Halloween Decorations Aim to Educate and Begin Community Conversation in West Hartford

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Halloween is a few weeks away and while some may be staying home instead of trick or treating, one West Hartford resident is looking to educate and establish a community dialogue through Halloween decorations.

Along North Main Street, there's one house that has images and information that may cause some drivers to circle back and get a second glance.

One of two panels on North Main Street. This is the COVID-19 side decorated with 3D cells and pictures of those who lost their battle against the coronavirus.

"I literally like turned around and did a U-turn in the middle of the street and asked my roommate 'Did you see that?'" said Armanthia Duncan of Hartford. "I think to see these two major topics married together is powerful."

Armanthia Duncan and her roommate, Michael, live in Hartford and stumbled upon what they said is a captivating display of art and history.

Framed pictures of coronavirus victims. The display combines Halloween decorations with two pandemics that have plagued the country: COVID-19 and racism.

"I think the person who created this made a connection between what's happening now with police violence and contextualizing that historically with slavery and abolition," said Duncan.

Matt Warshauer created the idea and built the two-part panels. It's not his first time either; Warshauer has put up Halloween decorations with a message in the past.

Matt Warshauer takes in one of the displays in front of his house. One side of the decorations covers some of Connecticut's history with pictures of runaway slave ads in newspapers. Freedom fighters like Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King Jr. are also highlighted in the display.

"This year, I thought I would focus on social, cultural and political issues," said Warshauer. "I think the top two issues are the pandemic and Black Lives Matter."

On one end, visitors can observe Connecticut's history with images of ads about enslaved people in newspapers, and as you make your way down, you'll see pictures of those who lost their lives after a confrontation with police.

This display depicts the lives lost after confrontations with police. Some of the names included are Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Eric Gardner, Freddie Gray and Botham Jean among other victims.

"The idea is not to proselytize to people but to show them the information," said Warshauer.

The goal behind the panels was to unite the community and bring back what he says is missing in society.

One of the many decorations. This 3D cell was made with beer bottles and crafts to help bring to life a blood cell.

"I think we are missing our connection with each other and that's what we got to bring back," said Warshauer. "I hope they enjoy some of the artistry of it for what it takes to put it all together, I hope they enjoy the spooky Halloween season, it's meant to be fun, it's not meant to be hateful."

This is one portion of the display that shows one of the run-a-way slave ads in 1774. This is just one of many advertisements that were written in the Connecticut Courant.
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