The HealingNewtown Art Space was filled with people, looking at art on display, talking between themselves, and participating in activities before Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra, and Newtown Cultural Arts Commission Chair Jennifer Johnston spoke at the space’s grand opening on Thursday, February 14.
“Today, Valentine’s Day, marks the two-month anniversary of the tragic day at Sandy Hook,” said Ms Johnston, who was the first to speak at the event. “Since that day, Newtown and the larger Sandy Hook community have been the recipients of an outpouring of love, support, and generosity from artists throughout the world.”
People have wanted to help, said Ms Johnston, and said, “At a difficult like this it is so important for us to realize the magnitude of the arts, and how people, especially children, express themselves through the arts.”
Around the HealingNewtown Art Space, located next to Caraluzzi’s Market at 5 Queen Street, some of the donations of art could be seen as the first exhibit of permanent and rotating exhibits that will be displayed there.
While the space, donated by Brause Realty Inc, recently opened and began offering programs, the grand opening event marked the official opening with an open house, activities, and speakers.
At the center of the space on Thursday, the Newtown Juggling & Circus Arts Club offered demonstrations and invited others to practice at the art, and along the walls of the space other stations were set up for people to participate in artistic activities.
Members of Ben’s Bells, an organization that was created by a couple in Tucson, Ariz., as a reaction to their son’s sudden death, had a table set up where people could create their own bells to distribute in communities that have faced traumatic incidents.
Near the back, children were making paper hearts to share words of love and peace in different languages. According to Desirée Galassi, who was overseeing the effort, the hearts will be distributed at the Connecticut Council of Language Teachers (COLT) World Language Rhyme Celebration, which will be held at the Academy of International Studies Magnet School in Danbury on March 21. The Paper Heats Project will also be set up on February 24 from noon to 5 pm at the scheduled Community Giveaway at Reed Intermediate School.
The grand opening also offered live music and refreshments.
“This space will be here to facilitate, support, and coordinate arts-focused healing efforts,” said Ms Johnston.
To create the HealingNewtown Art Space, Ms Johnston said the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission joined forces with the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut and the Connecticut Office of the arts.
“This project will be managed by the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission,” said Ms Johnston, “[and] will serve as a family-focused center to promote healing for the entire community.”
Ms Johnston said the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission hopes to raise the funds needed to make the HealingNewtown Art Space a permanent Newtown fixture.
When Gov Malloy spoke, he recognized Mrs Llodra for all the work she has done in the last couple months, and asked those in attendance to thank her “one more time” with a round of applause.
“This is a magnificent way to continue the process of bringing people together, of healing as we can over the period of time we have to heal,” Gov Malloy said.
He thanked all of the people who helped to make the HealingNewtown Art Space possible, and said the Newtown community has been an inspiration for the rest of the world.
“You may not fully appreciate inspiration that you are,” the governor said, “but I can tell you, when I am speaking to leaders around the country, for that matter around the world, they know how this community has come together, how this community has worked, and how beautiful a community it actually is.”
When Mrs Llodra spoke, she also said the town has so much to be proud of.
Following the events of 12/14, Mrs Llodra said she thought of the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission first to become the “archivists” of all the support that was coming into town.
“I can tell you, my heart was just so happy when I heard they had a space to start storing some of the wonderful gifts that we were getting,” said Mrs Llodra.
The first selectman also said she hopes the space will be a permanent one for the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission.