SECT cultural organizations benefit from Connecticut Humanities grants

·4 min read

Jan. 14—Hygienic Art in New London received $22,800. The Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme got $114,400. The Mystic River Chorale was awarded $6,400.

Those are just three of 78 non-profit organizations in New London County that are recent beneficiaries of grants from CT Humanities (CTH).

CTH awarded a total of $16 million to 624 museums and cultural, humanities and arts organizations in the state. Those grants, dubbed CT Cultural Fund Operating Support Grants (CTCFOSG), were part of the $30.7 million of support allocated to CTH over the next two years by the state's General Assembly and approved by Gov. Ned Lamont.

The minimum award was $5,000, with the most being $500,000; the award totals were based on an organization's budget size and other sources of state funding. Mystic Aquarium and Mystic Seaport were the two organizations in New London County to receive $500,000.

Here are a few examples of what local groups are planning to do with their grants.

Green Planet Films

Green Planet Films, a Stonington-based non-profit distributor of nature, environment, and human ecology films, received a $14,400 grant.

Suzanne Harle, founder of Green Planet Films, says the money will go toward three different aspects. It will help bring back staff "because when the pandemic hit and there were no events, the revenue really went down. We're just kind of recovering from that," she says.

And some of the funds will go toward increasing audiences for in-person screenings and toward launching a virtual cinema.

"We were thrilled" to get the grant, Harle says. "It just felt like a relief that we could carry on with our plans and not be so financially strapped."

The organization has had to pivot since COVID-19 began. A planned ocean film festival had to be postponed, so there was no revenue from that. Schools and libraries were closed, so no one was buying DVDs or having screenings.

"Everyone wanted online at that point, and we weren't set up for online," Harle says.

In addition to the aforementioned grant, Green Planet Films got a $1,775 Connecticut Humanities SHARP Capacity Grant that will also go toward getting its virtual cinema going. (See accompanying article for other local SHARP Capacity Grant winners.)

Norwich Arts Center

The Norwich Arts Center received a $10,300 grant, which Board of Directors Vice President Faye Ringel says "was a big surprise because they had only guaranteed $5,000."

Exactly what NAC will use the funds for will be discussed at NAC's annual meeting on Jan. 25. But, Ringel says, one of the center's big needs is to improve their ability to offer virtual content.

"We have struggled with that during the pandemic," she says.

They could use equipment and training to help create that virtual content.

Another issue for NAC, Ringel notes, has been "just the keeping the lights on. It is an unrestricted grant, and just about every penny that we've had coming in has been toward just staying alive."

NAC reopened in May but hasn't been able to reach pre-pandemic levels of attendance, she says. Just having a reserve financial cushion for emergencies is very helpful.

Florence Griswold Museum

The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, meanwhile, received a $117,100 grant. Museum Director Becky Beaulieu notes that these grants are "to help organizations grow and stabilize coming out of the pandemic, so for us, it's looking at where we've grown already and how we can make sure that we're able to comfortably and strongly accommodate that moving forward."

She says the staff at the museum "has done an incredible job ... in navigating the pandemic, but at this stage, we're looking at the fact that we have expanded into new territory in our operations. We have revitalized the way that we're using the property for those who are visiting us here in person. And then we've also added a whole new dimension of engagement through online means. That means that our already very small but mighty staff has had to enhance their knowledge in different ways."

The museum is looking at creating capacity (in other words, expanding the amount and quality of the work it does), particularly in administration and collections management, Beaulieu says. So it will use the grant funds to help shore up its development team by bringing in a grants writer, and to create an archive management position.

"The focus area for us and what I love about this funding opportunity is it's not designed for short-term solvency; it's really designed for long-term stability and growth," she says.

For today and going forward

In a statement, CTH Executive Director Jason Mancini said, "These grants not only meet critical needs today, but they also provide us an unprecedented look into the state of the cultural sector going forward. We have an opportunity to more fully understand and quantify the profound impact arts, humanities, and cultural nonprofits have on the individuals, local economies, and issues in Connecticut."

Connecticut Humanities is an independent, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It connects people to the humanities through grants, partnerships and collaborative programs.

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