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Connecticut Humanities Awards Grants To Seven Newtown Organizations



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On the heels of a CT Humanities grant to Friends of Newtown Seniors that is providing major funding for a new author series launching at C.H. Booth Library this month, seven organizations that produce museum programming or cultural arts activities in Newtown — including two first-time applicants — have received a combined $46,500 in CT Humanities Operating Support Grant Awards for 2023. These grants originate from the State’s Department of Economic and Community Development’s Connecticut Office of the Arts (COA) with support from the Connecticut State Legislature.

These local awards were drawn from more than $2.5 million distributed among 178 Fairfield County applicants. Among the largest of those grants went to two nonprofits in Ridgefield — $107,700 to the Prospector Theater and $121,200 to The Ridgefield Playhouse.

Other top county grants included $94,600 to The Stamford Museum & Nature Center, and $73,700 awarded to The Bruce Museum, while Fairfield Theater Company captured $76,500.

Locally, Edmond Town Hall ($18,500), EverWonder Children’s Museum ($5,000), Newtown Arts Festival ($6,100), Newtown Historical Society ($5,400), The Town Players of Newtown ($5,700), and Newtown-based World Heritage Cultural Center ($5,800) all received awards.

The Connecticut Choral Society, with offices in neighboring Southbury but based in Newtown, received $6,000 from among 142 grants distributed across New Haven County.

The Town Players, which remained resilient through the worst of the pandemic, and WHCC, which presented its first local event — its “World of Colors Concert” at Edmond Town Hall last fall — were first-time applicants to the program.

At their December meeting, the board of directors of CT Humanities (CTH) awarded more than $8.5 million in operating support grants from the CT Cultural Fund (CCF) to 723 non-profit museums and cultural, humanities, and arts organizations. The grants are part of $30.7 million of support allocated to CTH over the 2022-2023 biennium by the CT General Assembly and approved by Governor Ned Lamont.

CT Humanities Executive Director Dr Jason Mancini said through the investment, “Connecticut’s leaders recognize the integral role arts and culture play in our state’s economy, in the lives of our residents, and in making our communities thriving places to live and work."

Via the public-private partnership between CTH and the state COA, Department of Economic and Community Development, CCF support assists organizations as they recover from the pandemic and maintain and grow their ability to serve their community and the public, connect K-12 teachers and students to strong humanities and arts content, and improve their information technology and digital infrastructure.

Elizabeth Shapiro, director of arts, preservation & museums for the state, says the CT Cultural Fund “is so much more than a cash award to Connecticut’s arts, humanities, museum, and cultural sector. The fund is a statement of support by the state for the organizations that make our communities more vibrant and our economy stronger.

“It’s a tangible guarantee from the Office of the Arts and CT Humanities that there is a meaningful, accessible, collaborative network of wrap-around support for the sector,” Shapiro added.

According to the final reports of the 632 organizations that shared the $16.1 million awarded in December 2021, 88 percent used the funds to hire or keep employees, 33 percent used it to support K-12 education, and 52 percent used it to improve technology and digital initiatives.

At New London Landmarks, a new oral history project was implemented with paid interns. The project allowed past and current residents of New London’s income-restricted housing projects to tell their own stories and to cumulatively tell a story about how New London’s housing projects evolved over decades.

In 2022, Newtown’s WHCC founder and Sandy Hook resident Sattie Persaud presented the nonprofit’s first event in Newtown, stressing how she hoped the “World of Colors Concert” would reinforce her organization’s mission promoting diversity.

“We understand that cultural identity bolsters diversity, and thus believe acceptance and tolerance are promoted by our creation of a common ground where the creative arts are a powerful tool used to tell great stories of traditions,” she stated on the nonprofit’s website.

Persaud has maintained that “cultural diversity is the glue that holds humanity together, and it’s as important as biodiversity is to nature.”

The International Festival of Arts and Ideas, based in New Haven, is using funds to expand, diversify, and broaden the content reach of its Ideas series and plans to reach more K-12 students and Spanish-language-speaking communities across the state in 2023.

The Times Fool Theater Company employed 12 artists and three production crew, most of whom were local Connecticut artists. Through their efforts, more than 900 community members were able to experience free, professional theater — including many families and children seeing Shakespeare for the first time.

CT Humanities Director Mancini said he and others know the investments work.

"With the CT Office of the Arts, CT Humanities is successfully and equitably granting dollars vital for sustaining and strengthening the state’s cultural infrastructure and enhancing the quality of life for Connecticut’s residents,” he said.

Newtown Historical Society, which has received CT Humanities funding for the second consecutive year, plans to use this year's award for additional presentations and events for all ages, as well as archival services such as cataloguing and digitization of NHS information and artifacts.

In a press release to The Newtown Bee, NHS Board President Melissa Houston said the grant this year will allow for the service of two interns who will begin to categorize the museum's collection fo an online catalog.

“Our first project for the digital catalog will be to digitize the collection of Ezra Levan Johnson, Newtown’s first unofficial town historian. This will include everything from his ‘organette,’ which is a beautiful music box, to the linen sheets his mother made from her own flax grown here in Newtown," Houston stated.

The music box, made circa 1870, uses perforated paper and rollers to produce music. Anyone accessing the online catalogue will be able to hear one of the organette’s songs.

“I look forward to NHS further expanding its services and ongoing support of the Newtown community,” Houston further noted.

Through strong outreach efforts, CTH reached 14 percent more organizations than last year when it awarded $16M in 632 operating support grants from the CCF. Nonprofits of all sizes in 146 cities and towns and one tribal nation received awards — this includes 90 percent of Alliance and Opportunity school districts. Alliance Districts are school districts with among the lowest Accountability Index measure in the state. Opportunity Districts are a subset of those that include the ten lowest-performing districts in the state based on the Accountability Index.

Based on budget size and in consideration of other sources of state funding, the minimum award was $5,000, and the maximum award was $150,000.

Eligible organizations included Connecticut museums and 501(c)(3) nonprofit, municipal, or CT-based tribal nation organizations that provide cultural, humanities, and arts-based projects and activities for the public (ie, museums, historic houses, historical societies, arts organizations, cultural centers, and other organizations that offer activities such as exhibitions, performances, art classes, public programs, or walking tours).

Frank Mitchell, vice chair of the CTH board of directors is hopeful, he said, "we will see continued meaningful, reliable, and equitable funding in the next biennium budget.

“Doing so allows organizations to dream and plan and really maximize the investment.”

Friends of Newtown Seniors recently announced the creation of Newtown Author Reading Series, which will feature local authors reading and then discussing recent work, thanks to a $2,000 award in November from CT Humanities.

The series was co-curated with C.H. Booth Library. Each month's program will offer copies of the featured title for up to 20 participants. The series is scheduled to open February 15 with retired Newtown Bee Editor Nancy K. Crevier and her first published collection of poetry, The Peach Quartet.


Editor John Voket can be reached at editor@thebee.com.

In October, the Newtown-based World Heritage Cultural Center held its “World Of Colors Concert” and reception at Edmond Town Hall, which hosts numerous arts and culture activities annually. Both of these local nonprofits — along with the 2023 Newtown Arts Festival — just received CT Humanities Operating Support Grant distributions. —Bee file photos
Recently announced CT Humanities Operating Support Grant Awards have been awarded to Newtown Historical Society, which regularly offers History Camp during the summer, as well as EverWonder Children's Museum, which develops a range of educational and entertaining programs and exhibits like this "Snowy Science" program.
The Town Players of Newtown, which staged a well-received production of The Elephant Man in 2021, is among the latest CT Humanities Operating Support Grant Award recipients, along with the Newtown-based Connecticut Choral Society. —Town Players and CCS photos, respectively
Five local organizations will benefit from Connecticut Cultural Fund Operating Support Grants from Connecticut Humanities.
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