Every day, Jeanette Belliveau sits behind a loom at the Hartford Artisan’s Weaving Center. The 72-year-old has a passion for the art of hand-weaving, a skill she’s honed for years. Yet, she has never actually seen her work. Jeanette has been blind since birth but that hasn’t kept her from growing her craft.
Jeanette is one of many who attend the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center. The center’s signature program teaches local residents who are blind, have low vision or are 55 years or older, to create quality handwoven items in a supportive and creative community.
“The most difficult thing about weaving is when the thread breaks, but I love all aspects of weaving and am always willing to learn new techniques,” Jeanette said.
Luckily, volunteers like Gary Robison help make Jeanette’s experience enjoyable and therapeutic. Gary, who has been helping out at the center for about five years, helps blind weavers make sure the looms are ready for the artisans to use. And he’s not the only one helping ensure participants enjoy their time. On May 7, a small group of UnitedHealthcare employees spent the morning at the center, helping with special projects, such as winding spools and cutting cloth, for the weavers.
The volunteering is part of a broader effort to support the Hartford community. UnitedHealthcare partners with The Greater Hartford Arts Council, an organization dedicated to promoting and connecting all citizens to the arts in their community and across the region.
To further that commitment, the council created the Arts + Wellness program, which awards grants to organizations that support and promote healing and wellness through the arts for individuals who experience daily emotional, physical and intellectual challenges.
“The arts can have a profound impact on people’s lives and through our Arts + Wellness grants we want to ensure that people of all abilities have the opportunity to experience the healing benefits of the arts,” said Cathy Malloy, Greater Hartford Arts Council CEO.
UnitedHealthcare’s donation to the program helps support places like the weaving center. The grant helped fund this year’s project, “Not Your Grandmother’s Weaving,” which means taking standard, traditional patterns and amping them up using colors and different combinations to make new and exciting projects.
“It's really special to see how excited the artisans get to know that their work is appreciated,” said Katie Glass, executive director of the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center. “These projects wouldn’t be possible without the support of UnitedHealthcare and the Greater Hartford Art Council, and we’re truly appreciative of the continued support.”
Other 2019 grant recipients in the area include: Charter Oak Cultural Center, Easterseals Camp Hemlocks and Southington Community Cultural Arts.
“The work that the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center does is truly outstanding,” said Stephen Farrell, UnitedHealthcare CEO of New England. “I’m proud that through the Arts + Wellness grant we are able to support organizations like this and others that substantially elevate community arts and well-being.”
For information on how to apply for an Arts + Wellness program grant, visit https://letsgoarts.org/wellness/.
For more information about the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center, visit https://www.weavingcenter.org/.