New Haven

New Haven Arts Gallery Gives Everyone a Chance to Pursue Passion

East Street Arts is run by a nonprofit that supports Connecticut residents with disabilities.

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“It's a dying art and I like doing this,” said chair caner Vivian Hennah, "We weave 'em over and make them new again."

Inside East Street Arts in New Haven, artists are always hard at work.

"It's a satisfaction for me because they like my work and they praise us for our work, so it's very satisfying,” said Hennah.

From methodically caning chairs, a practice that takes finesse and a lot of patience, to crafting their own creations to be printed on household items, East Street Arts is giving creative opportunities to community members whose skills are often cast aside.

"My wine package, and then my pillow and then some other work that I did here," artist Michelle Sandall said while showing off her work.

"And they're like, 'no, I'm not happy going to bag groceries and I'm not happy on the cleaning crew. I really want to work with my hands. I really want to create something," said Heather LaTorra, Marrakech president & CEO.

When Marrakech, a nonprofit that supports Connecticut residents with disabilities, heard this feedback from the people they work with, they knew they had to find a way to give them the chance to create art not just as a hobby, but as a profession.

"That's why we're here is to make sure everyone has choices and opportunity," said LaTorra.

They transformed one of their day program locations into this art gallery and talents flourished.

"Being able to repair these chairs better than anywhere in Connecticut. People come from all over in Connecticut to get their chairs fixed," she said.

A percentage of the items sold at their storefront or in pop-up shops around the state goes back to the program, the artist's pocket the rest.

"I like working here because it's very relaxing and it's someplace for me to go and make some income," said Hennah.

Marrakech supported Rosa Carmichael as she raised her kids and now they're helping her follow her dreams.

"I've been wanting to do that since I was a little girl," said Carmichael.

She still can't believe it when someone buys her artwork.

"I don't know why they do but whatever they do. I'm just totally shocked when I find out."

East Street Arts organizers hope other organizations will follow their example, so all people have the opportunity to work in any profession.

“You’re getting a high quality handmade, made in New Haven product and you're not really thinking about what the source is and then when you find out you're like wow. This is really cool,” said LaTorra.

"That's why I chose this because It's my dream job," said Sandall.

You can visit East Street Arts in New Haven to purchase artwork. To learn more about the program or all the work Marrakech does, you can visit their websites at and

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