Real Art Ways (RAW) is an alternative multidisciplinary arts organization that presents and supports contemporary artists and their work, facilitates the creation of new work, and creatively engages, builds, and informs audiences and communities.
The collective is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that depends on the support of members and community to continue the delivery of innovative programming.
Real Art Ways began in the fall of 1975 when a group of visual artists and musicians took over a rambling upstairs space on Asylum Street in downtown Hartford and created a bare-bones salon in which they lived, worked and presented the work of others. Across the country alternative ideas were being explored and developed – and that idea of alternativity to the mainstream remains central to Real Art Ways’ work.
With the leadership of director Joseph Celli, RAW incorporated as a non-profit organization. Concerts, exhibitions, and performances brought RAW national attention. Early highlights included the Ornette Coleman Festival, a John Cage premiere with a national broadcast, and the New Music America Festival.
Real estate development led to the loss of three locations in ten years. In 1989, on the edge of going out of business, with interim leadership and little money, the organization landed in a small space at 56 Arbor Street in the culturally mixed neighborhood of Parkville.
Under new director Will K. Wilkins, Real Art Ways regrouped. The organization commissioned a series of vigorous public art projects, and took strong stands in the raging culture wars, including presenting the “NEA 4.” In 1994, Real Art Ways obtained a 30-year lease on an empty warehouse space in the Arbor Street building, and began developing a unique center for arts and culture.
The Real Art Ways Cinema opened in the fall of 1996. The galleries were renovated and re-opened in 1999, and the Real Room and Loading Dock Lounge were renovated and opened in 2002. The space is still thriving and evolving. A complete cinema conversion took place in 2014. And plans are afoot to grow the number of cinemas, and more.
Today, Real Art Ways is widely regarded as one of the country’s outstanding contemporary art spaces, one that has a special link with its own community. With films, concerts, performances, readings, exhibitions, educational programming and a space where people gather before and after events, Real Art Ways is a unique meeting place for people to come together around art, ideas, and conversation.
RAW reaches out to patrons with a program called Diamond Donate, an important funding tool that supports its creative efforts. It’s provided by Diamond Ticketing Systems which also allows guests to order tickets online. Easy-Ware brings the best POS system in the non-profit and performing arts market to Real Art Ways, as well.