We believe arts and culture are a necessity, not an option
What to expect at Community Connect
Live music and performances
An introduction of RAC by Founder/President Thabisa Rich
Panel conversation of local change-makers
Artisans and vendors
Food from local restaurants
"My goal is to grow Rich Arts Collective into a cultural hub for all people. I want to ensure that we connect with one another on a deeper level and gain appreciation of what makes us uniquely us, and through the various arts programs that we offer, ultimately foster stronger connections and build bridges of human understanding." - Thabisa Rich
Presentation by Founder/President Thabisa Rich
Thabisa Rich is a highly experienced multi-disciplinary touring artist and cultural leader with over two decades of experience in the music industry. As the founder and Board President of Rich Arts Collective, Thabisa has brought her passion for community and cultural equity to the forefront of her work. Born in South Africa, Thabisa utilized her talents and passion for community engagement to make a difference in the lives of young people. Her experience includes serving as Board President at CT Folk, where she has been a board member since January 2020. Prior to that, Thabisa founded THABISA LLC, a self-employed venture where she creates, performs and distributes her music, and other art projects. With her proven track record of community engagement and cultural equity efforts, Thabisa is a vital asset to Rich Arts Collective and the broader community. Her dedication to empowering young people and promoting diversity and inclusion through the arts is an inspiration to all who work with her.
Performance by Rania Das
“I hope you enjoyed this art, because I know that I enjoyed sharing my art and my culture with the New Haven community.”
- Rania Das (Arts Paper, 2022)
Exploratory and Community-oriented Artist
A resident of New Haven and a rising high school sophomore, Rania Das began her bharatanatyam journey at the age of ten with Guru Jaynti Seshan and her Wilton, CT based Apsaras Dance Company. Rania has performed locally in fundraisers, as well as annual Apsaras celebrations; she enjoys sharing her art with the community. Most notably, she had the opportunity to perform in Rhythm Exchange, an event organized by the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, in August of 2022. Rania feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn an art form that has been passed down from generations, helping her find a passion that also keeps her connected to her roots in India. As a young New Havener, nothing makes Rania happier than to celebrate the vibrant diversity of her community through art, culture and food.
Meet Our Panelists
Gallerist, Visual Artist, Educator
Kim Weston is a gallerist, curator, visual artist and educator who has dedicated her life to sharing fine art, photography and her knowledge of the arts to people of all ages and abilities regardless of their circumstances or resources. She has a BFA in Fine Art from Cooper Union and MFA in Photography from Bard College/International Center of Photography. She is opening a gallery in the fall of 2023 called Wábi, its located in downtown New Haven that features fine art and photography from Connecticut artists, national emerging artists and the “FOCUS Fellowship apprentices, a photography mentorship program for teens close to Weston’s heart. Weston stated, “It was a small community art center called Jamaica Art Center is how I got my start. It saved my life.” There is room for another gallery in New Haven, one that reaches into the community to connect and introduce art that looks like them and looks like what they can aspire too. Weston continues to encourages artists and students to engage to use their craft to express their emotions and feelings to process experiences and explore their environments. Not only does Kim teach her craft with an enthusiasm that is infectious and inspiring, she also enlightens creatives on how to be successful and create a fruitful living doing so. She is deeply dedicated to serving her community by developing artists from within the community and preparing them for the next step in their artistic journey.
Dr. Hanan Hameen-Diop, Ed.D.
Artsucator, Change-maker, Scholar
Dr. Hanan Hameen-Diop is an international arts, education, and curriculum expert, dancer, choreographer, author, educator, lecturer, arts organization founder, advocate for youth Lupus and social justice, Lupus warrior, and doctor of education. Throughout her extensive dance career of over 30 years, Dr. Hanan has choreographed for both major and independent recording artists and taught at several public schools, colleges, and universities throughout the northeast and abroad. Dr. Hanan is the founder and executive director of the Artsucation™ Academy Network, Ms. Hanan's Dance and Beyond, Keepers of the Culture Performing Arts Company, New Haven Hip Hop Conference, the Official Juneteenth Coalition of Greater New Haven, the annual Juneteenth Celebration with the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, New Haven African Arts Alliance, and is the Artistic Director of the DanceAfrica Candle Bearers at the Brooklyn Academy of Music DanceAfrica Festival. While battling Lupus, she provides Artsucational programming, develops curriculum, and facilitates professional development workshops for the community, schools, and organizations within New Haven and throughout the African Diaspora through Artsucation™ Cultural Exchange programs in New York, New Haven, Senegal, and South Africa as the creator of Artsucation™Curriculum, Mandela Washington Reciprocal Exchange Alumni, and New Haven Arts Council Phenomenal Woman Awardee. Dr. Hanan's research focuses on STEAM education with culture and community as successful instructional strategies for gifted and talented Afrodiasporic school students.
Poet, Playwright, Literary Powerhouse
IfeMichelle Gardin is a native New Havener who has been a Cultural Curator with a family legacy of advocacy in the African American community. From the time she attended Bowen-Peters School of Dance to managing the Unique Boutique (New Haven’s 1st African American Beauty Supply Store), Ife has been involved in promoting the arts and expanding cultural awareness. Ife has always organized events and created ways to showcase artists. Beginning in 1995, with the IfeTayo Cultural Arts Festival to 2005-08 Kwanzaa celebrations at Long Wharf Theater. Ife has worked as a Community Engagement Coordinator for The Shubert Theater, Arts Council of Greater New Haven, and Long Wharf Theatre. She has been coordinator for The Dwight/Edgewood Project, a Yale drama program that matches neighborhood children with Yale Drama students to create and perform plays. Ife created the Arts@Work Project in the summer of 2009 producing a play written by then-Yale Drama Grad Student Marcus Gardley, who is now an award-winning playwright. The program was developed to teach teenagers about the opportunities in production and backstage positions in the theater. Youth were taught how to build a set, light and sound design, as well as costume design and production. The production was performed at Yale AfroAmerican Cultural Center and at the National Black Theater Festival in North Carolina. In addition, Ife also worked with community-based organizations as a Case Manager at AIDS Interfaith New Haven, and Youth Continuum and Assistant Director at Hill Cooperative Youth Services. She also coordinated the Summer Youth Program at the Community Action Agency of Greater New Haven. Throughout her life, IfeMichelle has been committed to connecting her passion for culture and arts and enhancing the quality of life for her community and looks forward to further developing Cultural Awareness throughout the region. Currently, Ife is the Creator Coordinator of the Elm City LIT Fest, a celebration in the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance that will feature LITerature and LITerary Artists of the African Diaspora from CT and beyond.
Meet Our Moderator
Dr. Kreative (Malakhi RL Eason II)
Dr. Kreative is an industry professional with an impressive breadth of knowledge and varied background in the commercial entertainment. He has over 18 years of experience in Arts Administration and Programming and is currently the Director of Programming and Community Impact for The International Festival of Arts and Ideas. Dr. Kreative is the owner, creator, and CEO of Eason Kreative Agency, LLC and has just celebrated his 11th year in business. EKA manages artists, supplies resources for underserved creatives, and produces events worldwide. As a former performer, Kreative knows artists' challenges first-hand and freely shares his passion, ideas, and solutions. An engaged community leader, he is now working on his Doctorate in Leadership, is an active member of the Lincoln Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Lambda Pi Eta National Honors Society, and is also an affiliate of the NAACP. Overall, his number one achievement is his son Malakhi I. Eason, who enjoys spending all his time, resources, and sharing all his life lessons.
Afro-Latina Multidisciplinary Artist
Contemporary Visual Artist
Designer, Mentor, Artist
Thank You to Our Sponsors
Westville Village Renaissance Alliance (WVRA)
City of New Haven Department of Arts & Culture - Support provided by the Mayor's Neighborhood Cultural Vitality Grant.
New Haven, CT