Mas: Costumes from Hartford’s West Indian Community opens August 27 at CHS

August 12, 2015 · Press Releases
Ashley Francis

Ashley Francis, in the Junior Queen costume, part of the Exotic One’s Caribbean Carnival Band, performed August 1 at Riverfront Recapture’s Taste of the Caribbean Festival. (Photo credit: Lynne Williamson)

Exhibit to display spectacular Carnival costumes made by Hartford teens in summer program.

[HARTFORD, Conn., August 12] – In its first collaboration with the Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program (CHAP), on August 27 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS), 1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford, will open “Mas: Costumes from Hartford’s West Indian Community.” The exhibit’s opening night is free to the public.

“Mas (short for masquerade) represents an important and beloved art form in the West Indian communities that make up a vibrant component of Hartford’s population. Their costumes and the knowledge serve as central expressions of Caribbean cultural identity and heritage. The beauty of the costumes – including those of a Section Leader and a Junior Queen – will bring the tremendous energy and pride of the community’s celebrations to the CHS exhibit,” said CHS Executive Director Jody Blankenship.

Tiajah Wilson and Kamala Haffenden

Left to right: Mas camp students Tiajah Wilson and Kamala Haffenden work on costumes for upcoming celebrations. (Photo credit: The Defining Photo LLC)

The exhibit opening at CHS will also mark the graduation of 22 young people from the Mas program who have been learning how to make and dance with the traditional-style costumes from master artists in Hartford. The teens will receive certificates of successful completion of the summer 2015 course during the event. Several of the project participants will wear their Carnival costumes, and the Hartford Steel Symphony will provide music.

Now in its fifth year, the Mas summer training camp highlights West Indian traditions and supports Hartford’s teens by teaching them about their cultural heritage while building their job skills. “Carnival is very important to our Caribbean community, and the teens learn to think conceptually, work in teams, meet deadlines and gain confidence, skills that they can use in other areas,” said Mas program co-director Linford “Junior” Miller, director of the Connecticut International Cultural Carnival Association.

Supported by Miller, master costume maker Keimani “Q” Delpeche, artistic educators Tanya Bynoe, Clerona Cain, and Lerry Cooper along with volunteer educators and parents, each teen in the Mas program designed and built a complete costume, including headpiece, arm and foot bands, girdles, collars, backpacks, and all frames and attachments needed for wearing the elaborate structures.

Artistic director Harold Springer, dance teacher Clerona Cain, and dance assistant Asher-Lee Plummer trained the students in “displaying” their costumes in a parade setting, as it would be done in Trinidad. The young people formed a Carnival “Band” called the Exotic Ones, with four sections of masqueraders in different color schemes portraying the theme of “Hollywood in Colors.” This summer, Exotic Ones performed with their costumes at the Taste of the Caribbean Festival at the Riverfront on August 1, at the Wadsworth Atheneum “One Love” Caribbean Block Party on August 6 and in the West Indian 53th Anniversary Independence Parade and Festival August 8. An additional four sections of 84 volunteers joined the Band displaying costumes that they made for the parade.

Mas: Costumes from Hartford’s West Indian Community will be on display at the Connecticut Historical Society, 1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford, from August 27 to October 10. The August 27 opening night, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., is free to the public. Hours for the exhibit after August 27 are Tuesday – Thursday: noon – 5:00 p.m., and Friday – Saturday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission after August 27 is $8 adults, $6 seniors (65 and over), $4 for students (with valid college ID) and youth (6-17). Admission is free for CHS members and children 5 and under.

Mas: Costumes from Hartford’s West Indian Community is supported by the City of Hartford Arts and Heritage Jobs Grant for 2015, Pedro E. Segarra, Mayor. CHAP’s participation is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connecticut Office of the Arts, and the Connecticut Historical Society. The Mas Camp project was originally developed along with the Institute for Community Research. For more information visit

About the Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program (CHAP)

The Institute for Community Research established the Cultural Heritage Arts Program in 1991 to document the state’s rich and diverse cultural traditions and to share the excellent artistic work and community experiences of folk artists living here. CHAP began its partnership with the Connecticut Historical Society in June 2015, moving its offices to the CHS building. CHAP’s activities contribute to greater public understanding of Connecticut’s history, cultural character, and changing demographics. CHAP partners with artists and their communities to record their traditional art forms and cultural practices, provides technical assistance that strengthens their resources, and develops public presentations that bring traditional artists and the stories of their communities to new audiences. Part of a nationwide network of public folklore programs, CHAP serves as Connecticut’s official folk and traditional arts program with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connecticut Office of the Arts/Department of Economic and Community Development, the Greater Hartford Arts Council, the Connecticut Humanities Council, the City of Hartford and several local foundations.

About the Connecticut Historical Society

A private, nonprofit, educational organization established in 1825, the Connecticut Historical Society is the state’s official historical society and one of the oldest in the nation. Located at 1 Elizabeth Street in Hartford, the CHS houses a museum, library, and the Edgar F. Waterman Research Center that are open to the public and funded by private contributions. The CHS’s collection includes more than 4 million manuscripts, graphics, books, artifacts, and other historical materials accessible at our campus and on loan at other organizations. The CHS collection, programs and exhibits help Connecticut residents connect with each other, have conversations that shape our communities, and make informed decisions based on our past and present. For more information, visit

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