Culture Lab Grand Opening

In 2018, the increasing need for inclusion and community engagement for marginalized members of the Manchester community sparked the beginnings of a new initiative that will finally come to fruition this fall. After collecting extensive data and community feedback, the plan was set in motion to provide a physical space for residents that have been historically excluded from community spaces.

On October 4th, the Culture Lab at the Mahoney Recreation Center will officially open for public events and programming. Located on the third floor, this space will host culturally-inclusive programming, art exhibits created by local artists, and meeting spaces for grassroots organizations.

The Culture Lab is dedicated to Manchester’s long-term goal of becoming a more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable place for people of all walks of life. As a measure to ensure these goals are met, the Culture Lab will be staffed by two Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Coordinators: Estefany Alvarez and Deidre Montague.

Estefany Alvarez is a Colombian immigrant, life-long Manchester resident and Manchester High School alumni. She has a Bachelor’s in Communications from Eastern Connecticut State University and extensive experience in event planning, photography/videography, and social media marketing. Estefany is most excited to use her strengths to continue improving the lives of the community she grew up in.

Deidre Montague is a student at Manchester Community College majoring in Communications with a concentration in Journalism. After working in the social work field, her interests transitioned into empathetic and compassionate community storytelling through writing.

Check out the event line up for the remainder of the year:

  • LatinX Heritage Month Celebration Part 1: I Wish You Knew Filming
    • Monday, October 4th – Friday, October 8th | 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
    • Join us for the recording of a culturally-informed short film! All LatinX Manchester residents are welcome to stop by to answer a question about their experiences as a LatinX/Hispanic. All participants will receive an invitation to attend the film’s premiere on November 5.


  • Film Discussion: Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
    • Friday, October 29th | Screening starts at 6:30 PM
    • On the heels of Woodstock, a group of teen campers are inspired to join the fight for disability civil rights through grassroots activism. Come enjoy this free film screening followed by a moderator-led discussion.


  • LatinX Heritage Month Celebration Part 2: I Wish You Knew Premiere
    • Friday, November 5th | Screening starts at 7:00 PM
    • I Wish You Knew is a never-before-seen look into the lives of the historically-silenced LatinX population in Manchester. In this short film, participants responded to the prompt “I wish you knew” to share the experiences they’ve had as Latinos and Hispanics growing up and/or living in Manchester. This event is open to the public and semi-formal attire optional.


  • Perspectives in Righting: Discussion Series
    • Friday, November 12th | 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
    • Join a discussion that takes the conversation from the pages of Better Manchester’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion section, Perspectives in Righting, and allows for an in-depth discussion. The conversation will be focused on topics such as the CT Victims Bill of Rights, National Registry for Violent Offenders and more.


  • CT Indigenous Tribes Trivia
    • Friday, December 3rd | Starts at 7:00 PM
    • Come celebrate our local indigenous tribes & join us for CT Indigenous Tribe Themed Trivia! Solo players and teams welcomed. Light refreshments will be provided & the winner will receive a mystery prize.


  • Film Discussions: Songs my Brother Taught Me
    • Friday, December 10th | Screening starts at 6:30 PM
    • A melancholic portrait of Lakota Indian life on Pine Ridge Reservation in the South Dakota Badlands. Come enjoy this free film screening followed by a moderator-led discussion.

Please note that these events are subject to change. Follow the Neighborhoods & Families Division on Facebook for the most up-to-date information and updates.

The Culture Lab is among the first locations of its kind in Manchester to specifically cater to community members that have been marginalized for centuries. While the work will never be complete, the Culture Lab aims to meet the evolving cultural demands of our ever-diversifying Manchester community.

Please contact Estefany Alvarez and Deidre Montague with any questions or suggestions. Community feedback is vitally important to the work at the Culture Lab, so be sure that your voice is heard!

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