July 2021 - December 2021
Community Partners in Action Prison Arts Program Annual Show 2020/21
Location: Hal Holbrook Hall and Second Floor, Exhibit Gallery
Postponed from last spring, this is the 42nd Annual Show, featuring hundreds of artworks by incarcerated, and formerly incarcerated, artists in Connecticut. Artists and prison staff work all year (two years, this year!) towards this unique and extraordinary community event. Prison Arts works to encourage and enable productive, personal, and introspective endeavors in Connecticut’s prisons. Advocacy, workshops, independent projects in cells, exhibition and publication opportunities, and reentry services help participants develop technical, communication, and critical thinking skills, empathy, self-discipline, self-responsibility, self-esteem, work ethic, hope, calm, and connection with loved ones and the outside. And, the resulting artwork is often amazing! Prison Arts is a program of Community Partners in Action (CPA), a criminal justice agency created in Hartford in 1875, as the “Prisoners’ Friends’ Society.” The agency has a long and storied history, which, at times, has been intertwined with that of Mark Twain, himself. Today, CPA’s many programs and projects focus on behavioral change and advocate for criminal justice reform, working to reduce recidivism, enhance public safety, and inform public policy.
Learn more by visiting: CPA-CT.org/Prison-Arts/
March – December 2022
THE EVOCATIVE MARK TWAIN Inspires the Printmakers’ Network of Southern New England
Location: Second Floor, Exhibit Gallery
Samuel Clemens, AKA Mark Twain, was as inspirational in his time and as he is in our own. His writings and quotes resonate with today’s audiences through his commentary on many issues of life in the late 1800s. The plight of the African American, the right of women to vote, the horrors of animal testing, the corrupt practices of politicians and the prejudice of Americans to “the other” were as important to Twain as were his marvelous descriptions of life along the Mississippi, travels abroad, sailing voyages around the world, tales of fictional characters like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and the many humorous sketches of real people and places which abound in his work.
The Printmakers’ Network of Southern New England (PNSNE) is a group of contemporary printmakers who for thirty years have worked collaboratively to present themed exhibits, portfolios and educational opportunities to the public. Reflecting different methods of print creation, these artists have challenged themselves to select quotes from Twain’s exhaustive writings to inspire their own work. What has resulted is a masterful exhibit of contemporary printmaking that includes art that links the past with the present, whether by showing the connections between Twain’s work and current issues of social justice, or by connecting Twain’s views on home, health and the human condition with views of our own time. While using their
own stylistic and technical methods, these artists have selected themes and commentary that resonate personally. The links they have created between Twain’s time and our own will encourage audiences to make their own connections with the universal truths that can be found in Twain’s writing.
Together, the staff of the Mark Twain House Museum and the PNSNE artists hope that the exhibit inspires discussion and dialogue about controversial issues, that it excites audiences to develop an understanding of the contemporary printmaker’s art, and that it encourages readers to renew their connections with the literary works by Samuel Clemens.
Learn more about the Printmakers’ Network of Southern New England at: PrintMakersNetwork.org
On View Now
The Mark Twain House: Introduction
Location: First Floor, Entrance Hall
Whether it is your first time visiting the Mark Twain House or your 100th, the stunning panels at the entrance to the Museum Center will help prepare you for your house tour. You’ll be introduced to the House and the members of the Clemens family who lived here: Sam, Livy, Clara, Susie, and Jean.
The panels were designed by Joseph Philippon and installed in spring 2020 thanks to a CT Humanities Grant.
LEGO Mark Twain
Location: First Floor, Entrance Hall
Built by LEGO master builders located in Enfield, Connecticut, LEGO Mark Twain stands 6-feet tall and weighs 150-pounds. The sculpture has been welcoming visitors to the Mark Twain House since 2009. Don’t miss your opportunity to take a selfie with the LEGO Mark Twain and be sure to tag us in your photos on Instagram at @themarktwainhouse
LEGO Mark Twain is on loan from LEGO Systems Inc.
Mark Twain: I have sampled this life
Location: First Floor, Aetna Gallery
In this gallery, you’ll learn about the life and work of one of the most celebrated authors in American literature, Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain (1835-1910). More than an author, Twain was a journalist, lecturer, entrepreneur, and inventor who was infamous for his complex humor and memorable characters, as well as focusing on societal issues of that time slavery, poverty, and class stratification. Twain wrote his most important works while living at his Hartford home, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which helped him acquire the title of one of our nation’s most defining cultural figures. Objects on view include: first editions of Twain’s books, spectacles worn by Twain, and the infamous Paige Compositor.
Image credit: Mark Twain in his New York City apartment, Underwood & Underwood, 1907. MTH&M Gift of Lois Bliss, 1965
Mark Twain Orientation Film by Ken Burns
Location: First Floor, Small Theatre (off Hal Holbrook Hall)
Renowned documentary film-maker Ken Burns created this orientation video for the Mark Twain House in 2001. The 23-minute video is a great introduction to the life of Mark Twain, the Clemens family, and the House itself. The video is run on a loop and can be viewed by any visitor before or after their guided tour of the House.
Copyright: Florentine Films 2001
Script written by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns
Image credit: 4-Hour Mark Twain Documentary by Ken Burns, available through our Museum Shop.
Suffield Elm Bench
Location: Second Floor, Hallway
This bench was fabricated by City Bench of Higganum, CT, from the largest American elm in Connecticut. The tree grew on the Coulter property, a generational farm in Suffield, on which Norm Coulter, 87, still works today. In the fall of 2009, the tree had to be brought down after becoming a hazard in its location. The artisans from City Bench counted 148 growth rings when they examined the tree’s massive trunk. With its wine glass shape and ample shade, the American elm was the tree of choice for American cities and college campuses for generations until the introduction of Dutch elm disease in the 1930’s. City Bench’s mission is three-fold: to create beautiful and sustainable furniture using salvaged urban trees, create an artistic and cultural hub employing local craftspeople; and maintain the vitality of the urban forest.
To learn more about City Bench, and to see other examples of their work, visit the City Bench Website.
Untitled (Mark Twain’s Birth and Death Places)
Oil on cloth paintings by Nick Bontorno, 2009
Gift of Patty and John Pascal, in loving memory of Sophia M. and Joseph R. Pascal
Location: Second Floor, Nook Café
The painter of these two works, Nick Bontorno, served as caretaker of Quarry Farm, the home of Susan and Theodor Crane, sister and brother-in-law of Olivia Clemens, in Elmira, New York. The Clemenses spent their summers at this home during the 1870s and 1880s. The paintings represent Samuel Clemens’s birthplace – a small clapboard farm house in Florida, Missouri – and the home where he died, the impressive Italianate mansion he named “Stormfield” in Redding, Connecticut.
Image credit: Detail of Untitled (Stormfield) painting by Nick Bontorno