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A Neighborhood Studios Program at the Mark Twain House

Archive for the tag “Hartford”

Challenge of Tourette’s Didn’t Stop Librarian Josh Hanagarne

By Jahyra White

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Librarian Josh Hanagarne went through a lot in his childhood, but still managed to make it.

In elementary school, Hanagarne was performing in a class play and noticed that something was wrong. But it wasn’t until high school that doctors diagnosed him with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary tics and vocalizations.

According to Hanagarne, Tourette’s is just like a sneeze – hard to keep inside – but it’s an everyday thing and it happens all the time.

In school, he was bullied for his Tourette’s outbursts.

Hanagarne is used to his Tourette’s and he doesn’t seem to think he’s any different from anyone else, but his story gets better.

When he met his wife after high school, she became the love of his life.

When he talks about her and describes what kind of person she is, he gets a little teary eyed.

It’s clear that he really loves his wife dearly and is thankful for having her in his life.

It’s hard to imagine being married to someone who has Tourette’s but his wife told him all of that didn’t matter.

A couple of years go by and they decide that they want to have a kid. After trying unsuccessfully and being told they couldn’t conceive, they had a baby.

Now they have a healthy five-year-old son named Max.

Stowe’s Skillful Balancing Act

Stowe house, Cecilia.2

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s home on Forest Street in Hartford, Conn.
Photo by Cecilia Gigliotti

By Ambriel Johnson

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Harriet Beecher Stowe, born June 14, 1811, was always a balancer.

From the day this great American novelist was born until she died on July 1, 1896, she was always searching for a way to balance her work with other important things.

Whether it was finding a way to spend more time with her children, paint, or work on her now-world-famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe always strived for a balance.  She sought a way to do her best in anything and everything she did.

This author is not only known for her book which changed the face of America forever, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but other bestselling novels such as Oldtown Folks and The Minister’s Wooing.

As most Americans probably know already, Uncle Tom’s Cabin expressed Stowe’s opposition to slavery. Not all people in Stowe’s time agreed with this view, however, and she became despised by many.

This hatred never stopped her from writing. Stowe enjoyed the craft; she wrote her entire life, from childhood until her death.

Stowe sometimes used writing as a way to escape her life when things got rough. Her beautiful Connecticut mansion wasn’t always a place of comfort as it is talked about. She lost more than one of her children at a young age and used her writing as a way to deal with the sadness.

She enjoyed art almost as much as she enjoyed her writing.  Her paintings are prominently displayed at her home in Hartford, Connecticut, where she moved with her husband and children in 1873.

This extraordinary woman was not only the author of 30 books – one containing advice for homemakers – but a painter in her free time. She did most of this hobby painting while visiting her winter home in Mandarin, Florida. Connecticut became too cold for the Stowe family during the winter, so they spent the season in their Florida home.

It’s obvious to visitors that Stowe enjoyed painting landscapes. The decorated hallways of her estate are lined with her art. All the way from portraits to a number of still life paintings, Stowe did it all.

In the front parlor of her home, sophisticated pastels of garden life and country homes adorn the walls.

The home also includes paintings by at least one of Stowe’s daughters, who were aspiring artists like their mother.

The front parlor is the space where the Stowe’s guests would be entertained in the evenings. It is also the space where Stowe herself did most of her writing, at a small wooden desk tucked away in a corner.

Her husband Calvin, a professor of religion, had his own study in the upstairs of their home, tucked between the bedrooms. Despite the fact that Stowe was wildly more successful than he, she was reduced to a microscopic desk in the family living room.

Stowe made more than $1,000 on her first novel. In her time it was unusual for the woman of the house to make more money than the man, however Stowe’s husband was very supportive of her career.

Stowe’s family spent time together in the back parlor of her home. This room included many extravagant decorations, including a painting given to Stowe by a duchess who was a big fan of Stowe’s work.

Stowe was sometimes forced to give up time when she could be working on her art to pursue other things. After all, she did have seven children. This did not stop her from becoming a great American novelist, a role model for writers and an icon for all people.

Stowe, who expertly balanced her work and busy family life in her marvelous Hartford home, will forever have an impact on our world.

Writing Apprentices Sign on With the Mark Twain Gang

Jahyra White of Hartford and Indira Senderovic of wethersfield show their support for the Mark Twain House & Museum.

Twain Studios Writing Apprentices Jahyra White and Indira Senderovic show their allegiance to The Mark Twain House & Museum.

Twain Studios is full of promising young people who clearly know where their loyalties lie: with the Mark Twain House & Museum in the ongoing, friendly summertime battle with Theater Works for the streets, hearts and minds of Hartford.

June Tran, Lina Allam

June Tran of South Windsor and Lina Allam of Glastonbury are most definitely on the side of The Mark Twain House & Museum.

Meaghan Szilagyi and Ambriel Johnson

Meaghan Szilagyi of Wethersfield and Ambriel Johnson of Hartford are key players in the Twain Gang.

Molly Miller, Cecilia Gigliotti

Molly Miller of Hartford and Cecilia Gigliotti of New Britain are on board with Mark Twain.

Rae Martin, Grant Henry

Twain Studios and the Twain Gang wouldn’t be the same without Rae Martin of Windsor and Grant Henry of Glastonbury.

Gilbert Goes Global to Act Local

Gilbert Bwette addresses the Jakes

Gilbert Bwette of Kampala, Uganda, presents to the apprentices of the Twain Studios last week.

By Grant Henry and June Tran

Writing Apprentices

Twain studios

Americans have an abundance of education, information and resources, a Ugandan photojournalist said in a recent presentation at the Mark Twain House & Museum.

Gilbert Daniel Bwette, 24, offered insight on the contrast between American and Ugandan cultures, starting with schooling.

In Uganda, there is no free public education for children, Bwette said, adding that his grandfather paid for him to attend school.

Bwette was amazed at the opportunities Americans have, especially young people.

In Uganda, primary education is not regulated by the government, he said, and often the teachers and funds are not provided, leading to a discrepancy between the private and public sectors.

Bwette said it’s difficult for students to obtain resources and job opportunities. Only about 35 percent of those who graduate from high school or who have a college degree will get a job, he said.

After completing high school, Bwette spent two years struggling to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.

This was not the first hurdle Bwette faced in his educational career. He said that during high school there were times he failed or when it felt like “it’s not really worth it.”

Eventually, he met the celebrity hip hop artist Babaluku, and became “connected” to him. It was this connection which inspired him to finish school and aim for an artistic career.

Bwette chose to be a photojournalist as opposed to the three ideal careers in Uganda: a doctor, lawyer or engineer.

Gilbert Bwette addresses the Jakes.2 jpg

Gilbert Bwette presents before the apprentices of the Twain Studios

Although he said his mother “almost slapped” him when he told her his plans to pursue photography, he wasn’t scared of the limited income that his path would take him.

Bwette traveled to the United States as a youth presenter at a hip hop conference in Washington, D.C.

There are Ugandans who aren’t as lucky as Bwette, he said. An economic motivation sometimes isn’t a strong enough catalyst for these youths to push themselves in education.

According to Bwette, there is a rudimentary class division between those that are in power in the Ugandan government and average citizens who are simply trying to make ends meet.

In his work with the Ugandan youth, Bwette helps expose young people to a variety of careers that would afford them a better income while also contributing to their communities.

Harriet Beecher Stowe House Reflects Her Inspiring Life

By Ashaya Nelson

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

HARTFORD, Conn. – Walking into Harriet Beecher Stowe’s home, just knowing she’s a famous American writer, I was curious about her life.

I walked out having more knowledge about this wonderful woman.

Stowe was a writer, painter and abolitionist born to a big religious family in Litchfield, Conn., in 1871.

The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, an abolitionist, was her brother. She married an American biblical scholar, Calvin Stowe, in 1836. They were the parents of seven children. One of Stowe’s daughters was named after her husband’s late wife, a common practice at the time.

But Stowe lost four of her children before her death. She used writing as a way to cope with their deaths.

Stowe had a home in Mandarin, Florida, where she stayed in the winter. She wrote her famous anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin while at the

house in Florida. At the time, the novel became the second most popular book, after the Bible.

Stowe garden

Some of the flower garden at the Harriet Beecher Stowe House

At Stowe’s home in Hartford, she was the neighbor of another famous author, Samuel Clemens, who wrote under the pen name Mark Twain.

The only type of science that women could study then was gardening, so Stowe did.  Her home today still has a beautiful garden that I found a pleasure to walk through.

Stowe was inspired by plants and included them in most of her paintings. Magnolias were the flowers she said she could identify with because it represents strength and she was a strong woman.

One of her daughters inherited Stowe’s talent for painting. In the master bedroom of their Hartford home, a self-portrait the girl created – her face inside a sunflower – is hung next to the desk where letters were written.

A traditional wife, Stowe believed that a woman should know how to operate everything in her house. When the husband went off to work, there work was at home. Stowe had two servants working at her house, some were emancipated slaves. Her servants lived in the attic of her home.

But having servants didn’t stop Stowe from doing her womanly duties around the house. She cooked and cleaned. She was a part of the women’s rights and suffrage movement and included this issue and many other topics in her writings.

Stowe also wrote travel books, textbooks and more, producing a book a year, for 30 years.

Under five feet tall, she was a little woman, but left a big impact on not only literature, but history.

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