events in the Middletown area and further afield in Middlesex County. The site also has information for artists – a directory with resources for artists, including links to grants applications, work opportunities, and city agencies.

The arts are intrinsically bound in with the identity of Middletown. Events like Art Farm Shakespeare performances, the Oddfellows Children’s Circus, Cruise Nights and the monthly Arts Walks attract residents and tourists to the downtown area. Business and civic organizations partner with non-profits – and through cross posts on social media, help make these events successful.





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